Food is fuel to the human body. The food you eat is processed and distributed to different parts of your body’s system and is transformed into energy, nutrients and more. When you feed yourself junk food, your body will also be absorbing those unhealthy elements. A healthy diet is critical to boost performance, mood and overall health.
One of the healthiest foods that the body needs is fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate from plants. It has many health benefits, which makes it an essential nutrient that should be part of the daily diet.
There are two main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is soft and binds to cholesterol and sugar, helping regulate sugar levels. It is also known to improve and boost the population of good bacteria in the gut. Insoluble fiber is also sometimes referred to as “roughage”. It isn’t absorbed in the bloodstream but it adds bulk and helps clean the digestive system. Because of this special ability, it does a lot of cleaning work inside the body.
According to studies, fiber is great for digestion, weight management, cholesterol maintenance and controlling blood sugar. American Heart Association says that the recommended amount of fiber intake is about 25 grams/day for women under 50 and 38 grams for men under 50.
The average American only eats roughly 16 grams of fiber daily and this is way below the ideal number. Up your fiber intake with these high-fiber foods that will surely improve your health:
Nuts are a popular snack option for health-conscious individuals. Not only are they a great source of protein, they are also among the top high-fiber foods. A one-ounce portion of nuts, or a handful, can provide about 9 – 39% of the recommended daily fiber intake for adults.
The fiber content depends on the type of nut. Some of the nuts that have the highest fiber content include almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and pecans. These have about 3-4 grams of fiber per handful.
Additionally, nuts are also healthy for the heart. Studies have demonstrated that regular consumption of nuts have cardioprotective effects. Along with dietary fiber, the healthy fats present in nuts contribute to lowering cholesterol and this results to the risk reduction of getting coronary heart diseases.
These crunchy snacks make great toppers on several dishes including salads, soups, dips and cakes. Of course, they can also be eaten as nibblers or finger foods. Nuts make a great substitute for chips and crackers.
Keep in mind, though, that nuts are high in calories so it is best to eat them moderately. One to two servings a day is enough to reap its health benefits without racking up the calorie count.
Just like nuts, seeds are also a great snack to substitute those greasy, processed chips. Seeds are extremely nutritious and contain healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Two of the healthiest seeds that are known to be rich in fiber and also contain numerous nutrients are flaxseed and chia. You have probably seen them as toppings or as one of the ingredients of a healthy meal. These are often mixed into yogurts, oatmeals, puddings and salads.
Flaxseeds have 7.8 grams of fiber in a 1-ounce serving, which is more than what you can find in other seeds. Additionally, flaxseeds also contain a number of antioxidants such as lignans – a micronutrient that can help reduce cholesterol.
Chia has even higher fiber content, with 10.6 grams per 1-ounce serving. Just like flaxseeds, chia is also high in antioxidants. Chia is found to cause an increase in the body’s production of ALA – a fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation.
These seeds can be eaten in several ways – whole, ground, soaked or dry. One of the most popular ways of consuming flaxseed and chia is by soaking them in oatmeals, puddings and even water. This adds an interesting crunch to the meal and also makes the seeds more digestible.
Avocados are not only photogenic on Instagram, they also live up to their hype. This fruit is a great fiber source and also contains a lot of mono and polyunsaturated fats, a.k.a. the “good” kind of fats that can help boost overall health.
An average-sized avocado has about 13 grams of dietary fiber. About 25% of that is soluble, while a good 75% is insoluble fiber. Because it is high in insoluble fiber, avocados are really healthy for the digestive system. This can help with constipation and lower the risk of digestive tract issues.
Fiber is not the only health benefit of this popular fruit, it is also rich in vitamins C, E, K and B-6. Additionally, it contains nutrients like magnesium, potassium, folate, riboflavin and niacin.
Not to mention, avocados are really versatile. Also called the “butter fruit”, the avocado has a unique flavor and consistency that makes it so easy to add and mix with several other flavors.
Berries have always been popular with health-conscious individuals because they are known to be rich in antioxidants. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries – these are all loaded with antioxidants and are rich in healthy nutrients.
Several studies have confirmed that antioxidants are effective in reducing oxidative stress. Antioxidants are known to be powerful agents that fight off the free radicals in our body. When free radicals thrive too much, cells can be damaged and cause oxidative stress, which leads to chronic illnesses, metabolic diseases and cancers.
Aside from being high in antioxidants, berries are also high in fiber. Raspberries have the highest fiber content with 6.5 grams per 3.5 ounces, followed by blackberries with 5.3 grams, blueberries with 2.4 grams and then strawberries with 2.0 grams.
In addition to that, berries also have major benefits for the heart. They have been found to improve endothelial function – which is responsible in regulating blood pressure and keeping blood from clotting.
