What is Fiber?
You have probably heard that foods rich in fiber are an important part of your diet, but maybe you are not sure why.
Before you can understand why it is important, you should know what fiber is.
Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate, but unlike other carbs, it is not fully digested in your gut or used for energy.
There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber can be found in foods rich in fiber like oats and beans and work by forming a gel-like substance in your gut that can slow digestion, absorb cholesterol and fats for excretion, and add more bulk to stools.
Insoluble fiber is sometimes called “roughage” because it is found in leafy greens, whole grains, and other non-starchy vegetables. Unlike soluble fiber, insoluble fiber increases the time it takes for food to move through your gut, which can normalize bowel movements.
Why Do You Need Fiber?
Fiber helps to regulate and normalize your gut function, which is essential to overall health. Eating a diet containing foods rich in fiber has been well-researched and found to reduce the risk of several diseases and health issues.
An umbrella review published in Nutrients found that high fiber intake significantly reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Another review from the same journal concluded that a high fiber diet containing many whole grains can lower the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some gut disorders like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Additionally, dietary fiber can be a natural remedy for certain gut issues.
For example, you can increase your soluble fiber intake if you have diarrhea and your insoluble fiber intake if you have constipation.
How Much Food Rich in Fiber Do You Need?
Although there is no RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for dietary fiber, there is a general recommendation of 25 grams of fiber per day.
Women over 50 years old can get away with about 21 grams of fiber per day, while men may need a bit more.
Men under 50 years old should try to consume 38 grams of fiber per day and men over 50 should aim for about 30 grams per day.
The percent daily value (DV) that is listed on nutrition labels is for a 2,000 calorie per day diet that includes 25 grams of dietary fiber. Although these numbers may appear high, there are several foods rich in fiber that can help you reach these daily goals.
Top 10 Foods Rich in Fiber
Foods rich in fiber come from many sources including vegetables, fruits, beans, seeds, and legumes. Here is a list of 10 foods rich in fiber and how much fiber is in each:
- Lentils: You may not have tried lentils before, but it may be time. Lentils are legumes and are the edible seed of the plant. One cup of cooked legumes contains about 16 grams of fiber, which is 64% of the daily value. There are a few types of lentils and all are best when cooked or boiled and added to soups, stews, and salads.
- Black beans: Black beans are versatile, and nutrition packed. Just one cup of cooked black beans contains 15 grams of fiber and 60% of the daily value. You can find canned or dried black beans at your local grocery store to use as an addition to many Mexican dishes, soups, chilis, or even as a flour substitute in brownies.
- Chia seeds: Chia seeds are tiny, edible seeds that contain 10 grams and 40% of the daily value of fiber per ounce. These seeds are so small you will hardly notice them when added to yogurt, smoothies, or in homemade salad dressings, but the benefits of this food rich in fiber will be great.
- Baked beans: You have probably had this summer staple but may not have realized how beneficial baked beans are, as one cup contains 10 grams of fiber, or 40% of the daily value. The nutrition comes from the white beans typically used in a baked bean recipe. Baked beans can be eaten on their own or as a garnish for many dishes.
- Green peas: Green peas come from a pod grown on a vegetable plant. Green peas are popular among kids and adults and contain 9 grams of fiber per cup, which is 36% of the daily value. You can buy green peas frozen, fresh, or canned and can eat them alone or use them in several recipes.
- Raspberries: The first fruit on the list, raspberries have 8 grams of fiber per cup, or 32% of the daily value. Raspberry season typically runs from June to October, which makes right now a great time to use raspberries in your yogurt, smoothies, cereal, or as a snack.
- Whole grain spaghetti: Who doesn’t love pasta? We all do, which is great because one cup of cooked, whole grain spaghetti has 6 grams of fiber and 24% of the daily value. Whole grain spaghetti in particular is highly nutritious as the entire grain is left unrefined, which means it contains more fiber and other nutrients.
- Barley: Barley is another whole grain that contains 6 grams of fiber, or 24% of the daily value, per cooked cup. Barley can be eaten in many ways including as a breakfast cereal, in salads and soups, or even as a flour for baking.
- Bran flakes: If you like cereal in the morning, bran flakes may be a good option. This is because 3/4 of a cup of bran flakes contain almost 5.5 grams of fiber and 22% of the daily value. It would be difficult to find many other cereals with the same amount of fiber.
- Pears: Pears are a delicious fruit shaped like a teardrop that containabout 5.5 grams of fiber and 22% of the daily value per medium-sized pear. You can eat pears raw or consider baking or poaching them to add to baked goods or as a side dish.
Now you know why you need dietary fiber and where to find it.
The list above is only a small sample of all the foods rich in fiber.
Including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds will help you reach your daily fiber goal, and doing so can help you reduce your risk of certain diseases and potentially improve your gut health.