Fiber is a vital part in a balanced diet, despite never being absorbed as it passes through the body. There are two types of fiber - soluble and insoluble - and both are important for healthy digestion. Soluble fiber slows digestion to prevent food from leaving the stomach too quickly after consumption, helping to create a feeling of fullness after eating, which can be helpful in maintaining a healthy weight. Insoluble fibers add weight and softness to waste to aid its passing through the intestines, which is why fiber is often prescribed to relieve constipation.
Look for your fiber in plant foods only. Meat and dairy products do not contain any, unless artificially fortified.
The recommended daily fiber intake is 38 g for men and 25 g for women. This may sound like a lot, and it is often assumed that the best sources of fiber are whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, and bran flakes. These are, indeed, excellent sources of fiber, but are not necessarily the tastiest way of consuming it. Keep reading to discover delicious and unexpected sources of soluble and insoluble fiber.
1. Prunes (Prunus domestica)
Dried prunes contain about 13 grams of fiber per cup, making them an incredibly rich source of fiber, as well as being sweet and tasty. Prunes also contain sorbitol, a compound that helps regulate digestion. A low calorie snack or a healthy alternative to sugar in your morning cereal, prunes are worth working into your diet to regulate your digestive system and provide natural constipation relief.
2. Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)
Out of all berries, blackberries are especially fiber-rich: raw, they provide approximately 8 grams a cup. Furthermore, they can be easily incorporated into very different foods: they fit well in a summer salad for a colorful fibrous burst, as an ice cream topping, or by themselves as a delicious, low calorie snack.
3. Popcorn (Zea mays)
The traditional movie-watching snack is also a notable fibrous source. Popcorn comes from the kernels of maize, which is rich in dietary fiber, potassium, and phosphorus. Three cups - taking into consideration the lightness of popcorn - offers 4 g of fiber. Alternatively, a scrumptious ear of corn on the cob can provide plenty of fiber.
4. Chia (Salvia hispanica)
Many people will probably remember the "Chia Pet" craze in the 80s, which popularized small clay vessels with a fast-growing, soft, thin grass growing out of them. However, chia was no new discovery for humans: anthropologists and archeologists have found that chia seeds were a staple food in Southern Mexico since Aztec times, and it is suggested that they were as economically important as maize.
Most likely, this importance lied on the amazingly balanced nutritional content in them: one serving (about 35 g) contains 5 grams of protein, 9 grams of healthy unsaturated fats, 18% of the recommended calcium intake, and most importantly today, 11 grams of fiber. Their modern revival is being boosted by its versatility: they have a much more pleasant flavor than flax or other edible seeds, and are crunchy topping for salads, fish, muffins, bread, and other foods.
5. Apple (Malus domestica)
The quintessential portable snack, apples have long been considered an important ally for those who are looking for healthy nutrition or weight loss. The reason behind their nutritional importance lies in their palatable ease of digestion, with 4.5 grams of insoluble fiber per fruit, which makes them an ideal way to get an energy boost that will keep you fueled for hours on the go. Finally, apples are highly versatile, so there's no need to get bored: they can be mixed in a large range of fruit salads, cereals, and even in some quintessential baked goods.
6. Avocado (Persea americana)
Avocado is something of a superfood with its high antioxidant, low saturated fat, and low cholesterol levels - and at 14 g per avocado, it has the benefit of being an excellent source of fiber, too. Try mashing it up to spread as a healthy alternative to mayonnaise in your sandwich, or blend it with chopped onions and tomato to create a delicious guacamole.
To promote healthy digestion, relieve constipation, and help you feel fuller for longer after eating, fiber is an essential part of a balanced diet. Although whole grains are a great source of fiber, fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts allow you to work fiber into your diet in more delicious and inventive ways.
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