One of the most overlooked factors in context of a healthy nutrition is the consumption of high-fiber foods. That’s why I’ve put together 100 fiber rich foods that can help you lose weight and reduce your risk for chronic diseases (backed by science).
If you are looking for printable lists, then you have come to the right place too. You can expect several charts divided into different grocery categories. For a quick overview check first my video below.
But, that’s by no means everything.
An incredibly important cornerstone of healthy nutrition and weight loss
I have already written about high-fiber foods in many of my blog posts focusing on clean eating and weight management. In my article “3 simple steps to eat more whole grains” for example, I have found that a fiber rich diet can be helpful with weight loss by reducing the chance of overeating.
But, what are dietary fibers? What are the different types and what health benefits do they provide? Hint: There are more than you might expect. How much of this precious roughage should you eat per day to foster good gut bacteria?
In this blog post, I’ll dig deeper into this important topic. With the help of various food charts I’ll clarify which groceries are packed with roughage.
What is fiber?
The American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) classifies dietary fiber as “edible parts of plants or analogous carbohydrates”. Those plant parts are resistant to resorption and digestion in the human small intestine but are partially or fully decomposed in the colon”.
In a shorter definition, I consider them as fibrous components found in cell wands of all plant-based foods made of complex carbohydrates. They do not occur in animal products. For the most part, these are linked sugar molecules that the small intestine cannot digest or is unable to digest adequately.
Two types of fiber
A basic distinction is made between two different types: the soluble and insoluble fibers. Both groups have different characteristics.
The soluble ones, which are often associated with the pulp or flesh of foods, include, for example, pectin (the same “pectin” found in jellies and jams), inulin and beta-glucans.
Cellulose and lignin belong to the insoluble dietary fibers and derive from a plant’s tough, outer skin.
Soluble fiber foods
The advantage of foods high in soluble roughage, is that they absorb liquid in our bowels, expand and turn to gel. This gives our intestine something to do and we experience a longer lasting feeling of satiety.
That’s also the reason why it’s easier to lose weight with fiber heavy foods. You’ll find in the soluble fiber foods list mainly beans, nuts, berries and various grains such as oats and barley.
They also bind toxins and other harmful substances that enter the intestines with edibles and thus promote their elimination.
Insoluble fiber foods
Those are found mainly in vegetables, fruits, most whole grains, most beans, brans and flax seeds. Even if they have no direct effect, they help our digestive system by their pure presence as they move bulk through the intestines.
As you can see many healthy foods like fruits, vegetables or legumes contain a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber. Regardless of whether they are soluble or insoluble, dietary roughage is good for our health. Let’s take a closer look.
Top 5 health benefits of fiber
When physicians first discovered dietary roughage, they thought it was useless and just a bulk or “ballast” for our body. That’s why here in Germany we still call this fibrous component “Ballaststoff”. Today, however, the diverse health benefits of fiber are well researched.
1. Supports weight loss and weight management
In metabolic diseases such as obesity, a high bulk diet can be very beneficial (2). Although the fibrous compounds practically do not leave the gastrointestinal tract in the direction of the blood, they have far-reaching effects. Already in the stomach, they thicken the food porridge, delaying the emptying of the stomach and thus making it fuller for longer.
So, if weight loss or weight management is your goal, you can take advantage of the satiating effect by eating groceries with lots of roughage. Feeling full get’s much easier, when you increase the daily amount of fiber.
Are you obese with a BMI over 30? If so, then I highly recommend considering a clean eating approach with a strong emphasis on a whole food plant based (WFPB) nutrition. This is in fact is a very effective “high-fiber weight loss diet”.
Sidenote: I’ve gotten to know some former obese people who switched successfully to a WFPB diet. Now they have to pay carefully attention not to lose too much weight.
2. Decreases risk for type-2 diabetes
Dietary roughage leads to a slower rise in blood sugar levels after eating and less insulin is released. This can be beneficial for people with type-2 diabetes. A roughage diet, especially with cereal fiber also reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
If you want to dig deeper, I highly recommend to read the results of the world’s largest diabetes study published in Diabetologia. (3)
But there is more….
3. Promotes digestion & well-being
Since our intestine is also the center of our body, it plays an essential role in our health. While the small intestine already breaks down fats or proteins, soluble fibers pass through this area without any damage.
It is only in the colon that our intestinal bacteria break them down and munch on them. This bulk serves the intestinal flora as food and keeps gut microbes from eating the colon’s lining (4).
