Fantastic Fiber-rich Foods
How aware are you of the importance of fiber in your diet? There are many reasons why we are advised to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Not only do they provide us with natural, clean energy and many essential nutrients, but fruits and vegetables are also high in fiber. And what would we be without fiber? Frankly, a constipated mess.
Fiber is most known for aiding digestion. Without it, we might have poor digestive health which can increase our risk of certain health conditions and experience unpleasant symptoms such as constipation or diarrhea. No thank you. I’d rather not experience that, and I’m sure that goes the same for you.
So how can we be sure we are getting enough fiber? Well, most people don’t actually consume the recommended daily amount. We can try though by adopting more fiber-rich foods into our diets.
According to UCSF Health, adults should consume between 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day from food. It is estimated adults in the United States get around 15 grams a day. Those under 18 years of age should eat between 14 and 31 grams. So how can we ensure we are getting enough? We can increase our fiber intake by eating foods that contain it.
Here are some fiber-rich foods:
- Whole grains (cereal, oat bran, wheat germ, whole-grain bread, whole-wheat flour or crackers)
- Vegetables (carrots, peas, cauliflower, sweet potato, squash)
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruits (apples, berries, avocado, banana, peach, pear, tangerine, orange,etc.)
- Legumes and beans (kidney beans, garbanzos, etc.)
Kris Gunnars, BSc, provides that chia seeds, popcorn, almonds, dark chocolate, oats, artichoke, split peas, lentils, chickpeas, avocado, raspberries, and kidney beans are among the highest sources of dietary fiber (ordered from most to least).
A lot of these can make good additions to various recipes like salads or other dishes.
There are two types of fiber we can consume: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber aids in controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber is the kind that prevents constipation due to its bulky nature. Unlike soluble fiber, insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. Brett Smiley says there is a third kind too: fermented fiber. It can come from both categories but specifically increases healthy bacteria in the colon.
What does fiber do?
Fiber is important because it’s very involved with your gut bacteria, it feeds the good bacteria which in turn balances out the bad bacteria. If the bad bacteria outnumber the good, your gut health could pay the price as well as other aspects of your overall health.
For instance, a healthy gut improves immunity and decreases inflammation. Polly Telegina says a food has to be rich in fiber in order to be considered a “superfood.” And rightfully so, fiber does a whole lot of good for our bodies.
Good digestive health can also allow your body to better absorb essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Gut health even affects emotional and brain health!
Eufic says the composition of the gut microorganisms, including the bacteria, is called the gut microbiota and is influenced by our development, birth, early life, age, diet, geographical location, food and drug consumption, and other environmental influences. We don’t have much control over many of those things, but diet we do. That’s why fiber is so important.
Normal gut microbiota plays a role in nutrient metabolism, xenobiotic and drug metabolism, maintaining the gut barrier, immunomodulation, and protection against pathogens, according to the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Poor gut microbiota has been associated with various diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, diabetes, allergic disease, and neurodevelopmental illness.
Cell Host & Microbe provides that dietary fiber interacts directly with gut microbes and produces key metabolites like short-chain fatty acids. Nutrients says, “the short-chain fatty acids may be absorbed into the circulation and affect metabolic regulation.” Furthermore, an increase in short-chain fatty acids has been associated with improved insulin insensitivity, weight regulation, and reduced inflammation.
In other words, the gut microbiota affects a lot and is responsible for maintaining many aspects of health, and fiber affects that microbiota (in a good way).
Because dietary fiber intake is associated with better health, be sure to eat those plant foods to up your intake. In addition, many foods are fortified with fiber such as non-digestible carbohydrates or are used in supplements. Be sure to add fiber to your grocery list, no matter the form– apples, oranges, you decide.
Ways to implement fiber
If you are having trouble eating foods high in fiber, try incorporating them into your recipes. Try some of the following fiber-packed meals from Buzzfeed:
- Beef and lentil stew– Lentils have 15.6 grams of fiber per cup
- Lentil quinoa meatballs– Cooked quinoa has 5.2 grams per cup
- Beef and broccoli– One medium stalk of cooked broccoli contains nearly 6 grams of fiber
- Chickpea broccoli buddha bowl– One cup of cooked chickpeas have 12.5 g of fiber
- Ground turkey sweet potato skillet– One large sweet potato has about 6 g of fiber
- And more!
Really anything that uses artichokes, leafy greens, beans, potato skins, and other fibrous foods is a good option– not to mention delicious.
Smiley advises to start slow; you don’t want to shock your system. You can simply swap white bread for a whole grain variety, or snack on some veggies instead of chips. It is also important to drink water with fiber-rich foods.
Proceed with caution as well. People with certain digestive issues like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome have a hard time with fiber.
Plus, too much of anything can be bad, fiber included. Consuming over 70 grams of fiber a day could cause you to experience gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, or diarrhea (the very things we are trying to avoid). The goal is to get the daily recommended amount of fiber and reap the health benefits of eating foods high in fiber such as regular digestion, and less risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
Isn’t fiber fantastic?
About the Author
Erin Day is a professional writer who covers all things health. She contributes to a number of sites including HubPages, Medium, and more. You can see more of her work at erinday.net.