Fiber is something the body needs but never actually digests — in fact, it remains more or less the same from plate to toilet. It comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble, and most plant-based foods contain a mixture of the two.
Soluble fiber turns to gel in the stomach and slows digestion, which helps lower cholesterol and blood glucose. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, remains unchanged all the way to the colon, making waste heavier and softer so it can shimmy through the intestines more easily. Regardless of these differences, neither type of fiber is ever absorbed into the body.
Skipping out on a daily dose of fiber often leads to constipation, which can make going to the bathroom painful and uncomfortable — hence the term “backed up.” Eating too little fiber can make it tough to control blood sugar and appetite because fiber regulates the speed of digestion and contributes to satiety (aka feeling full).
There can be too much of a good thing, though.
Overdoing it with fiber can move food through the intestines too quickly, which means fewer minerals get absorbed from food. It can also result in uncomfortable gas, bloating, and cramping, especially when fiber intake is dramatically increased overnight.
So what’s the magic amount? The Institute of Medicine recommends that men under 50 eat about 38 grams of fiber each day and women consume 25 grams. Adults over 50 require less fiber (30 grams for men and 21 grams for women) due to decreased food consumption. To put that into perspective, a young man is supposed to eat the same amount of fiber found in 15 slices of whole-wheat bread every day.
But fear not! Despite common preconceptions, whole grains are hardly the best source of fiber around. Read on to learn about a few of our favorite, fiber-rich foods.
The Best High-Fiber Foods
1. Split Peas
Fiber: 16.3 grams per cup, cooked.
Fiber: 15.6 grams per cup, cooked.
3. Black Beans
Fiber: 15 grams per cup, cooked.
4. Lima Beans
Fiber: 13.2 grams per cup, cooked.
Fiber: 10.3 grams per medium vegetable, cooked.
Fiber: 8.8 grams per cup, cooked.
Fiber: 5.1 grams per cup, boiled.
8. Brussels Sprouts
Fiber: 4.1 grams per cup, boiled.
Fiber: 8 grams per cup, raw.
Fiber: 7.6 grams per cup, raw.
Fiber: 6.7 grams per half, raw.
Fiber: 5.5 grams per medium fruit, raw.
13. Bran Flakes
Fiber: 7 grams per cup, raw.
14. Whole-Wheat Pasta
Fiber: 6.3 grams per cup, cooked.
15. Pearled barley
Fiber: 6 grams per cup, cooked.
Fiber: 4 grams per cup, cooked.
Sneaky Tips to Add More Fiber to Any Meal
Add flaxseed meal to oats, smoothies, yoghurt, and baked goods — you can even try breading chicken or fish with it. A two-tablespoon serving contains 3.8 grams of fiber and a dose of omega-3 fatty acids to boot.
Chia seeds have a whopping 5.5 grams of fiber per tablespoon. When they meet with water, they form a goopy gel that is great for thickening smoothies, making healthy puddings, or replacing eggs in cakes and cookies.
While spinach and carrots aren’t as high in fiber as the veggies mentioned above, they can easily be sliced or grated and snuck into many dishes without much hassle: Try adding some to banana bread, shakes, eggs, or even a homemade pizza base.
Food processors are fiber’s best friend. Purée some cooked vegetables and add them to sauces and stews, or swap out rice for chopped-up cauliflower.
The Manna Low GI Shakes contain 26% (8 gram) fiber per serving. Use the shake as one or two meal replacements per day for weight loss but also to increase your fiber intake per day.