Dietary fiber is basically the parts of plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes) that can’t be broken down or absorbed by our body. Instead, these parts pass through our stomach, small intestine and colon, helping to keep our digestion running smoothly and efficiently.
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is known to lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is most helpful in relieving constipation and promoting healthy bowel movements. Eating a variety of plant-based foods rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber is the best way to maintain a healthy digestion, lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, and can even aid in weight loss.
With these numerous health benefits, as well as the fact that most of us don’t get enough of our daily recommended amount (men need around 30-38 grams and women need around 21-25 grams), focusing on eating more fiber is essential.
While most plant-based foods are great sources of natural fiber, some foods are more fiber-packed than others. Below are some of the best natural sources of dietary fiber. Keep these in your daily diet, and watch your hunger pangs go down — and maybe even your waistline!
Although all beans and legumes offer a substantial amount of fiber, kidney beans offer the most bang for your buck. A half cup serving of kidney beans provides 7.9 grams of dietary fiber, including both soluble and insoluble.
In addition to keeping your digestion on track, kidney beans are also great at gentle detoxification, thanks to their abundance of molybdenum. Molybdenum is a mineral that helps to form the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for removing harmful sulfites from the body.
One cup of raspberries contains about eight grams of dietary fiber, which is equivalent to three servings of whole grain toast, as well as more than 1/3 of your total daily requirement.
Raspberries are also a good source of vitamin C, the B vitamins, folic acid, manganese, copper, magnesium and iron. And don’t let their sweet taste fool you — raspberries are 100 percent fat free! Their fiber content will keep you feeling full and their insoluble fiber content will keep your digestion revving.
For a berry fiber loaded snack, try our Chocolate Raspberry Milkshake smoothie.
An apple a day does more than keep the doctor away! It provides 4.4 grams of fiber, with most of that fiber coming in the form of pectin, a kind of soluble fiber that is especially beneficial in maintaining healthy blood cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of heart disease.
Craving a sweet treat? Taste our Classic Apple Pie smoothie.
Pears are sometimes regarded as a natural laxative, which is of course due to their fiber content. An average-sized pear has more than five grams of fiber, three of which are insoluble. Most of their fiber content is non-soluble, easing digestion and helping food to pass through the intestines smoothly and efficiently.
Our Kiwi Pear Power smoothie is a great way to start your day!
Avocados contain 6.7 grams of fiber per half. They’re also an excellent source of healthy fats, which double the cholesterol-lowering benefits of fiber. In addition to those nutrients, avocados are an excellent source of vitamins B and C, both of which promote digestive health.
Avocados make smoothies naturally creamy. Try our Almond Avocado smoothie.
One cup of steamed broccoli contains approximately 5.1 grams of fiber. Broccoli’s high fiber content, as well as the fact that it’s a cruciferous vegetable, helps your body eliminate excess waste. Cruciferous vegetables contain numerous phytochemicals, including calcium D-glucarate, a compound with the capability to bind and clear toxins from the body.
With 10.3 grams per medium variety, artichokes pack in more fiber than any other vegetable. Plus, artichokes are considered a natural diuretic, helping to prevent water retention and even aid in kidney function.
Brussels sprouts are another cruciferous vegetable rich in fiber, containing 4.1 grams per cup. When steamed, their fiber content has been shown to be especially beneficial in lowering cholesterol. This is because the fiber in Brussels sprouts has the ability to bind together with bile acids in the digestive tract when steamed, making it easier for bile acids to be excreted.
With 12 grams of fiber per serving, quinoa contains twice as much fiber as most other grains. Because it contains both insoluble and soluble fiber, quinoa helps your body absorb less fat and cholesterol, making it a great weight loss aid. When you combine quinoa’s high protein count along with its high fiber count, you’ve got a food that will most definitely help curb certain cravings. The fiber found in quinoa also reduces the plaque build up along arterial walls, which reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
For a smoothie rich in fiber and sprinkled with quinoa, try our Coconut Wake-Up smoothie!
This grain has 8 grams of fiber per cup when cooked, which is more fiber than oats, buckwheat, and corn. Bulgur contains some soluble fiber, but about 90 percent of it insoluble fiber, making it an excellent natural constipation reliever.
If you really want a flatter tummy, forget those weight loss pills and gimmicks and amp up the natural fiber! Your whole body will thank you.