This leads to an increase of intestinal bacteria, which in the end, benefits the intestinal health. Insoluble ones are hardly broken down in the intestine. They serve, as mentioned, purely for the onward transport of edibles, which accelerates the excretions.
Sidenote: Have you ever wondered why eating just a pear or some blueberries for breakfast promotes your digestion? Well, you can thank the fabulous fibrous fruits. Increasing the bowel volume, stimulates also the intestinal movements. Thus, both insoluble and soluble fibers have a positive effect on our digestive system and well-being.
4. Prevents colon cancer
Bulk rich nutrition has also a positive effect on a whole range of gastrointestinal diseases. This starts with constipation and ends with more serious illnesses such as colon cancer. A major review study associates a fiber-rich diet with a lower risk of colon cancer. (5)
Last but not least….
5. Protects against chronic diseases & lowers mortality rates
Last but not least, it is supposed to prevent arteriosclerosis, heart attacks or high blood pressure as well as other cardiovascular diseases. (6) All of these positive effects have prompted researchers at Harvard University to conduct a major review study on dietary fiber.
They found that the mortality rate of more than 700,000 study participants decreased significantly the more fiber they consumed daily. Anyone who ate at least 70 grams of whole grain every day, had even a 20 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease such as stroke or cancer.
Top 5 high-fiber foods lists
The important question is what foods are high in fiber? A good source of fiber are legumes, grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables.
In the following charts I have put together the best foods high in fiber in different food categories. As an avid clean eater, hopefully many of those wholesome foods are already an integral part of your diet.
1. High-fiber cereals, grains and pasta:
Whole grains are healthy, complex carbohydrates with lots of bulk. Most of the fibrous compounds are in the outer layers of the grains. The following list gives you an overview of the most common fiber rich cereals, grains and whole wheat pasta. Most people will love to see the air-popped popcorn fiber ranking at the top, only beaten by bran flakes.
2. High-fiber vegetables and salad
Vegetables and lettuce do not have as much “ballast” as cereals, at first glance. But look at the fiber to calorie ratio! Vegetables provide per 100 kcal the most roughage. In the table below, for example, you can immediately see that especially greens perform best per 100 kcal. It might be time to look for beet greens or turnip greens at your next grocery shopping.
But you can spot in this category even more high-fiber low calorie foods such as cabbage, chanterelle mushrooms and endive.
In addition, most vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and valuable secondary plant substances like sweet potatoes or eggplants. It is no longer a secret that you should always eat enough of them. Especially when weight loss is your goal, fibrous vegetables can help you effectively fight hunger feelings. The following list gives you an overview:
3. Legumes loaded with fiber
The absolute classics among the high roughage foods are, of course, legumes that often provide high amounts of roughage per 100 grams. Yet, calculated per 100 kcal, fruits and veggies, perform much better.
On the other hand, pulses are protein rich and count to the world’s cheapest sources of quality nutrition. Red, uncooked lentils contain more protein than the same quantity of meat.
All in all, Americans (but also Europeans) clearly don’t eat enough in this food category. It’s easy to turn your nutrition into a high-fiber diet when you eat legumes on a regular basis. Great options are black beans, split peas, lentils, chickpeas or lima beans. Take a closer look at the following list.
A flavorful recipe full of different legumes you can find here: Cowboy Caviar
4. High-fiber fruits + dried fruits
Dried fruits like dates, apricots and plums (prunes) are known as best fiber foods for constipation. Fresh raspberries, blackberries and pears are also good sources of fiber.
The unbeaten fruit with most fiber in the following list, is the passion fruit. If this exotic vitamin bomb with a still moderate calorie content is affordable in your region, make sure to grab it!
5. Nuts and seeds
In this last food category you’ll find foods with the most roughage per 100 grams. But nuts and seeds contain often also plenty of healthy fats and therefore many calories.
Especially almonds and walnuts have a very good fatty acid profile and are highly recommended in two respects. They cover the dietary fiber requirements and they are also perfect to ingest the valuable mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids
With regard to the fiber content, the highly nutritious chia seeds and flax seeds are particularly noteworthy.
How much fiber a day is recommended?
The Institute of Medicine recommends:
- women: at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day
- men: at least 30 to 38 grams a day
This is consistent with the advice of the American Heart association. The United States department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends for women a daily fiber intake of 28 grams.
Why animal based products are a challenge
Unfortunately, less than 3% of Americans meet the recommended intake. The reason why we eat far too little of it is usually, that neither meat nor dairy products contain any dietary roughage. Fact is, the average American eats far too much of animal based products.
