Our body needs several nutrients in order to work properly. Not getting enough of even one of them might lead to negative health implications. You might feel more tired, your head might hurt, or you might have trouble falling asleep. There are many things that can happen when you’re not meeting the dietary reference intakes.
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One of the nutrients that Americans (and people in general) lack is fiber. What is it exactly? What does it do? And what can you do if you’re not getting enough fiber? Find the answers to these and more questions below.
What Is Fiber and Why Is It Important
Fiber is a dietary substance that is crucial to keep your digestive health in check. Although our bodies cannot digest it, there are many health benefits associated with it. Some of them include:
- Regulating your bowel movements and maintaining bowel health – Thanks to fiber, your stool becomes bigger and softer, which reduces the chances of constipation. On the other hand, if your stool is too watery, fiber can help in solidifying it. Eating a high-fiber diet also makes you less likely to develop hemorrhoids or diverticular disease.
- Lowering cholesterol levels – Soluble fiber lowers the “bad” cholesterol levels, thus reducing your body’s total cholesterol levels.
- Helping in blood sugar control – If you have diabetes, fiber can make the sugar absorption process lower, improving blood sugar levels.
- Helping get to a healthy weight and weight maintenance – High-fiber foods tend to be more fulfilling than low-fiber foods, which means that your hunger is satisfied for longer.
If your daily fiber intake is too low (and that’s, unfortunately, the case for many people), you might experience constipation, IBS (Irritable Bowel Symptom), or diverticulitis. Lack of fiber in your diet can also lead to issues such as heart disease or some types of cancer.
There are two types of fiber that your body can intake.
The first one is soluble fiber, which can be dissolved in water. Thanks to it, your glucose levels, as well as your blood cholesterol, are regulated. You can find soluble fiber in foods like chia seeds, oatmeal, nuts, and beans.
The second type of fiber is insoluble fiber. As you can guess, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, and it helps keep your gut in check, helping food travel through your digestive system. If you have problems with constipation, then adding more of it to your diet might be what you need. Insoluble fiber can be found in foods such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, almonds, walnuts, and some fruits, including pears and apples.
High Fiber Foods – What to Add to Your Diet
The recommended daily fiber intake for an average adult is anywhere between 25 and 35 grams – however, only a small number of people meet this requirement. In fact, it is estimated that most residents of the United States only get about 15 or fewer grams of fiber per day. Which is truly a shame since fiber has numerous health benefits.
There’s a way to increase your intake – and it’s by adding high-fiber foods to your diet. There are so many to choose from that even if you’re a picky eater, you should be able to find something up to your taste.
So, here are some high-fiber foods that you should consider adding to your diet.
The first food you can add to your diet is all kinds of beans – it could be kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, baked beans, navy beans, or something else. The choices are endless. Beans are a great source of not only fiber but also plant proteins and other nutrients.
How much fiber do beans contain exactly?
Well, that depends on the type of beans you decide to add to your diet. For instance, kidney beans have about 12.2 grams of fiber per cup when they’re cooked, which equals about 6.8 grams per 100 grams. Baked beans have about 5.5 grams of fiber. Lima beans have a bit more fiber – 7 grams. Black beans have about 8.7 grams of fiber, while edamame beans have the least amount of fiber at about 5.2 grams.
Chickpeas are mostly used when preparing hummus. Most people eat it with different vegetable sticks that are simply cut raw vegetables (very popular choices are carrots, radishes, or bell peppers). Whole-grain crackers are also a favorite. You can also add it to a salad if you prefer it that way.
As for fiber content, chickpeas contain about 8 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
#3 Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have been growing in popularity in recent years, especially among the healthy lifestyle community. If you’ve never seen them, they are tiny black seeds that you can, for example, add to your yogurt, protein bars, granola, and more.
If you eat an ounce of dried seeds, you’ll get about 9.75 grams of fiber. For 100 grams, this increases to 34.4 grams of fiber.
Chia seeds are a great source of fiber, but not only – they also contain high levels of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
#4 Fresh Fruit
Fruits, especially fresh fruits, are another great source of fiber – not to mention that since there are so many to choose from, even if you don’t like one fruit, you can always find another that will be more up to your taste.
Here are some of the best high-fiber fruits you can add to your diet if you need to increase your fiber intake:
Apples have about 2.4 grams of fiber per 100 grams; eating one regular apple can provide you with as much as 4.4 grams of fiber.
Avocado has about 6.7 grams of fiber per 100 grams. Aside from being a great source of fiber, they are also a good source of magnesium, as well as vitamins C, E, and different vitamins B.
Again, bananas have more than just fiber – they also have potassium and vitamins B and C. As for their fiber content, they have about 2.6 grams of fiber per 100 grams. A regular banana should provide you with a little bit more than that.
Another great fiber source, pears contain about 3.1 grams of fiber per every 100 grams. If you eat one rather big pear, you should get about 5.5 grams of fiber.
Aside from fiber, raspberries also contain good amounts of vitamin C and manganese. Eating 100 grams should provide you with about 6.5 grams of fiber.
While strawberries might not have the highest fiber content, they are still a great addition to your diet, as they are full of other important nutrients, such as vitamin C and manganese, as well as a few antioxidants. As for the fiber content, they contain around 2 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
Vegetables are another type of food you can add to your diet in order to increase your daily fiber intake. Just like with fruits, there are plenty of them, so you don’t have to worry if you don’t like a specific one – you have a few others to choose from to replace it.
