Many of us associate fiber with digestive health and bowel function. But eating foods high in dietary fiber otherwise known as high fiber diet can do so much more than keep you regular.
It can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, improve the health of your skin, and help you lose weight. It may even help prevent colon cancer.
Fiber, also known as roughage, is the part of plant-based foods (grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans) that the body can’t break down.
It passes through the body undigested, keeping your digestive system clean and healthy, easing bowel movements, and flushing cholesterol and harmful carcinogens out of the body.
Fiber comes in two varieties which are: the insoluble fiber and the soluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It is the bulky fiber that helps to prevent constipation, and is found in whole grains, wheat cereals, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps control blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. Good sources include barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears.
Many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. In general, the more natural and unprocessed the food, the higher it is in fiber. There is no fiber in meat, dairy, or sugar. Refined or “white” foods, such as white bread, white rice, and pastries, have had all or most of their fiber removed.
The Health Benefits of Fiber
The latest figures show that nine out of ten Americans are not eating enough fiber and people in other parts of the world are also falling well short. Part of the problem may be due to the association with bathroom habits.
Yes, fiber offers a healthy and effective way to stay regular, but that’s not the only reason why we should be including more in our diets. Many different studies have highlighted how eating a diet high in fiber can boost your immune system and overall health, and improve how you look and feel.
Some of the benefits include:
(1) Digestive health
Dietary fiber normalizes bowel movements by bulking up stools and making them easier to pass. This can help relieve and prevent both constipation and diarrhea.
Eating plenty of fiber can also reduce your risk for diverticulitis (inflammation of the intestine), hemorrhoids, gallstones, kidney stones, and provide some relief for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Some studies have also indicated that a high-fiber diet may help to lower gastric acid and reduce your risk for gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) and ulcers.
A diet high in fiber particularly insoluble fiber from cereals can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes, eating soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and improve your blood sugar levels.
There is some research that suggests eating a high-fiber diet can help prevent colorectal cancer, although the evidence is not yet conclusive.
Diets rich in high-fiber foods are also linked to a lower risk for other common digestive system cancers, including stomach, mouth, and pharynx.
(4) Skin health
When yeast and fungus are excreted through the skin, they can trigger outbreaks or acne. Eating fiber, especially psyllium husk (a type of plant seed), can flush toxins out of your body, improving the health and appearance of your skin.
(5) Heart health
Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, is an important element of any heart-healthy diet. Eating a diet high in fiber can improve cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.
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A high fiber intake can also reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors linked to coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Fiber can also help to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, and shed excess weight around the abdomen.
(6) Fiber and weight loss
As well as aiding digestion and preventing constipation, fiber adds bulk to your diet, a key factor in both losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight. Adding bulk can help you feel full sooner.
Since fiber stays in the stomach longer than other foods, that feeling of fullness will stay with you much longer, helping you to eat less. High-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables tend to be low in calories, so by adding fiber to your diet, it’s easier to cut calories.
Chart of High-fiber Foods
Looking to add more fiber to your diet? Fiber along with adequate fluid intake moves quickly and relatively easily through your digestive tract and helps it function properly. A high-fiber diet may also help reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Women should try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams a day.
Here’s a look at how much dietary fiber is found in some common foods. When buying packaged foods, check the Nutrition Facts label for fiber content. It can vary among brands.
|Fruits||Serving size||Total fiber (grams)*|
|Apple, with skin||1 medium||4.5|
|Vegetables||Serving size||Total fiber (grams)*|
|Green peas, boiled||1 cup||9.0|
|Broccoli, boiled||1 cup chopped||5.0|
|Turnip greens, boiled||1 cup||5.0|
|Brussels sprouts, boiled||1 cup||4.0|
|Potato, with skin, baked||1 medium||4.0|
|Sweet corn, boiled||1 cup||3.5|
|Cauliflower, raw||1 cup chopped||2.0|
|Carrot, raw||1 medium||1.5|
|Grains||Serving size||Total fiber (grams)*|
|Spaghetti, whole-wheat, cooked||1 cup||6.0|
|Barley, pearled, cooked||1 cup||6.0|
|Bran flakes||3/4 cup||5.5|
|Quinoa, cooked||1 cup||5.0|
|Oat bran muffin||1 medium||5.0|
|Oatmeal, instant, cooked||1 cup||5.0|
|Popcorn, air-popped||3 cups||3.5|
|Brown rice, cooked||1 cup||3.5|
|Bread, whole-wheat||1 slice||2.0|
|Bread, rye||1 slice||2.0|
|Legumes, nuts and seeds||Serving size||Total fiber (grams)*|
|Split peas, boiled||1 cup||16.0|
|Lentils, boiled||1 cup||15.5|
|Black beans, boiled||1 cup||15.0|
|Baked beans, canned||1 cup||10.0|
|Chia seeds||1 ounce||10.0|
|Almonds||1 ounce (23 nuts)||3.5|
|Pistachios||1 ounce (49 nuts)||3.0|
|Sunflower kernels||1 ounce||3.0|