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The Top 13 Fiber-Rich Foods

Sharon Palmer

Many areas of nutrition tend to elicit controversy, but dietary fiber is usually not one of them. Scientific evidence links fiber intake to a plethora of health benefits, including treating and preventing constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulosis; decreasing blood cholesterol levels, which protects against certain forms of cancer; and increasing satiety to help control weight.

There are a number of health benefits for fiber. The most promising benefit that is receiving more and more attention is fiber’s role in immune health. We know that cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity have underlying inflammatory processes. Dietary fiber may play a role to modulate the immune system and therefore produce a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. There is wonderful, intriguing work going on in this area now, says Roger A. Clemens, DrPH, CNS, FACN, FIFT, a professor in the regulatory science program in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Southern California and a volunteer scientific spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists with more than 30 years of experience in the field.

Consumers are cued into fiber’s health benefits. According to an International Food Information Council survey, 86% of consumers linked fiber with a healthy digestive system and 73% associated whole grains with heart disease prevention. There is consumer interest in fiber, but the real challenge is getting them to comply. People complain a lot about flatulence. For most people, the frequent gastric distress will go away, reports Clemens. The Institute of Medicine recommends dietary fiber intake for adults aged 50 and younger of 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women, and for men and women older than 50, an intake of 30 and 21 grams, respectively. But Americans are falling seriously short of the recommended goal, with an average intake of about 15 grams per day.

Many whole plant foods are rich in different types of dietary fiber, such as pectin, gum, mucilage, cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and soluble fiber. Consuming a variety of fibers is suggested to gain the maximum benefits of a high-fiber diet. Clemens also believes that the future for raising the fiber intake of Americans may be through food science advancements. I think the future for fiber will involve alternative sources of dietary fiber from tree bark, algae, seaweed, and various kinds and parts of vegetables not previously considered edible, such as peels of fruits and vegetables. With today’s food science and emerging technologies, food manufacturers are putting dietary fiber into almost any kind of food, such as chocolate, powdered beverages, and infant formula, he says.

In recognition of fiber’s benefits, I’m looking at some of the best ways to boost fiber intake, from whole to fortified foods, using data from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

Top 13 Fiber-Rich Food Strategies

1. Get on the Bran Wagon. One simple way to increase fiber intake is to power up on bran. Bran from many grains is very rich in dietary fiber. Oat bran is high in soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels. Wheat, corn, and rice bran are high in insoluble fiber, which helps prevent constipation. Bran can be sprinkled into your favorite foods, from hot cereal and pancakes to muffins and cookies. Many popular high-fiber cereals and bars are also packed with bran.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Oat bran, raw1 ounce12 g
Wheat bran, raw1 ounce12 g
Corn bran, raw1 ounce22 g
Rice bran, raw1 ounce6 g
Fiber One Bran Cereal1/2 cup14 g
All-Bran Cereal1/2 cup10 g
Fiber One Chewy Bars1 bar9 g
Burrito with Refried Beans and Corn

2. Take a Trip to Bean Town. Beans really are the magical fruit. They are one of the most naturally rich sources of fiber, as well as protein, lysine, vitamins, and minerals, in the plant kingdom. It’s no wonder so many indigenous diets include a bean or two in the mix. Some people experience intestinal gas and discomfort associated with bean intake, so they may be better off slowly introducing beans into their diet. Encourage a variety of beans as an animal protein replacement in stews, side dishes, salads, soups, casseroles, and dips.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Lima beans, cooked1 cup14 g
Adzuki beans, cooked1 cup17 g
Broad beans (fava), cooked1 cup9 g
Black beans, cooked1 cup15 g
Garbanzo beans, cooked1 cup12 g
Lentils, cooked1 cup16 g
Cranberry beans, cooked1 cup16 g
Black turtle soup beans, cooked1 cup17 g
Kidney beans, cooked1 cup16 g
Navy beans, cooked1 cup19 g
White beans, small, cooked1 cup19 g
French beans, cooked1 cup17 g
Mung beans, cooked1 cup15 g
Yellow beans, cooked1 cup18 g
Pinto beans, cooked1 cup15 g

 

Super Berry Acai Bowl

3. Go Berry Picking. Jewel-like berries are in the spotlight due to their antioxidant power, but let’s not forget about their fiber bonus. Berries happen to yield one of the best fiber-per-calorie bargains on the planet. Since berries are packed with tiny seeds, their fiber content is typically higher than that of many fruits. Clients can enjoy berries year-round by making the most of local berries in the summer and eating frozen, preserved, and dried berries during the other seasons. Berries make great toppings for breakfast cereal, yogurt, salads, and desserts.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Raspberries, raw1 cup8 g
Blueberries, raw1 cup4 g
Currants (red and white), raw1 cup5 g
Strawberries, raw1 cup3 g
Boysenberries, frozen1 cup7 g
Gooseberries, raw1 cup6 g
Loganberries, frozen1 cup8 g
Elderberries, raw1 cup10 g
Blackberries, raw1 cup8 g