While they are high in soluble fiber, they are still low in carbohydrates, making them a great snack option. This means that you won’t have to worry about racking up those unwanted calories.
5. Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are among the most nutritious foods. These two are often confused because they look similar but they actually have differences. Beans are the seeds of various plants from the legume family, while legumes are any plant in the Leguminosae family. Legumes are considered to be vegetables when both their seed and pod can be eaten. Some example includes green beans and snow peas.
The highest fiber beans and legumes include chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, navy beans and soy beans. They contain upwards of 10 grams per one-cup serving.
These nutritious superfoods are also known to be a great source of protein, making it a popular meat alternative for vegetarians. Because they are versatile, beans and legumes can be easily added on many dishes such as soups, salads, stews and more.
Beans and legumes have also been found to lower cholesterol and improve heart health. Lentil sprouts lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Soybeans, another popular superfood, are also associated to lower the risk of stomach and gastrointestinal cancers by 15%.
It’s one of the most popular vegetables and is used in countless of tasty dishes. Broccoli is a cruciferous type of vegetable that’s related to cauliflower, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. It is enjoyed raw or cooked and is widely known for its many health benefits.
Broccoli contains about 90% water, 7% carbohydrates and 3% protein. It is low in calories and almost has no fat. It has 2.5 grams of fiber per 1 cup of serving, which is about 5-10% of the Daily Value. High fiber vegetables such as broccoli improve gut health and even aid in weight loss. The more healthy microbes that are present in the intestines, the stronger the body’s barrier is against bad bacteria.
Another great thing about broccoli is that it has high protein content but it is also low in calories, so it is not harmful to eat a big serving. It has relatively high protein, compared to other vegetables.
It is believed that this vegetable also has the ability to protect the body from cancer. Since it is loaded with compounds called isothiocyanates, broccoli can reduce oxidative stress, decrease inflammation in the body and also stimulate the immune system.
7. Whole Grains
Your toast may look simple but this actually packs a whole lot of super healthy fiber that will help clean up your digestive system.
A whole grain, like the name suggests, is a grain that contains the whole part of the cereal. Some examples of whole grain sources are wheat, rice, barley, maize, rye and oats. These are turned into bread, noodles, popcorn, rice and oatmeals.
It is a great source of carbohydrates and multiple nutrients. They are high in essential vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium and B vitamins. Studies have shown that switching to whole grains lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
It’s important to note, however, that some grains also contain gluten – a kind of protein that is harmful to certain individuals who are sensitive to it. This can trigger a negative immune response like flatulence, pain or diarrhea when consumed by someone’s who is gluten intolerant.
Like they say – “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” Apples are one of the most nutrient–rich fruits and they are also really delicious. Unlike some vegetables, which may have a strong flavor that’s not appealing to some, apples are so easy to eat and everyone just loves them.
These juicy fruits are a nutritional powerhouse, carrying high fiber content, vitamin C and have zero fat and cholesterol. A medium-sized apple already has 4 grams of fiber.
Apples contain pectin – a natural fiber found in the pulp of some fruits and vegetables. A rich source of fiber, pectin is known to have several health benefits including lowering cholesterol, improve blood sugar level and aid in gut health.
Because of its potency, pectin is often extracted from fruit pulp or peels and turned into health supplements in tablet form. While this has become popular, it is still better to consume the fruit itself because it carries a wider variety of nutrients.
Potatoes may seem bland and uninteresting but this root crop actually offers a lot of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to the body.
They contain about 77% of water, a big amount of carbohydrates and then moderate amounts of sugar and protein. Potatoes have about 1.8 grams of fiber. While this may not be super high as the other ones mentioned above, it can still make a positive difference when consumed regularly.
A potato’s skin is also a great source of nutrients. In fact, fiber is highest in their skins. It also has pectin, cellulose and resistant starch – a kind of fiber that improves digestive health. Another dominant mineral found in the skin of potatoes is potassium. This mineral is critical in the body’s metabolism and overall health. A potassium-rich diet helps the body function more optimally.
This yellow tropical fruit is another food that’s rich in fiber. Bananas are native in the Southeast Asian regions and they thrive in warmer climates. There are many types of bananas and while they vary in size, shape and color, they mostly have the same wonderful taste.
One medium-sized banana already contains 3.1 grams of the nutrient. In addition to a high soluble fiber content, bananas also have several other healthy elements such as vitamins including potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
Bananas also have flavonoids – a kind of antioxidant that is found in dietary sources including citrus fruits, tea, wine, apples, legumes and many more. These phytonutrients are one of the main structures that give fruits their colors. It is associated with the decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases. The resistant starch and pectin present in this fruit also helps promote colon health.