11 High-Fiber Foods to Add to Your Diet
Help keep your ticker healthy, manage your weight, and fend off type 2 diabetes by making sure you get enough fiber. These high-fiber foods will help.
Green peas, chia seeds, raspberries, and avocado all provide fiber.
Want to give your health a makeover? It’s time to become a fan of high-fiber foods. Many people know that eating a diet filled with fiber is a way to support their digestive system and help keep everything running smoothly.
But fiber comes with a whole list of other health benefits! For example, a diet high in fiber can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to a meta-analysis published in January 2019 in the journal the Lancet. The researchers also saw a connection between a high-fiber diet and a lower rate of colon cancer.
Plus, fiber consumption is associated with a healthier weight, according to the Mayo Clinic — and something as simple as focusing on adding more fiber to your diet can help you shed pounds, a study published in February 2015 in the Annals of Internal Medicine found.
Another way it can help with your health goals? “Insoluble fiber adds bulk to food and isn't digested, so it helps increase feelings of fullness as well as frequency of bowel movements,” says Kaleigh McMordie, RDN, of Lubbock, Texas, the founder of the blog Lively Table.
There are two main types, insoluble and soluble, and both come with big benefits, the Mayo Clinic notes. “Soluble fiber slows the rate of digestion, which also slows how quickly glucose enters the bloodstream, thus helping with blood sugar control,” says McMordie. “Soluble fiber also absorbs water in the intestines, bulking up stools, which can help prevent diarrhea.” Meanwhile, insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation.
And there are even more perks connected to fiber. McMordie says research suggests a link between a diet high in soluble fiber — found in foods such as oatmeal, nuts, and pulses — and a reduced risk of breast cancer. (According to North Dakota State University, pulses are in the legume family and include lentils, chickpeas, and beans.) A review and meta-analysis published in April 2020 in the journal Cancer looked at 20 studies, and authors noted that people who consumed the most fiber had an 8 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared with those who consumed the least.
To find fiber, you don’t have to look far. It’s widely available in fruits and veggies and nuts and seeds, according to the National Institutes of Health.
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How Much Fiber Do You Need to Reap the Health Benefits?
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines set adequate intake of fiber at 25 grams (g) a day for women and 38 g a day for men. Most Americans are getting just half that, with the average intake clocking in at 15 g, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Upping your fiber count for the day doesn’t have to be hard. Not only can boosting your fiber intake be surprisingly easy, but fiber-rich foods are tasty, too (avocado toast, anyone?).
“To get enough fiber, I always suggest making at least half of your grains whole grains, and getting the recommended five servings per day of fruits and vegetables as a starting point,” says McMordie. “Snacking on high-fiber foods, such as nuts, hummus, high-fiber cereal, or whole-grain crackers is another good way to add fiber in throughout the day,” she suggests.
Here are 10 of the best sources of fiber to reach for.
Green Peas Up Your Fiber and Provide Essential Vitamins
The veggie may be tiny, but peas boast an impressive amount of fiber — around 4 g per ½ cup, according to the USDA, which is 14 percent of the daily value (DV). “Tossing in a few handfuls of frozen peas is an easy way to add green veggies to pasta and rice dishes,” says Johannah Sakimura, RD, who’s based in Summit, New Jersey. Other ways to work with peas? “You can mash them into dips and spreads for toast or crackers,” says McMordie.
In addition to fiber, “peas supply vitamin A, which may help support healthy skin and eyes, and vitamin K, which may help maintain bone strength,” says Sakimura.
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Artichokes Are Full of Fiber and Low in Calories
We’re sorry to report that you probably won’t get lots of fiber from artichoke dip. But you can if you eat the actual vegetable. Half an artichoke (the edible part at the bases of the petals) clocks in at 3 g of fiber, according to the USDA, which is 11 percent of the DV. You’ll also get only 30 calories if you eat that amount.
If you’ve never cooked an artichoke, worry not — you can still enjoy this veggie and reap the fiber rewards. “They can be a little tricky since most people are not comfortable cooking fresh ones, but canned artichoke hearts are easy to cook with and can be used in salads and pasta dishes or made into dips,” says McMordie.
And if you are up for the challenge, try steaming an artichoke with a little olive oil, garlic, and rosemary or stuffing them with feta and sundried tomatoes before roasting in the oven.
A bonus perk of artichokes? They are considered a high-potassium vegetable, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. When a food is “high” in a nutrient, it provides at least 20 percent of the DV, per the Academy.
Avocados Pack Ample Fiber and Heart-Healthy Fats
Avocado lovers, rejoice! Here’s a good excuse to order avocado toast: Half of one avocado has about 5 g of fiber, according to the USDA, and that’s 18 percent your DV. You’ll also want to embrace the avocado’s fat. "Most of the fat in avocados is monounsaturated fat, the same heart-healthy kind found in olive oil," says Jonny Bowden, PhD, of Los Angeles, the author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.
When you think of avocados, your mind may go right to guacamole and avocado toast, but there are plenty of other ways to put them to use. “Avocados are a nutrient-dense, versatile fruit that can be eaten alone or used in a variety of tasty recipes from soups to salad to smoothies.” says Marisa Moore, RDN, who’s based in Atlanta. “I like to add them to smoothies for creaminess and to boost fiber intake,” she adds.
Edamame Makes Filling Up on Fiber Easy and Fun
Having a snack attack? Instead of opening a bag of chips, why not reach for edamame? Edamame is a tasty, fiber-rich snack, boasting about 5 g per ½ cup, according to the USDA, which is 18 percent of the DV. “It provides the coveted trifecta of protein, fiber, and healthy fat in one package. Okay, lots of little packages!” says Sakimura.