 

Vegan Florentine Oatmeal Bowl

4. Wholesome Whole Grains. One of the easiest ways to up fiber intake is to focus on whole grains. A grain in nature is essentially the entire seed of the plant made up of the bran, germ, and endosperm. Refining the grain removes the germ and the bran; thus, fiber, protein, and other key nutrients are lost. The Whole Grains Council recognizes a variety of grains and defines whole grains or foods made from them as containing all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. If the grain has been processed, the food product should deliver approximately the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed. Have clients choose different whole grains as features in side dishes, pilafs, salads, breads, crackers, snacks, and desserts.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Amaranth, grain1/4 cup6 g
Barley, pearled, cooked1 cup6 g
Buckwheat groats, cooked1 cup5 g
Popcorn, air popped3 cups4 g
Oats (old fashioned), dry1/2 cup4 g
Rye flour, dry1/4 cup7 g
Millet, cooked1 cup2 g
Quinoa, cooked1 cup5 g
Teff, grain, dry1/4 cup6 g
Triticale, flour, dry1/4 cup5 g
Wheat berries, dry1/4 cup5 g
Wild rice, cooked1 cup3 g
Wheat flour (whole wheat), dry1/4 cup4 g
Brown rice, cooked1 cup4 g
Bulgur, cooked1 cup8 g
Bread (whole wheat), sliced1 slice2 g
Crackers, rye wafers1 ounce6 g
Spaghetti (whole wheat), cooked1 cup6 g
Shanghai Snow Pea Seitan Stir-Fry with Brown Rice

5. Sweet Peas. Peas, from fresh green peas to dried peas, are naturally chock full of fiber. In fact, food technologists have been studying pea fiber as a functional food ingredient. Clients can make the most of peas by using fresh or frozen green peas and dried peas in soups, stews, side dishes, casseroles, salads, and dips.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Cow peas (blackeyes), cooked1 cup11 g
Pigeon peas, cooked1 cup9 g
Peas, split, cooked1 cup16 g
Peas, green, frozen1 cup14 g
Peas (edible podded), cooked1 cup5 g

 

Penne with White Beans and Greens

6. Green, the Color of Fiber. Deep green, leafy vegetables are notoriously rich in beta-carotene, vitamins, and minerals, but their fiber content isn’t too shabby either. There are more than 1,000 species of plants with edible leaves, many with similar nutritional attributes, including high-fiber content. While many leafy greens are fabulous tossed in salads, sautéing them in olive oil, garlic, lemon, and herbs brings out a rich flavor.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Turnip greens, cooked1 cup5 g
Mustard greens, cooked1 cup5 g
Collard greens, cooked1 cup5 g
Spinach, cooked1 cup4 g
Beet greens, cooked1 cup4 g
Swiss chard, cooked1 cup4 g
Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Mix

7. Squirrel Away Nuts and Seeds. Go nuts to pack a fiber punch. One ounce of nuts and seeds can provide a hearty contribution to the day’s fiber recommendation, along with a bonus of healthy fats, protein, and phytochemicals. Sprinkling a handful of nuts or seeds over breakfast cereals, yogurt, salads, and desserts is a tasty way to do fiber.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Almonds1 ounce4 g
Pistachio nuts1 ounce3 g
Cashews1 ounce1 g
Peanuts1 ounce2 g
Walnuts1 ounce2 g
Brazil nuts1 ounce2 g
Pinon nuts1 ounce12 g
Sunflower seeds1/4 cup3 g
Pumpkin seeds1/2 cup3 g
Sesame seeds1/4 cup4 g
Flaxseed1 ounce8 g
Squash Filled with Herbed Quinoa and Cranberries

8. Play Squash. Dishing up squash, from summer to winter squash, all year is another way that clients can ratchet up their fiber intake. These nutritious gems are part of the gourd family and contribute a variety of flavors, textures, and colors, as well as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids, to the dinner plate. Squash can be turned into soups, stews, side dishes, casseroles, salads, and crudit ©s. Brush squash with olive oil and grill it in the summertime for a healthy, flavorful accompaniment to grilled meats.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Crookneck squash, cooked1 cup3 g
Summer scallop squash, cooked1 cup5 g
Hubbard squash, cooked1 cup7 g
Zucchini squash, cooked1 cup3 g
Acorn squash, cooked1 cup9 g
Spaghetti squash, cooked1 cup2 g
Buffalo Cauliflower with Ranch Dip