By the way, in Germany an average of 30 grams a day is recommended by the “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (DGE)”. The DGE is an independent German nutrition association.
70 grams a day for best stroke protection
When it comes to daily recommended fiber, Dr. Michael Greger from nutrition.org goes a great deal further: “If you really don’t want a stroke, we should try to get 25 grams a day of soluble fiber (found concentrated in oats, beans, nuts, and berries) and 47 grams a day of insoluble fiber (concentrated in whole grains)”(6).
Let’s do the math!
Dr. Michael Greger’s suggestion is to consume in total over 70 grams of fiber a day for best heart disease and stroke protection. I know that this number seems impressive. And yet it is consistent with the major review study on dietary fiber foods conducted by researchers at Harvard University, mentioned above.
Why you should increase your dietary roughage intake slowly?
If you have previously eaten very little bulk and now increase your intake, your body may initially react with flatulence, bloating, and grumbling intestines. The digestive system must first get used to the high-fiber diet. It’s best to gradually increase the consumption and to chew a lot to avoid the initial digestion issues.
The symptoms often disappear over time. Some people, however, do not tolerate all fibers or only a certain type and/or amount of them. In this case it is important to check the individual tolerance.
Do you have a sensitive gut?
If the intestine is sensitive at first, you should use legumes, onions and cabbage sparingly. Prefer to serve other vegetables like carrots or parsnips. Instead of coarse-grained whole grain bread, I recommend finely ground or mixed rye bread. It contains three times more fiber per serving than white bread.
In the following I’ve put the 30 best foods for fiber (Top 6 per category) in a chart. To maximize your intake throughout the day, make sure to consume plenty of the following fiber heavy foods.
Additional lists & charts you might enjoy
- Eatthis.com has put together a list of 43 of high-fiber food ideas. They provide 10%-19% of your DV which is equivalent to between 2.8 and 5.5 grams of fiber per standard portion size. Click here!
- Draxe.com focuses on lesser-known food stars that are not only fiber heavy, but also contain essential nutrients. Learn more by clicking here!
- Greatist.com pairs the 16 most surprising roughage foods with a delicious go-to recipe each. Grab the recipes here!
High-fiber diet: Why you should level up your hydration?
Be aware, however, that the more fiber your nutrition contains, the more liquid you need in the process of digestion. As fiber swells in the gut, water is withdrawn from your body, which you have to return again.
Consequently, if you switch to a roughage diet, you should also significantly increase your water consumption. A proper hydration doesn’t do any harm anyway, because many people usually consume too little liquid.
How to start safe and easy?
In the beginning I recommend concentrating on fruits and vegetables leading from the lists above. That’s also the focus of the first few weeks in my 52 Chef Habits E-course. In my flagship program I help course students to create sustainable healthy habits.
Fruits and vegetables do not only contain dietary bulk, but also a lot of liquid! A muesli with nuts and fruits or a fiber drink like my breakfast smoothie will start your day with a good dietary fiber source. Vegetable soups are another great option. These meals are easily digestible and contain in addition also a lot of liquid.
Take it to the next level with whole grain foods
If you want to take it to the next level, you can easily replace foods you love with the whole grain version. This goes particularly well with brown rice, whole wheat bread and whole grain pasta. Don’t give up with the first type of whole grain food. Take your time to test out several whole-meal products until you find your favorites.
The best fiber for diet comes of course from real foods as presented above. If you can’t tolerate them, you can also buy fiber supplements. Wheat bran, guar gum, pectin, or agar-agar is the best fiber supplement you can get. Such a dietary supplement is available either as powder or in form of tablets and granules.
From a medical point of view, the supplements can make sense in case of constipation. The nutritional supplements are, however, much more expensive than high fiber diet foods.
Also, the added value of the disease-fighting nutrients and phytochemicals we get from fruits, vegetables and other whole foods is lost. Therefore, it’s always better to use food in its natural form.
High fiber recipes for weight loss and a heart-healthy way of eating
It is no coincidence that many clean eating recipes you find in my E-course and on my blog are meals with lots of roughage. Click here for my Top 10 high-fiber meals and my 5 tips for a high-fiber breakfast.
I love to cook with whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes. Hey, there are even some high-fiber cookies waiting for you:)
Check out my list of Top 11 high-fiber snacks.
If weight loss is your goal, then a high-fiber diet plan is your key for an effective weight management. It is also a sustainable approach to prevent or reverse those typical chronical diseases of the modern world.