Dietary fiber or “roughage” is an essential nutrient required for proper digestion of foods and helping you feel full. It leaves your stomach undigested and ends up in your colon, where it feeds friendly gut bacteria, leading to various health benefits.
A high fiber diet contains a minimum of 20-35 grams of fiber per day and is helpful for lowering cholesterol levels, improving bowel regularity and lowering your risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gastrointestinal diseases and obesity. Certain types of fiber may also promote weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, and fight constipation.
To get more dietary fiber, include vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and nuts in your diet. However, it is important to incorporate these foods gradually over the course of a few days to avoid adverse effects, such as bloating and gas. Drinking plenty of water while you up your fiber intake may also help keep these symptoms at bay. High fiber foods include beans, lentils, avocados, chia seeds, acorn squash, green peas, collard greens, broccoli, oranges, and sweet potato. The current daily value (DV) for dietary fiber is 25 grams.
Why is dietary Fiber important ?
- Reducing cholesterol: fiber can help reduce the body’s cholesterol absorption when present in the digestive tract.
- Promoting a healthy weight: high fiber foods like fruits and vegetables usually contain fewer calories. Also, when fiber is present in the stomach, it tends to slow down digestion, making you feel fuller for longer.
- Adding bulk to the digestive tract: for people who suffer from constipation or have a sluggish digestive tract, fiber is highly recommended; as it naturally adds bulk to the digestive tract, since your body doesn’t digest it. This helps to stimulate the intestines.
- Helps to control blood sugar: it can take your body longer to break down high fiber foods. With this, it is easier to maintain more consistent blood sugar levels, which is especially helpful for those with diabetes.
- Reducing gastrointestinal cancer risk: eating enough fiber can have protective effects against certain cancer types, including colon cancer. Some types of fiber such as pectin in apples may have antioxidant-like properties.
Nutritious high-fiber foods
Besides the considerable fiber content, some fiber-rich foods also contain other vitamins and nutrients that make up the body requirements. Some of these foods would be discussed under the groups they fall in.
Diets high in vegetables are widely recommended for their health-promoting properties. Vegetables are a good source of vitamins, especially vitamins C and A; minerals, such as potassium electrolytes; and dietary fiber. Vegetables are arguably the healthiest of all the food groups and are a great source of fiber.
The following Vegetables are particularly high in fiber; lima beans, winter squash, spinach, green peas, collard greens, artichokes, parsnips, broccoli, carrots, spinach, and more. One-half cup of cooked broccoli provides 2.8 grams of fiber, 1/2 cup of cooked spinach supplies 3.5 grams of dietary fiber and 1/2 cup of cooked winter squash contains 2.9 grams of fiber. Vegetables are low in calories and are usually recommended for most weight loss diets.
Whole fresh fruits are extremely nutritious and healthy in no small part to being high in fiber. Passion fruit provides the most fiber of all fruits with 24.5 grams (98% DV) per cup.
Berries are also a great source of fiber and are low in calories and sugar. A medium apple, 1/2 cup of blackberries, a medium banana and a medium orange each contain between 3 and 4 grams of dietary fiber. Mixing berries into cereal or yogurt to up your fiber intake. You can also take fresh fruit salads as desserts. Fruits are good sources of many essential vitamins and minerals including potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid).
Legumes, or beans, peas and lentils, are high in dietary fiber. In addition to their fiber content, Legumes are an excellent source of good quality protein with 20–45% protein that is generally rich in the essential amino acid lysine. They also supply protein, potassium and iron. One-half cup of cooked navy beans provides 9.5 grams of fiber, while 1/2 cup of cooked lentils, split peas, garbanzo beans and pinto beans each supply at least 7 grams of fiber. Peas and beans are on the lower side of the range with 17–20% proteins while lupins and soybeans are on the higher end of the range with 38–45% protein. When properly prepared, they’re among the world’s cheapest sources ofquality nutrition. The following legumes are known to be highly nutritious together with the fiber they provide:
- Kidney beans: these are a popular type of legume, providing about 12.2 gramsof fiber per cup of cooked beans, or 6.8 per 100 grams. Like other legumes, kidney beans are loaded with plant-based protein and various nutrients.
- Chick pea: The chickpea is another type of legume that’s loaded with nutrients, including minerals and protein. It can be used with salads, veggies, whole grain toast, and more. It contains about 12.5 grams of fiber per cup of cooked chickpeas, or 7.6 per 100 grams.
Other high fiber legumes include cooked black beans, cooked edamame, lima beans and baked beans.
Many, but not all, whole grains are also sources of dietary fiber. Whole grains include foods like barley, corn (whole cornmeal and popcorn), oats (including oatmeal), rye, and wheat. Whole grains are higher in fiber than refined grains because the bran contains dietary fiber. A cup of cooked oatmeal contains 4 grams of fiber, and a whole-wheat English muffin supplies 4.4 grams of fiber. Whole-wheat bread is usually preferred to refined white; while white rice whole-grain pasta instead of white and brown rice instead of white rice.
Peanuts, Nuts and Seeds
Peanuts, nuts and seeds are highly nutritious and are also recommended as good sources of fiber. One ounce of almonds provides 3.3 grams of dietary fiber, while an ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 5.2 grams. You can use peanuts, nuts or seeds as snacks or add them to salads to increase your fiber and include more heart-healthy fats in your diet. Nuts and seeds are nutritious foods, but they are high-calorie, so eat them only in moderation to avoid unwanted weight gain.
Fiber is an important nutrient that may promote weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, and fight constipation. It is also interesting to know that these fiber-rich foods also contain other beneficial nutrients to meet your body requirements. Try adding some of the above mentioned foods to your diet to easily increase your fiber intake.