Fiber is essential for promoting health and for maintaining normal bodily function. However, many individuals fail to consume enough fiber on a daily basis which can have a negative impact on one’s health.
So what is fiber exactly and how does it keep the body healthy?
Dietary fiber (sometimes referred to as roughage) is an indigestible material that can be found in plant products. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble (1). Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the waste as it passes through the body while soluble fiber attracts water, creates a gel-like substance and slows down the digestion process.
The primary function of fiber is to aid the digestion process, facilitate the passage of waste and generally promote digestive health. With that being said, consuming an adequate amount of fiber each day has been linked with a vast number of other benefits. This includes the lowering of cholesterol, regulation of blood sugar levels, reduced risk of development of chronic diseases and increased longevity (2). Failing to consume enough fiber can increase the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. (3)
The Best High-Fiber Foods for Promoting Health
The Institute of Medicine recommends that men under the age of 50 should look to consume 38g of fiber per day while women under 50 should aim for 25g (4). Fiber requirements are lessened for both men and women over the age of 50; men should consume 30g of fiber and women should aim for 21g of fiber.
Consuming enough fiber can be challenging specifically for those under the age of 50 considering the high fiber recommendations. With that being said, here are a number of high-fiber foods that can assist towards hitting any fiber requirement.
Fruits and Vegetables
1) Split Peas
Fiber per cup: 16.3g
Split peas are a type of field pea that is most commonly found in eastern dishes. The peas are grown, dried and split down their natural line of separation, giving rise to the name “split peas”. Not only will the peas provide a healthy dose of fiber but they are also high in protein and low in fat!
2) Black Beans
Fiber per cup: 15g
Sometimes referred to as “turtle beans”, black beans are very popular in Latin American cuisine and are another fiber-rich food that can easily be added to many dishes to boost fiber content. Beans are typically an excellent source of protein and this is true of the black bean which provides a whopping 39g of protein per cup.
3) Lima Beans
Fiber per cup: 13.2g
As with the aforementioned black bean, lima beans are another variation of bean which is ideal for boosting fiber intake. Lima beans are not only packed with fiber but also contains a high dosage of many essential vitamins and minerals that are required for maintaining normal function.
Fiber per cup: 10.3g
Perhaps not one of the more popular vegetables, the artichoke is a species of thistle that is cultivated as a food source. As well as being high in fiber, the artichoke is one of the best vegetables for maintaining health and preventing disease as they contain a high level of antioxidants
Fiber per cup: 8.8g
Being high in nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, the pea is a great food choice for any individual and there are many variations of peas to choose from, such as the green, yellow and purple pea. Peas are considered complex, starchy carbohydrates which can help to increase levels of fullness and provide long-lasting energy.
Fiber per cup: 8g
One of the best fruits that can be consumed for fulfilling daily fiber requirements is the raspberry. In addition to this, raspberries are a rich source of key vitamins and minerals, namely vitamin C and manganese. Because raspberries are naturally sweet, they make a great choice for individuals who have a sweet tooth.
Fiber per cup: 7.6g
Similar to the raspberry, the blackberry is a second fruit that contains a high amount of fiber and key nutrients. Blackberries can simply be added to a number of dishes to increase daily levels of fiber, antioxidants and key vitamins.
Fiber per cup: 6.7g
Avocados have become increasingly popular over the past few years based on the fact that they contain a high dose of good fats that are critical for a healthy heart. In addition to this, avocados contain a decent amount of fiber to promote health.
Fiber per cup: 5.1g
As with so many vegetables, broccoli is full of important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help promote health and prevent disease. While it’s fiber content perhaps isn’t quite as high as some of the aforementioned fruits and vegetables, broccoli is still a superb food choice.
10) Brussel Sprouts
Fiber per cup: 4.1g
As a relative of broccoli, the brussel sprout has similar characteristics to broccoli. While the taste of Brussel sprouts tends to divide people, there is no denying that regularly consuming sprouts can have a positive impact on one’s health.
Grains, Wheat, and Nuts
Fiber per cup: 15.6g
Lentils are one of the best choices for fulfilling fiber requirements as they are quick and easy to prepare and can be used in a wide range of dishes. Not only extremely rich in fiber, but lentils are also high in protein, folate, and manganese.
2) Mixed Nuts
Fiber per cup: 9g
As with avocado, nuts contain healthy fats which the body cannot produce itself and therefore must be sourced through consumption of certain foods. As well as this, nuts are relatively high in protein and nutrients however, do be aware that they do tend to contain a higher amount of calories than most of the other foods listed.
3) Bran Flakes
Fiber per cup: 7g
Consuming a bowl of bran flakes for breakfast is one of the best ways to start the day. Not only are they complex carbohydrates, which will provide the body with a regular burst of energy throughout the day but they are a great source of fiber and iron too.
4) Whole Wheat Pasta
Fiber per cup: 6.3g
Unfortunately, white pasta tends to be more popular than whole wheat pasta. However, consuming whole wheat pasta tends to be better for overall health considering it is a fantastic source of fiber and micronutrients while being lower in calories than refined white pasta.
Fiber per cup: 4g
As with bran flakes, a bowl of oatmeal is one of the best ways to start and fuel the day. Adding fruits to oatmeal, such as raspberries and blackberries, will significantly increase the fiber levels of the breakfast.
Considering the multitude of benefits, consuming enough fiber each day should be one of the top priorities for every individual regardless of their health and fitness goal. With that being said, those who are looking to lose weight should pay particular attention to their fiber intake as consuming adequate fiber per day has been found to facilitate weight loss (5).
Eating plenty of fiber per day is important for maintaining levels of fullness which will have a positive knock-on effect on nutrition and daily calorie intake. Failing to consume enough fiber can result in regular pangs of hunger which will only increase the risk of snacking and poor food choices.