How Much Fiber Should You Eat?
According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines, most Americans consume an average of only 15 grams of dietary fiber per day and avoid foods high in lectins. Compare that with recommendations of the Institute of Medicine:
• Men 50 years old and younger should have at least 38 grams of total fiber a day.
• Women 50 years old and younger should have at least 25 grams.
• Men 51 years old and older should have at least 30 grams.
• Women 51 years and older should have at least 21 grams.
Benefits Of A High Fiber Diet
• Regularity – Fiber supports regularity, maintaining regular bowel movements. Fiber is an excellent dietary addition to those who suffer from constipation or hemorrhoids.
• Lowers Cholesterol – Fiber supports normal cholesterol levels – a high fiber diet will aid those who are at risk from high cholesterol and heart disease. You’ll notice that characters in television shows and commercials are promoting high fiber foods and cereals after their heart attack scares.
• Stabilizes Blood Sugar – Fiber can stabilize or maintain blood sugar levels. This quality is especially helpful for people with diabetes. Eating fiber won’t cure diabetes, but it can reduce swings between very high and very low blood sugar levels.
Two Types Of Fiber
There are two types of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber is found in fruits like oranges and apples and vegetables like celery and carrots. Soluble fiber is also found in cereals and other whole grain products. Soluble fiber is an effective intestinal “cleaner” and combines with fluids (water), hormones and fatty acids to help digestion. Soluble fiber helps in controlling blood sugar in diabetics and high cholesterol in your body.
Insoluble fiber is found in wheat bran, leafy vegetables like cauliflower and in the skins of certain fruits and also in edible roots. Insoluble fiber attracts and helps in removing toxins and poisonous substances from your body and also helps control the acidity in your stomach and intestines. Both soluble and insoluble fiber help in the removal of waste through your bowels.
High Fiber Food Categories
High fiber foods fall into five general categories:
• Vegetables – Vegetables are an excellent source of fiber and should be consumed several times each day. As an example, a single cup of cooked peas provides up to 9 grams of fiber. One cup of broccoli contains 5 grams of fiber and most dark green leafy vegetables have about 5 grams of fiber per cup. Combine any vegetables with beans and you will quickly reach your fiber intake goals. Cook your vegetables as cooked vegetables provide as much as 3-5 grams more fiber when compared to their raw counterparts. Fiber becomes more available by heating and cooking.
• Fruits – Many healthy fruits are high in fiber: Raspberries, which contain 8 grams of fiber per cup; Pears and Apples contain about 5 grams of fiber per piece of fruit. Fruit is an excellent way to add fiber to your diet while also increasing your intake of healthy vitamins and antioxidants.
• Beans And Lentils – Beans and lentils contain more fiber than any other food group. A single cup of black beans contains 12-15 grams of fiber and one of the easiest foods to help you reach your 25 to 35 fiber grams per day. Chickpeas, split peas, kidney beans are also excellent sources of fiber.
• Whole Grains – Whole grains are another food group with high fiber content. This whole grain group of foods includes oatmeal, multi grain breads, whole grain pastas, cereals and many more. Always choose “whole grain” foods over the processed white-flour based counterparts, as whole grains provide the fiber you need and are much healthier. If the product doesn’t say “whole” wheat (multi-grain, nutri-grain, cracked wheat) usually means fewer nutrients and lower fiber content. If you don’t like whole wheat bread, try rye bread instead. A slice of rye bread contains about 2 grams of fiber.
• Nuts – Nuts are also high in fiber and make great snacks. Walnuts and almonds are among the many good choices of nuts you can eat as part of a healthy diet. However, an individual has to keep in check the amount of nuts that he or she eats as the calories can add up with just a few nuts.
22 High Fiber Foods You Should Eat
Here are 22 high fiber foods to add into your daily diet and nutrition plan to help you reach the recommended 25 to 35 grams:
• Apples – Apples taste good, are relatively inexpensive and easily add 5 grams of fiber and require no preparation. Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious Pink Lady, Granny Smith and McIntosh apples each provide 5 grams of fiber.
