By Kristen Hicks-Roof PhD, RDN, LDN, CLC and Marissa Schwam MS
We keep hearing about fiber and how beneficial it is to consume fiber in our diet. What is fiber and what foods have the most fiber? Fiber is part of plant-based foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans. It travels through the body undigested and helps to protect from certain cancers, helps ease bowel movements, and helps to keep us full longer.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. The insoluble fiber is found in whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, cauliflower, green beans and potatoes. This type of fiber does not dissolve in water, which helps move food through the digestive system quicker. On the contrary, soluble fiber does dissolve in water and this helps bulk stool and absorb any harmful substances in the gut. You can find soluble fiber in dried beans, oats, oat bran, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, apples, strawberries, peas, and potatoes. Often, both types of fiber are found in our foods. Now that we understand why fiber is considered important, how can we get more fiber in our diets?
- Increase fruit and vegetable intake: Beans such as edamame have up to 9 g of fiber in just a half cup. Other types of beans (pinto, kidney, black) generally have about 3 – 5 g of fiber. Fruits like apples, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries have 4g of fiber per serving. Even your favorite snack foods such as popcorn or guacamole have fiber in them.
- Make half your grains whole: Whole grains are a great source of fiber. You can get 3.5 g of fiber from one cup of cooked brown rice, 4g of fiber in one cup of traditional oats, 2g of fiber in a slice of whole grain bread, and 6g of fiber from one cup of cooked whole wheat pasta. Don’t like the taste of whole grains? Try substituting just half of your grains whole as a seamless transition.
- Have a fiber goal: Having a goal for the amount of fiber you want to consume in a day will help remind you to include foods with fiber in your diet. But how much do we need? The recommended daily intake for fiber for adults is 25g a day for women and 38g a day for men. How do you fare?
Including fiber in our diet is beneficial for our health for the short term and the long term. Fiber can help remove cholesterol from the body, flush harmful substances out of the body, and help provide bowel movement regularity. We encourage you to add in fiber in your diet to help keep you healthier, happier and regular this new year.
Kristen K. Hicks-Roof Ph.D., RDN, LDN is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida.