Want a healthier gut? Then you need to eat more fiber, STAT. This gut health dietitian can help you do it! Check out this list of 25 high fiber foods – some of which may surprise you! – as well as everything you need to know about why fiber is so good for you.
Fiber is my LIFE: I’m a plant-based dietitian who spends her days talking about gut health nutrition. I even wrote a book called Good For Your Gut. So, I know a thing or two about fiber and why you need MORE of it. In fact, while most people are worried about getting enough plant-based protein into their diets, we should actually be thinking about how to get more fiber…because most of us don’t get enough!
This blog post has everything you need to know about fiber so use these links to help you jump to the info you want most.
- What is fiber?
- The different types of fiber
- What does fiber do in the body?
- How much fiber do you need everyday?
- Top 25 High Fiber Foods List
What is fiber?
Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate found only in plants. It is indigestible, meaning you do not digest and absorb it – it stays in the gut. There are many different kinds of fibre, each with their own benefits.
The different types of fiber
We typically talk about two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble. But in fact, there are MANY different types of fibre. Some are insoluble, others soluble. Some are fermentable by your gut bacteria and others are not. Some are viscous, others are not. Most foods contain more than one type of fiber.
Insoluble fibers are kind of like tiny brooms that help sweep through the gut, encouraging the proper turnover of gut cells and adding bulk to your stools to keep you regular and help you avoid constipation. They are typically found in the cell wall of plant foods and do not dissolve in water.
Insoluble fibres include: cellulose and lignins (a polyphenol!) in whole grains and vegetable skins
Soluble fibers are different: they dissolve in water, and many (but not all) soluble fibres are viscous, meaning they form a gel-like substance that slows down digestion and binds things like cholesterol to carry them out of the body.
Soluble fibres include: pectin in apples, gums like guar gum, and beta-glucan in oats
There are also other indigestible carbohydrates that have an effect on the gut but don’t fit the traditional definition of fibre. This includes the resistant starches found in cooked and cooled potatoes as well as the FODMAPs such as fructose, lactose and sugar alcohols. Fermentation of FODMAPs is a great thing for a healthy gut but for those with irritable bowel syndrome, a low FODMAP diet may help get symptoms under control.
What does fibre do in the body?
Eating a high fiber diet is important because – even though you do not digest it – fibre has a ton of evidence-verified benefits on the human body. Here are just a few to help motivate you to eat more!!
- Helps to balance blood sugars: fibres that are soluble and viscous help to slow down the rate at which you absorb nutrition, leading to a more stable and moderate rise in blood sugars. Plus, a high fibre diet is associated with lower risk of type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the research.
- Helps lower cholesterol: soluble, viscous fibres like psyllium and beta-glucan in oats help to bind bile salts, which are made of cholesterol, and carry them out of the body. Your body then uses cholesterol from your blood to make more bile, helping to lower blood cholesterol levels
- Builds a healthy gut microbiome: If you want a healthy gut, you need a healthy community of gut bacteria, also known as the gut microbiome. A diet high in fibre, particularly fermentable fibres, helps feed the gut microbiome.
- Keeps the gut healthy: eating enough fibre ensures good poops, helping you avoid constipation. It also helps gently sweep the gut wall, ensuring elimination of unwanted substances and proper turnover of the gut cells.
- Helps lower risk of colon cancer: a high fibre diet, particularly whole grains, is associated with lower risk of colon cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in North America
- May help lower inflammation: fibre is thought to help with inflammation because of the importance of the microbiome to appropriate inflammatory response, as well as that your gut microbes ferment fibre into short chain fatty acids that are thought to help lessen chronic inflammation, fibre is an important part of an anti-inflammatory diet.
- Helps to protect the gut barrier: it is thought that fibre is a critical part of protecting the integrity of the gut barrier to help protect against so called ‘leaky gut’ due to its impact on the gut microbiome, inflammation and the gut cells.
How much fibre do you need everyday?
You need 25-38 grams of fibre daily.
While traditionally the recommendation is gendered, the daily recommended intake of fibre is actually based on caloric intake: 14 g/1000 calories consumed. So, it is more accurate to say that people who are in smaller bodies or less active need 25 grams daily while those in larger bodies and are more active need closer to 38 grams a day. The more food you need, the more fibre you should be eating!
Top 25 High Fiber Foods List
While most of us do not get enough fibre, it actually isn’t that difficult to reach your fibre goal once you know which foods have the most fibre! So I’ve put together this list of my top high fibre foods to make it easy to get all the fibre you need in a day.
High Fiber Fruits
- Apple: 1 medium apple has 4 grams of fibre
- Avocado: ½ medium avocado has 6.7 grams of fibre
- Pear: 1 medium pear has 5.5 grams of fibre
- Raspberries: 1 cup of raspberries has 8.4 grams of fibre (blackberries also high!)
High Fiber Vegetables
All vegetables have some fibre…but not all as much as you think! In general, hardy vegetables such as cauliflower, kale and asparagus are all higher in fibre than salad veg such as bell peppers, tomatoes, lettuces and cucumber. Here are 7 standouts.
- Broccoli: 1 cup cooked broccoli has 4 grams of fibre
- Brussels sprouts: 1 cup cooked sprouts has 5.9 grams of fibre
- Carrots: 1 cup cooked carrots has 4.5 grams of fibre
- Collard greens: ½ cup of cooked collard greens has 4.0 grams of fibre
- Green peas: ½ cup of cooked green peas has 5.6 grams of fibre
- Potato with skin: 1 medium russet or sweet potato, baked with skin, has 4.0 grams of fibre
High Fiber Grains + Legumes
If you want a healthier gut, don’t avoid nutrient-dense whole grains and legumes, which are some of the highest fibre foods around!
- Black beans: ½ cup of cooked black beans has 7.9 grams of fibre
- Chickpeas: ½ cup of cooked chickpeas has 4.0 grams of fibre
- Lentils: ½ cup of cooked lentils has 4.5 grams of fibre
- Kidney beans: ½ cup of cooked kidney beans has 6 grams of fibre
- Popcorn: 4 cups of air-popped popcorn has 5 grams of fibre
- Quinoa: 1 cup of cooked quinoa has 5.5 grams of fibre
- Rolled oats: 1 cup of cooked rolled oats has 4.9 grams of fibre
- Sprouted Grain Bread: 2 slices of 100% sprouted grain bread has 10 grams of fibre
- Wheat berries: 1 cup of cooked wheat berries (kamut, spelt similar) has 7.8 grams of fibre
- Whole wheat pasta: 1 cup of cooked whole wheat spaghetti has 4.8 grams of fibre
High Fibre Nuts + Seeds
- Almonds: ¼ cup raw almonds contains 4.5 grams of fibre
- Chia seeds: 1 tablespoon of chia seeds contains 3.7 grams of fibre
- Flax seeds: 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds contains 1.9 grams of fibre
- Peanuts: ¼ cup roasted peanuts has 3.1 grams of fibre
- Pistachios: ¼ cup raw pistachios has 2.7 grams of fibre
Data Source: Canadian Nutrient File