It’s no secret that many of us pay pretty close attention to what we eat. From tracking our water intake to eating the right kinds of fat, there’s no shortage of things to consider. But often, there’s one important macronutrient that gets neglected: fiber. Traditionally, we’ve been raised to see protein as the center of our nutritional universe – just ask any vegetarian what question they hear the most. In reality, however, it’s an unwarranted concern. The vast majority of us, whether omnivorous or vegetarian, consume enough protein without any trouble – it’s one of the (few) perks of a Western diet. It’s also easy for us to get wrapped up in a host of other food choices: should we be keto? Vegan? Should we drink more kombucha, or try gluten-free?
Amongst all this, it’s easy for fiber to get lost in the mix. Although it’s not the sexiest macronutrient, it is an important one. And as it happens, most of us don’t eat enough of it. Keep reading to find out where to get more fiber from your diet.
So, What Is Fiber?
Fiber is an indigestible part of cereals, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. More specifically, it’s a type of carbohydrate that passes through our gut undigested as we consume it. But unlike carbohydrates, which get broken down into sugars by our bodies, fiber remains intact throughout the digestion process. Fiber exists in two main varieties: soluble and insoluble. While both work their magic in our digestive system, they play different roles.
Soluble fiber boosts feelings of satiety, keeping us full for longer than a low-fiber meal would. It can also benefit our heart health by lowering our LDL cholesterol, that’s the kind that can contribute to heart disease.
Insoluble fiber also plays a key role in our health and has one main purpose: to aid regular digestion. In other words, it helps us poop! Since we can’t digest it, insoluble fiber simply passes through our digestive tract, adding volume to our stools. The movement of fiber also helps prevent constipation, encouraging our body to stay regular and pass all waste that comes through it.
Why Do We Need More Fiber?
Although soluble and insoluble fiber serves different purposes in our body, they work together to keep our digestive system on lock and our body balanced. It’s also one of the best ways to boost your gut health! An adequate amount of fiber helps our gut bacteria thrive, allowing them to increase in number and variety. Good gut health can improve everything from our skin to our energy levels – and even boost our immune systems.
We only need between 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day for optimal health, but the majority of Australian women fail to reach this target. Anyone following a keto or paleo diet should pay particularly close attention to their fiber intake – as carbohydrates are often a great source of fiber, eliminating these means fiber intake is often also drastically minimized. And if you’re feeling like you could do with a little more fiber in your diet, it’s easy! See below for some of our favorite high-fiber foods.
The Best Fiber-Rich Foods
Wholegrains are one of the easiest and best ways to get fiber into your diet. Whether it’s whole grain pasta, bread, oatmeal, or breakfast cereal – there are endless options. Swapping out any white carbohydrates for wholegrain counterparts is an easy switch, and will benefit your gut, digestion, and blood sugar. While the amount of fiber can vary substantially depending on the product, whole grains are always a more nutritionally sound choice than a white variant. It’s even possible to pack more fiber into your morning smoothie – simply throw in half a cup of rolled oats and blend until smooth.
Ah, avocado. They’re the nutritional gift that keeps on giving! While it’s packed with healthy fats, avocado also boasts an impressive 10 grams of fiber per cup. Pair it with a slice of wholegrain bread for the ultimate fiber-boosting snack.
Fruits and vegetables
No matter your dietary concern, you really can’t go wrong with a plant-focused diet. And although it’s recommended we eat 2 servings of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables per day, only 7% of Australians regularly reach that threshold! Fruits and vegetables have myriad benefits, including the wide range of vitamins and minerals present throughout them. In terms of fiber content, however, there are a few clear standouts. For vegetables, green and leafy is the name of the game. Kale, swiss chard, and spinach are all excellent, as well as vegetables like carrot, broccoli, and beets. When it comes to fruits, there are high-fiber options across the board. Raspberries are extremely high in fiber, as are mangoes, oranges, bananas, and strawberries. Don’t forget to eat the skin of fruits and vegetables wherever possible! By peeling the skin, we miss out on both extra fiber and valuable nutrients.
Flax seeds have never been quite as beloved as chia seeds, but they’re a serious workhorse when it comes to nutritional benefits. Like avocados, flax seeds are extremely high in heart-healthy fats such as omega-3 and boast almost 2 grams of fiber per tablespoon. They’re infinitely adaptable and can fit into almost anything, making flax seeds a perfect low-effort source of fiber. They blend like a dream in yogurt and smoothies, but why stop there? Mix a few tablespoons into a batter – such as pancakes or banana bread – for an instant fiber boost.