Fiber is a plant carbohydrate that your body cannot digest. Although we can’t digest fiber, it plays an important role in your body.
Let’s start by looking at the two types of fiber:
Soluble fiber dissolves when it comes in contact with water, which forms a gel-like substance in your intestines.
Soluble fiber helps slow down the rate your stomach empties, which allows your body to extract more nutrients from food and makes you feel fuller longer.
Healthy foods high in soluble fiber include:
- Oat bran
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried peas
Insoluble fiber passes through your digestive system intact. It promotes a healthy digestive system by making food travel through your system faster and adding bulk to your stool.
Healthy foods high in insoluble fiber include:
- Whole wheat bread
- Brown rice
- Whole grain breakfast cereals
- Wheat bran
- Sunflower seeds
Benefits of Eating Foods High in Fiber
Eating a diet high in fiber appears to have a variety of health benefits.
The function of a particular type of dietary fiber is determined by whether it is classified as soluble or insoluble.
Soluble fiber, such as that found in oat bran, is known for its ability to lower blood cholesterol levels and normalize blood sugar levels.
On the other hand, insoluble fibers such as those found in wheat bran are known for their ability to stimulate regular bowel function.
Commonly used plant sources of fiber contain both types – soluble and insoluble fiber.
Fiber may help:
- Improve your cholesterol levels
- Lower your risk of digestive disorders
- Combat high blood pressure
- Reduce your risk of diabetes
- Avoid and relieve constipation
I’ve heard some people say that eating a diet high in fiber can lower risk of colon cancer, and would like to set the record straight on this one.
This assumption was largely based on several small research studies. But, two larger and better-designed studies failed to show a correlation between fiber and colon cancer.
So fiber’s good for your heart … but it has no proven anti-cancer properties, despite what you may have heard.
How Much Fiber Should You Eat?
The average person eats just 15 grams of fiber each day.
However, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, most adult women should shoot for at least 20 grams of fiber a day and most men should shoot for at least 30 grams.
Note that your main sources of fiber should come from whole food sources. Be wary of packaged foods that say “great source of fiber.”
Food companies add synthetic fiber through complex processing methods … so the fiber in most of these foods is not natural.
The science is still scant on whether added fibers have the same positive effects as naturally-occurring fiber.
List of Healthy Foods High in Fiber by Food Group
|Food Group||Food||Amount||Total Fiber|
|Fruits||Blackberries||1 cup||8 g|
|Fruits||Raspberries||1 cup||8 g|
|Fruits||Pear||1 medium||5 g|
|Fruits||Apple||1 medium||4 g|
|Fruits||Banana||1 medium||3.5 g|
|Fruits||Blueberries||1 cup||3.5 g|
|Vegetables||Avocado||1 medium||11 g|
|Vegetables||Artichoke||1 medium||10 g|
|Vegetables||Peas||1 cup||8 g|
|Vegetables||Kale||1 cup||7 g|
|Vegetables||Broccoli||1 cup||4.5 g|
|Vegetables||Potato (w/ skin)||1 medium||4 g|
|Legumes/Nuts||Lentils (cooked)||1 cup||15 g|
|Legumes/Nuts||Black beans||1 cup||15 g|
|Legumes/Nuts||Kidney beans||1 cup||13 g|
|Legumes/Nuts||Garbanzo beans||1 cup||12 g|
|Legumes/Nuts||Flax seeds||3 T||7 g|
If someone asks you to choose a favorite food from this list, it would probably take you a while to decide, right?
This only shows that foods that are considered healthy foods are very popular and that the widespread opinion that healthy foods are often not tasty is misleading.
It is also a misconception that foods rich in fiber are less important for the diet than foods rich in protein or foods that contain fats.
As you can see, foods high in fiber are actually extremely good for your health.
However, keep in mind that adding too much fiber to your diet too quickly can cause an increased amount of intestinal gas, bloating and stomach cramps.
Therefore, experts recommend that the intake of fiber in the diet be gradually increased.
This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adapt in a timely manner to new changes.
It is also important to drink plenty of water. This is important because fiber works best when you drink plenty of water.
Although it may seem to you that all this is a very complicated process, it is true that increasing fiber intake is relatively simple.
All you need to do is integrate foods that have a high percentage of fiber into your diet.