A part of eating a healthy diet is filling up on high-fiber foods. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate the body is unable to digest. So, if we can’t break it down, why do we need it? This essential nutrient is necessary for keeping the colon running smoothly by having regular bowel movements, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, promoting heart health by reducing the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream, and making us feel full preventing overeating.
Fiber has one other important task – it promotes a healthy gut microbiome. The American diet lacks fiber which gut microbes love to feast on to be able to colonize in the colon. Unfortunately, a poor gut microbiome is associated with increasing colorectal cancer, autoimmune diseases, and even a reduced effectiveness of vaccines.
Only about 15 grams of fiber are consumed daily by most Americans. Yet, American men require 38 grams of fiber a day while women need 30 grams daily.
The source of fiber is found only in foods of plant origin. This is because fiber is found in the leaves, stems, and roots of plant-based foods. Animal-based foods do not contain fiber. That’s why anyone following a strict keto diet plan will be lacking adequate fiber.
Fiber also comes in two types – soluble and insoluble, referred to as dietary fibers. Each type has vital health roles. Soluble fiber helps lower absorption of fat, lowers blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels, lowers inflammation, and promotes healthy gut bacteria for better digestion. Insoluble fiber improves bowel health, prevents and treats constipation, and reduces the risk of colorectal conditions, such as hemorrhoids and diverticulitis.
Now that you know the reason why fiber is a vital component of a healthy diet, here is a compiled list of 15 high-fiber foods:
1. Black beans – This nutrient-rich high-fiber food is also a good protein, magnesium, and potassium source. But the fiber component comes from an antioxidant called anthocyanin, that may reduce risk of heart disease. Use black beans in soups, in a grain bowl, or added to salads. One cup provides 15 grams of fiber.
2. Sweet potatoes – This delicious tuber is a good source of potassium, good for maintaining blood pressure, and vitamins A and C, both important for a healthy immune system. One cup of sweet potatoes provides 4 grams of fiber.
3. Blackberries – Besides fiber, these berries also contain the antioxidant anthocyanin, helping lower inflammation and reduce cancer risk. One cup provides 7.6 grams of fiber.
4. Artichokes – This veggie is loaded with antioxidants, with some of the highest levels of all vegetables. Serve as a side dish, add to salads, or whole grain pastas to boost fiber. One artichoke provides 6.8 grams of fiber.
5. Avocado – Known for its heart-healthy fats, this fruit surprisingly packs more fiber than you think. Add half an avocado to a salad or mash it to spread onto whole wheat toast for long-lasting satiety. One-half avocado provides 5 grams of fiber.
6. Bananas – High in potassium, necessary for regulating muscle contractions, nerve signals, and fluid balance, this favorite fruit also has a good amount of fiber. One large banana provides 3.5 grams of fiber.
7. Lentils – Talk about a terrific source of fiber – one cup (cooked) provides 15 grams – lentils also pack protein and magnesium. Add them to soups, salads, and grain dishes.
8. Whole wheat bread – Bread made from whole grains – containing the 3 parts of a kernel, the germ, bran, and endosperm – are excellent B vitamins and folate sources. When buying bread, read the Nutrition Facts Label. Look for 100 percent whole grain bread with at least three grams of fiber per slice.
9. Brussels sprouts – Considered a cruciferous, cancer-fighting vegetable, Brussels sprouts may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. It’s also good for reaching your fiber needs as one cup provides 4 grams of fiber.
10. Broccoli – Low in calories and high in folate and vitamin K, here’s another cruciferous veggie protective of cancers of the gastrointestinal system. Whether cooked or used as a topping for salads, baked potatoes, or pizza, one cup of broccoli provides 5 grams of fiber.
11. Apples – When eaten with the skin on, one medium apple provides 4 grams of fiber. Apples are one of the most easily stored and portable foods around. Snack on apples with peanut butter or throw in chopped apples to a salad for a tasty way to include more fiber.
12. Split peas – Don’t overlook this hearty and healthy legume. Just a quarter cup of cooked split peas provides 8 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein. And that’s not all – split peas also provide folate, potassium, and iron. Add split peas to soups, toss a handful of cooked split peas into a salad, or puree into a veggie dip.
13. Raspberries – This jewel-colored fruit packs a wallop of vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber. This small berry is perfect for adding to yogurt or enjoy as a stand-alone snack. One cup provides 8 grams of fiber.
14. Chia seeds – Here’s a super seed that is incredibly versatile and absorbent for adding to smoothies, yogurt, salads, and used as a thickener for hamburgers or meatballs. Just 2 tablespoons provides 8 grams of fiber.
15. Almonds – This nut is the real deal for snacking on or adding sliced to salads or trail mixes. A 1 ounce serving size (1/4 cup or a handful) provides 3.5 grams of fiber.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.