From the most dedicated professional bodybuilder, to the fastest man in the world, to anybody trying to make it past their next training session, we all prefer healthy, daily digestive movements. This is something we all deal with consistently. A lack of fiber in one’s diet can lead to constipation, high cholesterol, hemorrhoids, and even an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. For anybody trying to live a healthy life, fiber is towards the top of the list when it comes to important things in our diet.
How Much Should You Take?
The current recommended amount for men is 38 grams of fiber per day, and 25g for women. According to the USDA, the average intake is closer to just 15g daily1. Of that amount, at least 10g of your fiber should be soluble, while the rest should be insoluble. Soluble fiber turns into a gel like consistency in the stomach and slows digestion, which can in turn help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, particularly useful if you have diabetes. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, remains unchanged in your body, making waste heavier and softer so it can shimmy through the intestines more easily.2
Because of all the hype and popularity surrounding low-carb diets, fiber is becoming less and less prevalent in western diets, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Here, I will be discussing the top ten best food sources of fiber. Luckily fiber is very ubiquitous in vegetables, grains and fruits making it easy to fit your daily dose into whatever kind of diet you choose, from Vegan to Paleo to even the misguided Atkins.
- Raspberries have over 8 grams of fiber per cup. Being very versatile, you can add this fruit to anything from oatmeal (also on this list), to Greek yogurt, fruit salads or even just snack on its own. For anybody looking for a fruit with more antioxidant properties, try blackberries! Rich in anthocyanins and resveratrol, blackberries have just as much fiber as their red counterparts with even more health benefits.
- From Pinto to Black, Lima to Navy, all types of beans are considered a magical food with around 10-15g of fiber per cup. Whether you get them refried, canned, or in your chipotle burrito (ask for Pinto and Black, they won’t charge extra), these legumes are a true superfood. If you are a vegetarian or vegan trying to increase your protein intake, consider taking up beans into your daily diet, as they also contain around 20 grams of protein in one cup. Like the previously mentioned fruit, if the healthiest option is what you seek, black beans are your answer. As a general rule of thumb, the darker the fruit or veggie, the healthier it is (in terms of micronutrient and antioxidant density).
- I know right – what else can’t this fruit do? A medium sized avocado delivers over 10 grams of fiber, along with as much potassium as two bananas, and as much unsaturated fat as a serving of extra-virgin olive oil. Yes it does cost a little extra at your local chipotle, but your health and longevity is definitely worth it.
- Apples get a lot of attention for having fiber, but pears are the real underrated fiber stars with 6 grams in a regular sized pear. But just like apples, it’s important to eat the skin because that is where most of the fiber resides. Tip: when buying your pears, apples, or any other fruits/veggies that you eat the skin of, make sure they are organic. However with fruits where you don’t consume the skin, such as bananas, avocados, oranges etc, don’t bother spending extra to make it pesticide free.
- When whole grains are refined, the bran and germ of the grain is removed, leaving only the endosperm. When you refine a grain and remove the bran, you also remove most of the fiber, B vitamins, and trace minerals, while removing the germ also removes sources of vitamin E, antioxidants and healthy fats. The left over endosperm is the main source of carbohydrates and a small amount of protein, which is fine for some people, but most of us can benefit from switching to whole grains and getting the extra 4 grams of fiber, plus extra nutrients. Chose whole grain and not refined.
- With 4 grams of fiber in a 40 gram serving, oatmeal isn’t like many other high fiber foods. It contains a special type of fiber called beta-glucan, which is exceptionally good at controlling high cholesterol and may possibly help your immune system. It is also worthy to note that oats have a higher ratio of soluble fiber to insoluble fiber, making it very balanced and versatile in that respect.
- Recipe Idea: My staple breakfast is two servings of oats, a scoop of protein powder, and a crumbled up Myprotein cookie, a simple and high protein/fiber breakfast that will definitely keep you full until lunch, give it a try!
- Although high in fat, don’t worry it’s good fat, a serving of nuts, such as almonds or peanuts, or a natural nut butter can have up to 3 grams of fiber. Also high in vitamins and minerals, try to make a handful of nuts or a spoonful of peanut butter a daily treat! But be careful, if you actually weigh out what you think a serving of nuts is, you will be disappointingly surprised how small it really is compared to what you thought it was.
- This little miracle seed has become especially popular in the past few years. A two tablespoon serving contains about 4 grams of fiber. But it doesn’t stop there, with a high concentration of ALA (alpha lipoic acid) and Omega-3 this little seed is a powerhouse of health benefits. You might see flaxseed oil in pill form, which is a good supplement to take, but eating the seeds themselves freshly ground up will give you the highest concentration of omegas while still giving you a serving of fiber. Tip: Avoid eating the seeds whole as they won’t get digested and the nutrients will pass through you without being absorbed – either buy already ground flax or buy the seeds and ground them yourself.
- It wasn’t till I became an adult that I understood what my mom was fussing over telling me to eat my broccoli. Besides having numerous vitamins & minerals and certain disease fighting benefits, this cruciferous vegetable packs a respectable 5 grams of fiber per cup. Broccoli becomes increasingly useful when dieting because a single serving of broccoli has only 35 calories, meaning you can eat an entire pound (about 450 grams) and it’ll only set you back 150 calories. Most veggies can be utilized in a diet this way and have been by professional bodybuilders to fill up on low calorie vegetables for decades.
- Chia seeds. Last but definitely not least, chia seeds have been used for centuries by the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas. They pack an impressive 10g of fiber in a 28g serving! Along with 5g of complete protein and 7g of polyunsaturated fat, this tiny seed once used as hair on a ceramic head with the catchy slogan: “ch-ch-ch-chia!”, is now recognized as one of the healthiest foods on the planet. As an added bonus these seeds create a gel like consistency in your stomach and help you feel full. Well, what are you waiting for? Go buy some and add a serving to all your desserts for a satisfying crunchy consistency as well as the feeling that you made your meal healthier!
Take Home Message
As you can see, there are many unusual sources of fiber that you can easily integrate into your diet to help you get your daily recommended amount. But when adding fibrous foods to your diet, make sure to increase your intake slowly. As increasing it too fast when your body isn’t used to all that extra fiber will react by causing abdominal discomfort, bloating and excessive embarrassing flatulence. Strive to up your intake by five grams a day and your body will have more time to process the extra load. Once you get to the recommended amount per day, continue to eat the amount daily as often as you can help it. One day with little fiber won’t hurt, but if that turns into a week the results can be painful.