Let’s take a look at some vegetables and their fiber content:
The first vegetable you should consider adding to your diet is the artichoke. Artichokes contain about 5.4 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
Beets contain more than just fiber – they are also a great source of copper, manganese, potassium, folate, and iron. So if you need to increase your daily intake of any of them, incorporating some beetroot into your meals might be a good idea. On average, beets contain about 2.8 grams per 100 grams.
Broccoli is one of the best foods you can add to your diet if you’re lacking nutrients – that’s because they are loaded with them – they contain various vitamins (C, K, and B vitamins), iron, folate, potassium, manganese, as well as different antioxidants. They also contain fiber. Broccoli has about 2.6 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
Just like broccoli, brussels sprouts are filled with nutrients. Although there are many people who don’t like them, it’s undeniable that they are one of the most nutritious foods you can enrich your diet with. They contain, for example, folate, potassium, and vitamin K. As for their fiber content, 100 grams of brussels sprouts should provide you with about 3.7 grams of fiber.
The next vegetable we would recommend for those who lack fiber is carrots. In terms of fiber content, they have about 2.8 grams of it in 100 grams. However, that’s not all – they’re also rich in vitamins K and B6, as well as beta carotene, which transforms into vitamin A inside your body.
Finally, we have sweet potatoes. 100 grams of them can provide you with about 2.5 grams of fiber. You’ll also be getting beta carotene, vitamin B, as well as several minerals.
#6 Other High-Fiber Foods
While all the high-fiber foods we mentioned above are a great addition to your diet, there are other things that can help you increase your dietary fiber intake. There are plenty more, and some of them might surprise you.
Yes, you’ve read that right – popcorn is a great source of fiber. Every 100 grams of popcorn will provide you with almost 15 grams of dietary fiber. So, if you need to increase your fiber intake, popcorn should be your go-to snack.
Who doesn’t like something sweet from time to time, right? Well, with dark chocolate, you’re not only satisfying your sweet tooth, but you’re also providing your body with a lot of nutrients. Make sure that when choosing your chocolate, you choose one with a cocoa content of more than 70%. If the cocoa content is lower, chances are that the chocolate is loaded with sugar.
Now, for the fiber content – 100 grams of dark chocolate can provide you with as much as 10.9 grams of dietary fiber.
Oats contain a soluble fiber known as beta-glucan, which takes part in regulating blood sugar, as well as cholesterol levels. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Eating 100 grams of oats will provide you with more or less 10 grams of fiber.
Lentils are often confused with beans, as they are both legumes. However, they are different. Lentils have small seeds in the shape of a lens which is why they aren’t considered beans. Split peas, on the other hand, could be considered lentils.
If you don’t know what they are, they are green peas that have been dried, split, and peeled. They’re quite rich in fiber, as 100 grams of split beans contain about 8.3 grams of fiber.
Quinoa is often called a ‘pseudograin’ or a ‘pseudocereal,’ and it is easily one of the healthiest foods in the world. It is gluten-free, and it contains all of the nine necessary amino acids. It is loaded with plenty of other nutrients, such as magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, and more.
As for its fiber content, quinoa contains about 2.8 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
Nuts and Seeds
There are plenty of high-fiber nuts and seeds (one of which we already talked about above), so if you like them, you’ll be glad to know that adding them to your diet can prove to be very beneficial.
Here are some of the best nuts and seeds to increase your daily fiber intake:
- Flax seeds – About 27 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Squash and pumpkin seeds – About 18 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Dried coconut – About 16 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Sesame seeds – About 14 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Almonds – About 13 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Pine nuts – About 11 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Pistachios – About 11 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Hazelnuts – About 10 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Pecans – About 10 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Macadamia nuts – About 9 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Sunflower seeds – About 9 grams of fiber per 100 grams
We already mentioned fresh fruit, but dried fruit is just as much, if not even more beneficial in some cases, so it deserves to be included here as well.
So, here are some of the best dried fruits to add fiber to your diet:
- Dried bananas – About 9.9 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Dried figs – About 9.8 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Dried apples – About 8.7 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Dried peaches – About 8.2 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Dried pears – About 7.5 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Dried blueberries – About 7.5 grams of fiber per 100 grams
- Dried apricots – About 7.2 grams of fiber per 100 grams
Alternative Option – Fiber Supplements
If you’ve tried everything, but, for whatever reason, you still can’t meet the recommended daily intake for fiber, then you should consider taking fiber supplements.
There’s no evidence to suggest that taking them daily could cause you any harm. You can, for example, add psyllium husk, which is a fiber supplement that often comes in powder form.
Fiber is a carbohydrate that is responsible for keeping your gut healthy, as well as achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. However, as you can see, there are plenty of people who don’t get enough fiber. There could be different reasons for that, but probably the most common one is a lack of high-fiber foods in their diet.
There are two types of fibers that your body needs – soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are responsible for different things.
So, how can you increase your fiber intake? Well, the easiest way would be eating high-fiber foods – a lot of which we have listed above. Foods like cooked vegetables, cooked split peas, cooked quinoa, cooked lentils, nuts and seeds, fresh fruit, beans, or chickpeas are all great fiber sources. However, if, for some reason, you can’t meet the recommended fiber intake, there are always fiber supplements that you can try!
With that being said, we have reached the end of the article. Adding fiber to your diet doesn’t have to be a chore – you can make it a lot more fun by finding new recipes that contain at least one of the fiber-rich foods. Use this opportunity to introduce your taste buds to some new flavors. If you have no idea what to prepare, feel free to browse our websites – especially the Recipes and International Food sections. Happy cooking!