Why is it that dietary fiber is so often associated with bland refined cereals, or dry cereal bars? Fiber is found in so many plant-based foods that rank higher on the delicious spectrum, and offer incomparable nutritional value. There’s no need for bland choices when flavor and variety is both abundant and easy to find in your nearest produce and grocery aisles. Here’s the lowdown on fiber—its benefits, varieties, and where to find it.
Why Fiber is Great:
Fiber is the indigestible by-product of starch and healthy carbohydrates found in fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains, and it’s an important nutrient for a healthy body. Fiber supports proper digestion and elimination, supports healthy bacterial growth in your gut, and helps maintain your body’s wellbeing.1 There are two varieties of fiber, and both offer significant health benefits.
Insoluble fiber cannot absorb water and is essentially unchanged until it reaches the intestines. This is where the magic happens to promote your health. Insoluble fiber ferments in the intestines supporting the growth of healthy bacterial culture, an essential process for healthy digestion and assimilation/ use of your food’s nutrients.1
Soluble fiber is your body’s dietary janitor, absorbing water from the large intestines and softening stool to support regularity and elimination of waste. It also supports healthy cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber binds with cholesterol from food, helping eliminate excess, and has the ability to slow down digestion of carbohydrates, minimizing a spike and crash in blood-sugar levels.2
Where to get it: Delicious and Nutritious Plant-Based Fiber
Adult women should aim to eat 25 grams of fiber a day, while adult men should shoot for 38 grams.3 If you’re choosing primarily plant-based foods that are minimally-processed, you’ll get fiber you need. Here are some favorite fiber-packed foods:
All fruits contain fiber, some more than others, and even more so when there is a clean and edible peel involved. A seasonal fruit worth mentioning is blackberries. One cup of blackberries contains 7.6 g of fiber—an excellent and delicious source of dietary fiber.4
It doesn’t matter which bean, pea, or lentil you choose, eating them can guarantee you’re getting an impressive amount of fiber. The real question is how to incorporate these into your daily meals. Chili, daal, soups, stews, and power bowls are a few of the ways you can use these plant-based foods. For more recipes, check out Thrive Kitchen for inspiration.
3. Nuts and Seeds
The reigning champions in this category are flax and chia. Both of these seeds contain soluble and insoluble fiber, making the whole seeds an excellent addition to your diet. Use ground flax or whole chia in smoothies, baking, cereal, or enjoy them in Vega One.
4. Sprouted Whole Grains
Five-minute rice and white bread don’t make the cut when it comes to fiber. White and heavily processed foods are quickly digested into glucose without the help of fiber for efficient digestion, or much nutrient value. Eating whole grains, like brown rice, steel cut oats, buckwheat grouts, or millet and quinoa, offer satiating and blood-sugar supporting fiber, and not to mention a whole party of essential nutrients.
5. Vegetables and leafy greens
From cruciferous vegetables like kale or kohlrabi, to fiber-packed root vegetables, like yams, vegetables are a great way to add fiber with great flavor and texture to your next meal. Baked yams with cinnamon, cayenne and coconut oil on a chilly day, or an hour before a work out? Yes, please!
If you’re curious about whether you’re getting enough fiber, make sure to choose foods from each of these categories. Plant-based meals can be easy and delicious while supporting your daily requirements of dietary fiber.
What is your favorite way to enjoy fiber?
- Andreson, J et al. (2009) Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber. Nutrition Review: International Life Science Institute. Accessed on 9/27/13 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x/full
- Jenkins, D et al.(2002) Soluble Fiber Intake at a Dose Approved by the USDA for a claim of Health Benefits. American Society for Clinical Nutrition. Accessed on 9/27/13 from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/75/5/834.short
- Institute of Medicine. (2009). Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients. Accessed on 9/29/13 from http://www.iom.edu/Global/News%20Announcements/~/media/C5CD2DD7840544979A549EC47E56A02B.ashx
- United States Department of Agriculture. (2013) Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26. Agriculture Research Service USDA. Accessed on 9/29/13 from http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2239