Dietary fiber is being seen by many as the key to overall metabolic health, helping ward off several infections and diseases. With this emphasis on high-fiber foods, you need to make sure you’re picking the right sources of fiber for your diet. From fresh vegetables and legumes to ready-to-eat cereals, the possibilities are mind-boggling and, sometimes, surprising.
A high-fiber diet has been credited with a host of health benefits including the control of diseases like type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. By helping restore the balance of gut microflora and aiding digestion and waste expulsion, fiber-rich foods play a vital part in a balanced diet. In fact, as some experts point out, a diet with enough fiber-rich food usually also has a healthy amount of micronutrients. Yet, Americans get only around 16 gm of fiber in their diet a day, against the recommended levels of between 21 and 38 gm.1
With so many high-fiber alternatives, from fresh fruits and ready-to-eat cereals to those ancient grains on supermarket shelves, getting that fiber in shouldn’t be such a chore. But if it does get mind-boggling, here’s a roundup of some of the best sources of fiber you could work into your diet. All data on fiber content of food is derived from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27, unless mentioned otherwise.2
Eat Whole Grain
High-fiber foods come in easy-to-use forms today. The poster child for high-fiber packaged foods is the ready-to-eat high-fiber bran cereal, which contains between 9.1 and 14.3 gm of fiber per serving of one-third to a three-quarter cup. A cup of shredded wheat ready-to-eat cereal contains around 5 to 9 gm of fiber in each cup-sized serving.3
Switch to wholegrain cereals and grains – including for your pasta – to up your fiber intake. A cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti gives you 6.3 gm of fiber, while an equal amount of pearl barley delivers 6 gm.
Oats are also a great superfood energy source, with protein and healthy fats besides the high fiber content. A cup of cooked quick-to-make instant oatmeal can give you 4 gm of fiber. If you prefer muffins for breakfast, grab an oat bran one or bake your own. It should contain about 5.2 gm of fiber on an average.
Skip the white rice and eat a cup of brown rice instead to get 3.5 gm of fiber. And if you can’t resist your bread, then choose rye or whole-wheat so you get around 1.9 gm per slice.
Explore Legumes, Beans, And Seeds
Legumes and seeds are a very rich fiber source that also give you high quantities of protein and vitamins. The typical serving size is about half of a cup of cooked beans, and according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the top sources are navy beans (9.6 gm), small white beans (9.3 gm), yellow beans (9.2 gm), split peas (8.1 gm), and chickpeas (8.1 gm).4
Lentils, popular in many Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines, are now making a foray into Western style cooking too. A cup of cooked lentils has a not-too-shabby 15.6 gm of fiber. Baked bean lovers will be happy to hear that a cup of the canned stuff has 10.4 gm of fiber in it.
Eat Your Veggies
Your mother and grandmother had it right when they insisted on your finishing up all those veggies on the plate. Fresh vegetables are an excellent healthy source of fiber. A medium boiled artichoke contains 10.3 gm of fiber, that’s about half your daily requirement. A cup of boiled green peas has 8.8 gm, an equal amount of broccoli about 5.1 gm. The humble brussels sprout too is a good fiber source with 4.1 gm to the cup. American favorite sweet corn carries 3.6 gm of fiber to a cup of boiled sweet goodness. Carb lovers’ go-to food, the potato, when baked in its skin, can give you 2.9 gm, but lose the skin and you also lose much of the fiber.
Tuck Into Fresh And Dried Fruit
Fresh fruits are a good source of dietary fiber. Some more so than others. For instance, a cup of raspberries which packs in antioxidants as well has about 8 gm of fiber. An equal sized serving of halved strawberries would give you, by contrast, only 3 gm.
Eat your fruit with the peel or skin on wherever possible. This may be unavoidable with an orange or banana, but don’t peel away the skin on an apple or pear. A pear with its skin on has about 5.5 gm of fiber and an apple about 4.4 gm. Bananas and oranges have 3.1 gm but also pack a punch with other nutrients like phosphorus and manganese in one and vitamin C in the other.
Dried fruits like figs are also rich in fiber. Two medium-sized figs contain around 1.6 gm of fiber. However, with dried fruit, since the sugar content is also high, you may want to monitor how much you have.
Nuts are a much-lauded source of healthy fats and pack in the protein too. But if it is fiber you are interested in, an ounce of almonds will do you well. Around 23 nuts in an ounce give you 3.5 gm of fiber. Pistachios which are another heart-healthy nut have 2.9 gm per ounce of 49 nuts. 19 halved pecans get you 2.7 gm. While this on its own may not seem like a lot, it is the other benefits of these fibrous foods that should catch your interest – like their ability to help you ward off certain diseases.
Can High Fiber Food Ward Off Diseases?
Insoluble fiber that passes through the body undigested (by virtue of being insoluble in water), like that found in oatmeal, carrots, broccoli, or leafy vegetables, is supposed to be good for the heart and metabolism in general. Some of the reputation of insoluble fiber for helping cut the risk of both diabetes and coronary heart disease may come from the phytochemicals and antioxidants in these fiber-rich foods.5
Recent studies have even suggested that dietary fiber may play a key role in immunomodulation. In other words, getting in these high-fiber foods could help your body avoid infection and even help give both your memory and your mood a boost.6
As research into these areas continues, it is clear that fiber-rich foods merit inclusion in your daily diet for more reasons than one. So stock up and eat up!
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Medical Encyclopedia Fiber, US National Library of Medicine.|
|2.||↑||USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27, United States Department of Agriculture.|
|3, 4.||↑||Dietary Fiber: Food Sources Ranked by Amounts of Dietary Fiber and Energy per Standard Food Portions and per 100 Grams of Foods, The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.|
|5.||↑||Salas-Salvadó, Jordi, Mónica Bulló, Ana Pérez-Heras, and Emilio Ros. “Dietary fibre, nuts and cardiovascular diseases.” British Journal of Nutrition 96, no. S2 (2006): S45-S51.|
|6.||↑||Kaczmarczyk, Melissa M., Michael J. Miller, and Gregory G. Freund. “The health benefits of dietary fiber: beyond the usual suspects of type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.” Metabolism 61, no. 8 (2012): 1058-1066.|