Whether you are looking to get some help in the bathroom, lower your blood sugar or reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and obesity, fiber is an essential nutrient you need to include in your diet.
If you are like most Americans, you are probably eating around 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day, which happens to be about half of what's recommended (20-35 g per day) for older children, adolescents, and adults.
Indeed, we are fiber deficient and need to eat more "high-fiber foods".
But if you are on Paleo, you may feel conflicted as beans, the most famous high fiber foods are off limits and can't be in your diet.
Even if you are not a Paleo dieter, you may find yourself on the other side of bean debates.
Whatever your reason is, rest assured you can get enough fiber without eating beans (or grains if you are Paleo or gluten-free).
Before we get into the essential list of 21 high fiber foods sans beans and grains, let's uncover some little known facts about dietary fiber and why it's important to your health.
What is dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plants such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.
Unlike other food components like fats, proteins or carbohydrates (like sugars and starches), fiber cannot get digested by your body.
This may sound like a bad thing for your health, but it's really not.
According to Jodi Sawyer, RN, it's a good thing.
She explains "the fact that fiber is not absorbed or digested is a good thing as it creates bulk which aids in moving stool and harmful carcinogens through the digestive tract."
This fiber's indigestive nature also has another, less known benefit.
And it's a benefit that takes particular importance to people with diabetes.
Joslin Diabetes Center knows this first hand.
According to their website, fiber isn't digestible by your body, which not only means it doesn't contribute any calories or food energy (great for weight loss!) but also means it doesn't cause a spike in your blood sugar levels (great for diabetes).
It simply leaves no impact on your blood sugar, unlike sugar and starch.
In fact, the grams of fiber can actually get subtracted from the total grams of carb you eat, if you are on a fiber counting diet. It's a benefit to those suffering from diabetes.
A study done by University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center also confirmed that fiber aids in blood glucose management.
Their study showed that a high intake of dietary fiber, particularly of the soluble type above the ADA recommended level (50g a day) aided in controlling blood glucose levels of patients with type 2 diabetes.
Two types of fiber: Soluble & Insoluble
To get all those benefits, there are two types of fiber that your body needs: soluble and insoluble.
Most foods contain both insoluble and soluble fiber but are usually richer in one type than the other.
Sources of Soluble and Insoluble Fiber:
Soluble Fiber (list not adjusted for Paleo or gluten-free):
- Legumes (peas, beans, lentils)
- Vegetables (especially oranges, apples and carrots).
Insoluble Fiber: Seeds and skins of fruit (so always eat your peels), as well as whole-wheat bread and brown rice. But of course, grains are not Paleo, so avoid if you wish.
The easiest way to tell them apart is its water absorption. Soluble fiber absorbs water, forming a gel in water. Insoluble fiber on the other hand doesn't.
Each type of fiber brings different health benefits.
Benefits of Insoluble Fiber
- Lowering LDL cholesterol levels: According to Judith C. Thalheimer, RD, LDN, Consuming 5 to 10 g of soluble fiber per day reduces LDL cholesterol levels by approximately 5%. The National Cholesterol Education Program Expert Panel recommends consuming 10 to 25 g of soluble fiber per day and following a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol to help lower blood cholesterol.
- Lowering blood sugar: Because soluble fiber doesn't get absorbed by your digestive system, it doesn't cause a blood sugar spike that can put you at risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If you already have diabetes, soluble fiber can help you manage it.
- Heart protection: Inside your digestive system, soluble fiber attaches to cholesterol particles and takes them out of the body, helping to reduce overall cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Oatmeal may offer the most heart protection.
- Aiding with Weight loss: Soluble fiber can also help you manage your healthy weight by keeping you full without adding calories to your diet.
- Helping bowel movements: Soluble fiber soaks up water as it passes through your system, which helps bulk up your stool and guard against constipation and diarrhea.
Two Major Soluble Fiber Benefits
Relieves Constipation: Brown University reports that constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the U.S., and higher fiber consumption can help relieve it. Insoluble fiber can help relieve by binding water as it passes through the digestive tract.
Rebecca Howard, registered member of the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management explains how this leads to softer and heavier stool, not only reducing the risk of constipation but also making bowel movements easier.
Reduces risk of colon cancer: According to University of Colorado, insoluble fiber removes toxic waste through colon in less time and reduces the exposure of toxic substances (by-product of digestion).
They also add that this helps control and balance the pH (acidity) in the intestines, thus prevent microbes from producing cancerous substances.
Total daily recommended fiber Intake Guidelines
According to Oregon State University, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine outlined an Adequate Intake recommendation for total daily fiber intake.
Since the recommended intake varies between gender and ages, please refer to the table below.
|Life Stage||Age||Males (g/day)||Females (g/day)|
|Adults||51 years and older||30||21|
|* Not determined|
Here's a list of the 21 best high fiber foods that are Paleo friendly and gluten-free. This foods list includes both insoluble and soluble fiber sources.
Top Insoluble Fiber Foods
|2.2g / 1 tbsp|
|Okra||3.1g per 1/2 cup|
|3.1 g per 1/2 cup|
|Peas||3 g per 1/2 cup|
|Banana||2.1 g per medium size banana (see fiber in banana)|
Top Soluble Fiber Foods
|Purple passion fruit||6.5g of fiber per 1/2 cup|
|Pear||3g per 1 large|
|Avocado||2.1g per 1/2 cup|
|Brussels sprouts||2g per 1/2 cup|
|Plums||2g per 5 small|
|Sweet potato||1.8g per 1/2 cup|
|Asparagus||1.7g per 1/2 cup|
|Turnip||1.7g per 1/2 cup|
|Dried figs||1.9g per 1/4 cup|
|Orange||1.8g in one medium size|
|Flaxseed||1.1g per 1 tbsp|
|Winter squash||cooked 2g per 1 cup|
|Collard greens||2,39g per 1 cup frozen|
|String beans||1.54g per 1 cup raw|
|Dried dates||1.69g per 1 cup|
|Cauliflower||2g per 1 cup raw|
How to Add More Fiber to Your Diet
Adding fiber to your diet is easier than you think. Here are a few suggestions you can incorporate today.
- East at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily (see a list of superfoods to get more bang for your nutrition buck)
- Substitute whole grains for refined grains (Not applicable to Paleo diet. If you are gluten-free, avoid bread, pasta and other wheat products)
- Eat oat meal, whole-grain cereal, or bran cereal for breakfast (not applicable to Paleo)
- Eat beans, split peas, or lentils at least once a week (not applicable to Paleo)
- Substitute nuts or popcorn for less healthful snacks like potato chips or candy
There you have it! You just learned what fiber is and why it is important to consume enough of it. Also you can get your daily recommended fiber without eating beans or other gluten products.
What did you think? Were you surprised as I was to learn about the two different types of fiber? Leave a comment below to let us know.