If you are looking for printable lists with high-fiber foods then you have come to the right place. You can expect several charts divided into different food categories totalling over 100 examples of best food ideas. For a quick overview you might first want check my video below:
But, that’s by no means everything.
An often overlooked aspect of healthy nutrition
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.
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 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 charts I’ll clarify which foods are packed with fiber.
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 of mainly 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 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 include, for example, pectin, inulin and beta-glucans. Cellulose and lignin belong to the insoluble dietary fibers (1).
Soluble fiber foods
The advantage of soluble fibers is that they absorb liquid in our bowels and expand. 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 rich foods. You’ll find soluble dietary fibers mainly in beans, nuts, berries and various grains such as oats and barley.
They also bind toxins and other harmful substances that enter the intestines with food and thus promote their elimination.
Insoluble fibers 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 digestion 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 “ballast”. Regardless of whether they are soluble or insoluble, dietary fibers are good for our health. Let’s take a closer look.
Top 5 health benefits of fiber
When physicians first discovered dietary fiber, they thought it was useless and just a “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 diet rich in fiber 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 foods with lots of fiber. Feeling full get’s much easier, when you increase the amount of fiber you eat per day.
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 fibers lead 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 diet rich in fiber, especially 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. The supposed “ballast material” 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 the food, 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 digestion and well-being.
4. Prevents colon cancer
Ballast 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 “ballast material”? A good source of fiber are legumes, grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables.
In the following charts I have put together the best dietary fiber foods in different food categories. As an avid clean eater, hopefully many of those foods are already an integral part of your diet.
1. High-fiber cereals, grains and pasta:
Whole grains are healthy foods with lots of fiber. 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 pasta. It is lead by bran flakes, followed by pop corn and whole wheat pasta in the middle field.
Read also: How to Identify Whole Grain Products
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 fiber. 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, vegetables can help you effectively fight hunger feelings. The following list gives you an overview:
3. Fiber rich legumes:
The absolute classics among the high-fiber foods are, of course, legumes that often provide high amounts of fiber per 100 grams. Yet, calculated per 100 kcal, fruits and veggies, perform much better.
On the other hand, pulses are very good sources of protein. 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 great sources. If passion fruit is affordable in your region, grab it! It is leading the high-fiber fruits list with a still moderate calorie content:
5. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are the last food category I would like to take a closer look. Some of them contain high amounts of fiber per 100 grams but often also a lot of fat and therefore many calories.
Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, have a very good fatty acid profile and are highly recommended in two respects. Firstly, they cover the dietary fiber requirements. They are also used to ingest the valuable mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids
With regard to the dietary fiber content of seeds, chia seeds and flax seeds are particularly noteworthy.
How much fiber per day is recommended?
The Institute of Medicine recommends:
- woman: about 25 grams of fiber each day
- men: about 38 grams each 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 dietary fiber. Fact is, the average American eats far too much of animal based products.
By the way, in Germany an average of 30 grams of fiber per day is recommended by the “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (DGE). The DGE is an independent German nutrition association.
70 grams of fiber per day for best stroke protection
When it comes to daily fiber intake recommendations, 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 per 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 conducted by researchers at Harvard University mentioned above.
Why you should increase your dietary fiber intake slowly?
If you have previously eaten very little “ballast” 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/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 high-fiber foods.
Additional lists & charts you might enjoy
- Eatthis.com has put together a list of 43 of high-fiber foods 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 rich, but also contain essential nutrients. Learn more by clicking here!
- Greatist.com pairs the 16 most surprising fiber 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 rich foods are, the more liquid they need in the process of digestion. As fiber swells in the gut, water is withdrawn from our body, which we have to return again.
Consequently, if we switch to a high-fiber diet, we should also significantly increase our water consumption. Drinking a lot of water doesn’t do any harm anyway, because we usually consume too little liquid.
How to start safe and easy?
In the beginning I recommend concentrating on fruits and vegetables leading the top 27 list 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 “ballast”, 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 also a great option. They 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 foods.
Also, the added value of the important nutrients 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
It is no coincidence that many clean eating recipes you find in my E-course and on my blog are meals with lots of fiber. 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 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.