9. Brassica or Bust. Brassica vegetables have been studied for their cancer-protective effects associated with high levels of glucosinolates. But these brassy beauties, including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, are also full of fiber. They can be enjoyed in stir-fries, casseroles, soups, and salads and steamed as a side dish.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Kale, cooked1 cup3 g
Cauliflower, cooked1 cup5 g
Kohlrabi, raw1 cup5 g
Savoy cabbage, cooked1 cup4 g
Broccoli, cooked1 cup5 g
Brussels sprouts, cooked1 cup6 g
Red cabbage, cooked1 cup4 g
Red Lentil Stew with Root Vegetables

10. Hot Potatoes. The humble spud, the top vegetable crop in the world, is plump with fiber. Since potatoes are so popular in America, they’re an easy way to help pump up people’s fiber potential. Why stop at Russets? There are numerous potatoes that can provide a rainbow of colors, nutrients, and flavors, and remind clients to eat the skins to reap the greatest fiber rewards. Try adding cooked potatoes with skins to salads, stews, soups, side dishes, stir-fries, and casseroles or simply enjoy baked potatoes more often.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Russet potato, flesh and skin1 medium4 g
Red potato, flesh and skin1 medium3 g
Sweet potato, flesh and skin1 medium4 g
Grilled Peaches with Basil

11. Everyday Fruit Basket. Look no further than everyday fruits to realize your full fiber potential. Many are naturally packed with fiber, as well as other important vitamins and minerals. Maybe the doctor was right when he advised an apple a day, but he could have added pears, oranges, and bananas to the prescription as well. When between fruit seasons, clients can rely on dried fruits to further fortify their diet. Encourage including fruit at breakfast each morning instead of juice; mixing dried fruits into cereals, yogurts, and salads; and reaching for the fruit bowl at snack time. It’s a healthy habit all the way around.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Banana1 medium3 g
Pear1 medium6 g
Orange1 medium4 g
Apple1 medium4 g
Prunes,dried 1/2 cup6 g
Raisins2 ounces2 g
Peaches, dried1/4 cup3 g
Figs, dried1/2 cup8 g
Mediterranean Persimmon White Bean Kale Salad

12. Exotic Destinations. Some of the plants with the highest fiber content in the world may be slightly out of your clients’ comfort zone and, for that matter, time zone. A rainbow of indigenous fruits and vegetables used in cultural food traditions around the globe are very high in fiber. Entice clients to introduce a few new plant foods into their diets to push up the flavor, as well as their fiber, quotient.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Jicama, raw1 cup6 g
Chayote fruit, cooked1 cup4 g
Starfruit (carambola), raw1 cup4 g
Asian pear, raw1 fruit4 g
Hearts of palm, cooked1 cup4 g
Guava, raw1 cup9 g
Straw mushrooms, canned1 cup5 g
Abiyuch, raw1/2 cup6 g
Lotus root10 slices4 g
Persimmons, raw1 fruit6 g
Breadfruit1 cup11 g
Avocado, raw1/2 fruit9 g
Edamame, frozen1 cup6 g
Taro, sliced1 cup4 g

13. Fiber Fortification Power. More foods, from juice to yogurt, are including fiber fortification in their ingredient lineup. Such foods may help busy people achieve their fiber goals. As consumer interest in foods with functional benefits, such as digestive health and cardiovascular protection, continues to grow, expect to see an even greater supply of food products promoting fiber content on supermarket shelves.

FoodPortionAmount of Fiber
Nature’s Own Double Fiber
Wheat Bread
1 slice5 g
Wasa Crispbread, Fiber Rye2 slices4 g
Weight Watcher’s
Flakes ‘N Fiber
1/2 cup9 g
Silk Soy Milk Plus Fiber1 cup5 g
Bob’s Red Mill Organic
High Fiber Hot Cereal
1/3 cup, dry10 g
Tropicana Orange Juice
With Fiber
1 cup3 g
Gnu Foods High Fiber Bar1 bar12 g
Fiber One Yoplait Yogurt4 ounces5 g

Image: Moroccan Chickpea Sorghum Bowl, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

This article was written by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN, and originally appeared in Today’s Dietitian.
Updated: 3/31/19

For other blogs on increasing fiber, check out the following:

Power Up with Plants, Thanks to Pulses
Whole Grains, Good for Your Health and Wallet

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