Originally published for Real Simple by Betty Gold
Two main fibers are found in foods. These are soluble (which swell in water) and insoluble (which do not swell in water). According to Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., RDN, former lead nutritionist at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, both are critical for good health and both are best obtained through food. “I tell my patients to avoid any plant that has been stripped of fiber—think juice, white bread, white rice—and to always look for a more-bang-for-your-nutrition-buck option whenever you can. That means keeping those skins on your apples and throwing some seeds into that salad.”
Fiber plays a major role in improving gut health. A 2020 study found that diet and gut health were directly related and that foods rich in fiber had a beneficial impact on the gut microbiome. According to Kirkpatrick, fiber is converted into short-chain fatty acids after fermentation by gut bacteria, which in turn has been associated with multiple health benefits. “In addition to consuming plenty of fiber, individuals may also consider supplemental probiotics as well to improve gut health,” she explains.
These are the 10 best fiber-rich foods you should be eating, according to Kirkpatrick.
Blackberries are one of the best berries the body can get—flavorwise, yes, but also nutritionally speaking. “In addition to their fiber content, blackberries boast the deepest hues in the berry family,” explains Kirkpatrick. Studies show that the deeper the color or hue of a plant, the more anthocyanins it provides and thus the more benefits. “Though all berries provide benefit (especially to the brain) blackberries have that extra boost of color that may yield added benefit.”
Fiber content: 7.5 grams per 1 cup
Oats provide a double whammy of fiber benefit since they contain both soluble fiber (the oat) and insoluble fiber (the husk). “That means that oats can help to move bulk out of the body and help to lower cholesterol as well,” says Kirkpatrick. “Also, though ready-to-eat cereals are also often high in fiber, oats (and oatmeal) beat them out in a study showing that they were superior in controlling appetite and thus weight.” They also don’t have the added sugar that many cereals have.
Fiber content: 4 grams per 1/2 cup
Popcorn packs plenty of fiber and is one of the highest-antioxidant snacks you can get. One study actually found that popcorn may contain more antioxidants than some fruits and vegetables. According to Kirkpatrick, the key to making healthy popcorn is to air-pop it or make it in avocado or coconut oil. You can add additional nutrient-dense ingredients, like a drizzle of olive oil and some cinnamon or turmeric, too.
Fiber content: 6 grams per 2 tablespoons unpopped corn
Beans are the powerhouses of fiber content, providing a huge amount in a small serving. Additionally, bean-based noodles (like Banza) that contain just beans and water can be a great alternative for individuals who either don’t know how to cook them or prefer pasta to bean dishes. “What I love about beans is that they’re one of the only sources of fiber that also packs a serious protein punch as well,” Kirkpatrick says. “In addition, beans have been identified as a major player in helping to reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Fiber content: 9.6 grams per 1/2 cup
Who doesn’t love guacamole on top of tacos, toast or tortilla chips? Avocados are in and so are their fiber components. Studies show that avocados can help in management of weight and blood sugar.
Fiber content: 5 grams per 1/2 cup
Pistachios are a great snack, especially if you want to get some crunch and satisfaction without carbs. According to Kirkpatrick, pistachios have been found in studies to help lower stress, reduce cholesterol and help with weight loss. And they may have more antioxidants than other nuts. In terms of gut health, some studies suggest that pistachios are better than other nuts for gut health.
Fiber content: 3 grams per 1/4 cup
“Lentils have similar benefits to other beans—they reduce your risk of heart disease and help you manage your weight—but a 2019 study found that replacing potatoes or rice with lentils could result in a significant improvement in blood sugar control,” Kirkpatrick explains. The study found that lentils may inhibit enzymes involved in the process of absorbing glucose.
Fiber content: 7.8 grams per 1/2 cup
8. Collard Greens
“Collard greens are one of my favorite foods to recommend to patients since they happen to be one of the best sources of plant-based calcium,” says Kirkpatrick. They are also easy to throw in a casserole, soup or even eggs in the morning since they wilt down.” Collards have also been associated with improvements in eye health, as well as reducing the risk for colon cancer.
Fiber content: 1.4 grams per 1 cup
9. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts, another cruciferous veggie, are a great source of prebiotics. Prebiotics help probiotics flourish, and thus, help support overall gut health.
Fiber content: 3.3 grams per 1 cup
10. Almond Flour
When considering the best ways to get fiber, don’t forget about flours. Almond flour has one of the best combinations of being high-nutrient, low-carb and high-fiber, says Kirkpatrick. In addition, it’s a great source of vitamin E and magnesium.
Fiber content: 3 grams per 1/4 cup
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