• Black Beans – Black beans provide about 7 grams of fiber per 1/4 cup of dry beans. Few high fiber foods are as nutritious or economical as beans. Enjoy beans in soups, chili or on your salad, or as a popular side dish, rice and beans. Black beans are also a rich source of antioxidants.
• Pinto Beans – 1/4 cup of Pinto Beans provides up to 12 grams of fiber per serving. Enjoy pinto beans whole or mashed, but avoid refried beans as they are often prepared with unhealthy lard or trans fats.
• Lima Beans – Lima beans or butter beans provide as much as 19 grams of fiber per serving! Lima beans are a healthy combination of fiber and potassium and are low in sodium. Lima beans are a great source of protein, iron, copper and manganese and can be used as a healthy alternative to meat for vegans and vegetarians.
• Shredded Wheat – When choosing high fiber breakfast cereals, a bowl of shredded wheat is an excellent choice at 3 to 5 grams of fiber per serving.
• Bran Muffins – Add a bran muffin to your breakfast as a wholesome high fiber food choice. Each muffin can give you 3-5 grams of fiber and they are easy to prepare.
• Brown Rice – When choosing rice as a dish or side dish, choose brown rice. Processed white rice drains most nutrients and much of the fiber-content. Processed white rice can be as quick as sugar in increasing our blood sugar levels.
• Lentils – Lentils are small legumes, distantly related to beans, chickpeas and peanuts. One serving of lentils can provide up to 21 grams of fiber. Lentils are also packed with protein at about 25 grams per serving.
• Barley – At 20 grams per serving, barley is a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Barley also provides folic acid, which is beneficial to pregnant and breastfeeding women, young children and the elderly. Barley also supplies vitamin E, an antioxidant and can help those who suffer from heart disease, poor circulation and skin disorders.
• Sweet Potatoes – Choose cooked sweet potatoes over white potatoes as they contain 2 grams more fiber. You can also eat the skin of either type of potato for an added 1 gram of fiber.
• Split Peas – At 15 grams of fiber, split peas should be part of your high fiber diet and they also contain high levels of iron, B vitamins plus 25 grams of protein.
• Avocados – An avocado provides 13 grams of dietary fiber (76% of the avocado’s total carbs) and an abundance of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
• Brussels Sprouts – Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of fiber with a long list of nutrients. Sadly, many people don’t like the taste of Brussels sprouts and avoid them altogether.
• Spinach – Spinach and similar dark green leafy vegetables are naturally low in calories and will fill the stomach up with their high fiber content. Spinach can be eaten raw or cooked and provides many beneficial plant nutrients, antioxidants and B vitamins.
• Tomatoes – Tomatoes are high in fiber and produce an amino acid called carnitine. This amino acid increases your body’s basal metabolic rate and helps your body burn fat at a faster rate. In addition to natural fibers, tomatoes also contain abundant amounts of vitamin C and an antioxidant called lycopene.
• Celery – Celery contains both vitamins and fiber which can speed promote digestion and absorption, help clean your intestines and relax your bowels, Celery also provides potassium which can help reduce fluid retention.
• Peppers – Red, green and yellow sweet peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, A, B-complex vitamins, potassium, and folic acid. Peppers are low in calories and high in fiber and contain healthy antioxidants.
• Mushrooms – Mushrooms contain fiber and lignin, both are difficult to digest and draw water into your intestines. This process also absorbs and eliminates excess cholesterol and sugar from your digestive system.
• Oats And Oat Bran – A half a cup of oat bran contains 3 grams of fiber while one cup of cooked oatmeal contains 2 grams. Oats are rich in soluble dietary fiber which can promote gastrointestinal motility and absorb excess cholesterol to be eliminated.
• Berries – Blackberries, blueberries and raspberries contain eight grams of fiber and are packed with health benefits that help reduce your risks for disease. Berries are also packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and one of the best anti-inflammatory foods available.
• Chickpeas – Chickpeas, the basic ingredient of hummus, are high in fiber, especially the soluble fiber known as raffinose. The healthy bacteria in your stomach and intestines digest raffinose which supports regularity and easier bowel movements. Chickpeas are also high in protein and provide essential amino acids.
• Broccoli – Similar to Brussels sprouts in that you either love or hate this cruciferous vegetable, broccoli is rich in fiber and many nutrients.