You may have heard – on TV, the radio, or your favorite celeb’s Instagram – about the importance of fiber for good health. But is there any science to back these claims? What does fiber do, why is it important, and what foods can you get it from?
How Much Fiber Should You Really Be Eating?
Why Is Fiber Important?
Dietary fiber, also called roughage, is the parts of plant-based food that the body can’t digest. Instead of being broken down and absorbed – like fats and proteins – fiber passes through the stomach, small intestine, colon, and out of the body relatively intact.
Fiber is usually categorized as soluble or insoluble – both have distinct benefits, according to academic medical practice and research center Mayo Clinic. Soluble fiber, meaning it dissolves in water, helps slow the emptying process of the stomach, keeping the body feeling fuller for longer. It can also help to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.
Insoluble fiber absorbs water to help soften the contents of the bowels, promoting the movement of materials through the digestive system.
6 Benefits of a Fiber-Rich Diet
1. It Boosts Bowel Health
Fiber-rich foods add weight to the stool, softening it and making it easier to pass and decreasing the risk of constipation. A fiber-rich diet could also lower the risk of developing hemorrhoids as well as diseases like colorectal (bowel) cancer.
2. It Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Soluble fiber can help lower total blood cholesterol by decreasing levels of low-density lipoprotein, also known as “bad” cholesterol. Research has uncovered “impressive reductions” in cholesterol with increased soluble fiber intake, Healthline explains on its website. High-fiber foods could also help to reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
3. It Improves Mental Health
Research has suggested that a fiber-rich diet could help improve mental health. A cross-sectional study reviewed the data of nearly 17,000 adults and found that those who ate 21 grams of fiber were less likely to experience symptoms of depression than those who ate less.
4. It Controls Blood Sugar Levels
Fiber, especially soluble fiber, can help to slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream. The sugar found in fiber-rich foods is absorbed more slowly, keeping blood glucose levels from rising too fast, according to Benioff Children’s Hospital.
Insoluble fiber could also reduce one’s risk of developing type-2 diabetes, Mayo Clinic said.
5. It Helps You to Manage Weight
Fiber-rich foods’ tend to make you feel fuller for longer, so eating them can help to manage weight. High-fiber foods can take longer to eat and be less energy dense, Mayo Clinic explains, meaning they have less calories for the same volume of food.
6. It Helps to Combat Disease
Increasing your fiber intake could help to prevent and combat disease. High-fiber diets, which often help lower inflammation as well, are linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic disease, and cancer.
How Much Fiber Should You Eat?
Females generally require around 21-25 grams of fiber a day, whilst males, on average, need 30-28 grams. There are a variety of plant-based foods you can eat to increase your fiber intake, here are 13 examples.
1. Rolled Oats
Just half a cup of rolled oats provides 4.5 grams of soluble fiber. It’s an ideal way to start the day; try a bowl of oat-based cereal for breakfast like One Degree Organics Sprouted Oat O’s or Cascadian Farms Purely O’s, which feature oats and barley and can help lower cholesterol levels.
Broccoli may have been a vegetable you turned your nose up at as a child, but now this heart-healthy food is an easy way to get a load of nutrients at once. It’s a source of vitamins K and C, as well as potassium and folic acid. One cup of broccoli delivers 3.8 grams of fiber. And if you needed any more reason to eat it, 78-year-old Beatles rockstar Ringo Starr said broccoli is what keeps him young.
Give peas a chance! This soluble fiber is low in sugar and contains vitamin C and vitamin B1. Peas are easy to add to curries, sauces, or can even be made into a pea purée to spread on toast or crackers.
4. Brown Rice
Enjoy this filling ingredient with a stir-fry, in fried rice, or alongside Indian food. A cup of brown rice offers 2.7 grams of fiber, and you don’t have to feel guilty about going back for seconds.
Even popcorn can provide fiber; one cup equals 1.2 grams worth. It’s an easy snack to enjoy as you go about your day, working hard at the office or binge-watching Netflix. You do you.
6. Kidney Beans
A 100 gram serving of kidney beans equates to 6.5 grams of soluble fiber. Kidney beans are great additions to Mexican dishes like burritos, enchiladas, or nachos. You could also cook up a hearty vegan chilli featuring the fiber-rich food.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. It also offers you 2.2 grams of soluble fiber. Serve up apple in a smoothie or juice, as part of a refreshing fruit salad, or just grab one to eat whole on your way to work or school.
9. Wholemeal Pasta
Filling, delicious, and heart-healthy. Wholemeal pasta can be used in any meal where you’d normally opt for white pasta. One cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti offers 23 percent of your daily fiber (white pasta has just nine percent) as well as 16 percent of your protein.
A medium cob of corn gives 5.9 grams. Chomp into one on its own or enjoy corn as part of salsa, curry, on top of your favorite pizza, or get creative in the kitchen and whip up some vegan corn fritters.
As well as being high in fiber, cauliflower is packed with B vitamins and antioxidants. Try it in a dairy-free sweet potato cauliflower mac ‘n’ cheese, in vegan cheesy cauliflower bites, or part of a serving of hot vegetables.
12. Sweet Potato
This filling food can take center stage in a range of recipes, like in a baked sweet potato, a vegan Spanish omelette, or a sweet potato and pineapple casserole. You can even purchase them as chips or make your own at home. A cup of sweet potato with the skin on gives 3.7 grams of fiber.