There are more edamame perks: An article detailing findings from three past studies, and published in the March 2020 issue of Circulation, concluded that people who ate foods with isoflavones, like edamame or tofu, had a moderately lower risk of developing heart disease.
Enjoy edamame straight from the pod as an afternoon snack, order them as a side with your sushi or Thai entrée, or throw them in grain bowls and salads.
Beans Are a Versatile, Fiber-Rich Food With Protein and Iron, Too
When people think of high-fiber foods, likely beans come to mind — and for good reason. According to the USDA, ½ cup of navy beans has 7 g of fiber, which offers 25 percent of the DV.
Black beans, pinto beans, and garbanzos — as mentioned, all part of the pulses family — are fiber-packed, too. “By far, pulses of all kinds are my go-to high-fiber foods,” says Moore. “Black beans are a staple for side dishes, bean burgers, and skillets, and chickpeas are another staple — I love to roast and season them for a crunchy snack,” Moore adds.
Beans are protein-packed, and come with iron that can help fight conditions like anemia, according to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. One study in the journal CMAJ found that beans may help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels.
Consider tossing beans into a salad or adding them to any soup or salsa. They can also serve as the main event — think bean-based soup, bean burritos, and rice and beans.
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Pears Make for the Perfect Fiber-Filled Dessert
Apples tend to hog the spotlight as an easy-to-eat fruit staple, but it’s time to start thinking about adding pears to your fruit bowl, too. Why? They’re filled with fiber! One medium-size pear has 5.5 g, according to the USDA, which is 20 percent of the recommended DV.
Plus, they’re delicious. “Nibbling on a juicy, ripe pear is a great way to end a meal on a healthy sweet note if you're trying to avoid high-calorie, sugary desserts,” says Sakimura. In addition to offering lots of fiber, pears are a good source of vitamin C, coming in at 7.65 milligrams (mg) for a medium pear, which is about 9 percent of the DV.
“You can store them for several weeks in the fridge, unlike more delicate fruit,” says Sakimura. “Just let them ripen on the counter for a few days before eating.”
Lentils Are a Quick Way to Fill Up on Fiber
If you’re not eating lentils regularly, it’s time to start. “Lentils are full of fiber,” says Moore. “They supply a spectrum of vitamins and minerals, and they're a terrific vegetarian source of both protein and iron,” says Sakimura. With around 7 g of fiber in ½ cup of cooked lentils, per the USDA (with 25 percent the DV), they are a smart addition to burritos, burgers, and stuffed peppers.
“I like to include lentils in soups, curries, and salads,” says Moore. “And they cook faster than most other pulses, so they are a great option for newbies — red lentils cook in about 15 minutes, so they are perfect for a weeknight curry, while green and brown lentils add protein and fiber to soups, stews, or rice pilaf,” Moore notes.
Research supports lentils’ many perks. For example, a small study published in April 2018 in the Journal of Nutrition found lentils lowered blood sugar in 48 people without diabetes when participants swapped in lentils for some of their starchy side (such as rice) rather than eating the starchy side alone.
Chia Seeds are Easy to Add to Any Meal
Want a simple way to sprinkle more fiber into your meal? Consider chia seeds. “Chia seeds are particularly high in fiber,” says McMordie, with one ounce clocking in at almost 10 g, per the USDA, which is about 35 percent of the DV.
This tiny superfood also comes packed with other pluses. “Chia seeds are one of the richest sources of the plant-based form of omega-3 fatty acids," says Sakimura, which makes them a healthy form of fat, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“I like to add a sprinkle of chia seeds into my oatmeal or cereal. You can also add them into baked goods or make chia pudding out of them by mixing them with a liquid, like milk, and letting them absorb the liquid overnight,” says McMordie. And don’t worry about them overpowering the flavor of your food. “The seeds are pretty much tasteless; you can get away with sprinkling them into almost anything,” says Sakimura.
Raspberries Are a Top Fiber-Rich Fruit
Berries are nutritional superstars — not only do they have antioxidants that may be beneficial for preventing inflammation, as Harvard notes, but they also come filled with fiber. What makes raspberries so special? They are one of the most fiber-packed berries.
“Raspberries and blackberries top my list for high fiber fruits,” says Moore. They have about 8 g of fiber per cup, according to the USDA, which is about 28 percent of the DV. “And they add sweet-tart flavor to smoothies and snacktime,” Moore adds.
Sprinkle them on yogurt for a fiber- and protein-rich breakfast that will power you through your morning.
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Wheat Bran Is a Simple Addition to Make Most Meals More Fiber-Packed
“The insoluble fiber in wheat bran may help to move things along in your GI tract, so it can be a helpful ingredient for people who struggle with occasional constipation,” says Sakimura. “But remember to add fiber to your diet gradually and drink plenty of water to avoid any digestive discomfort,” she adds.
It’s easy to incorporate wheat bran. “It can be a good way to increase fiber, by sprinkling it in smoothies or onto cereal, or adding to baked goods,” adds McMordie. Wheat bran has 6 g of fiber per ¼ cup, according to the USDA, which is about 21 percent of the DV.
Oatmeal Is a Classic High-Fiber Food That Is Easy to Jazz Up
And if you want to get back to basics with a classic fiber-rich food, consider oatmeal: A ½ cup of raw oats provides 4 g of fiber per cup, per the USDA, which is 14 percent of your DV. “My favorite high-fiber food is oatmeal — I eat it most mornings and never get tired of it because there are so many ways to prepare it!” says McMordie. Add chia seeds and raspberries for an extra fiber-rich punch!
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Additional reporting by Brianna Steinhilber.