High-fiber foods are a great way to keep your digestive tract healthy and your weight down. Foods with insoluble fiber, such as those with peels, skins or husks, can move food more quickly through your digestive system. Soluble fiber comes from the interior contents of the food (typically plant-based) and form a gel-like substance in the stomach that makes you feel fuller longer.
There’s a long list of benefits from maintaining a diet high in fiber. According to the National Fiber Council, fiber not only boosts your intestinal health, it can lower your cholesterol by helping to absorb the fat from other foods. In addition, it lowers your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure — and it can help ward off obesity.
Keep these four tips in mind to easily achieve the benefits of a fiber-rich diet.
1. Eat Whole Fruit, Not Fruit Juice
Fruit juices are typically stripped of their fiber (especially the store-bought kind), loaded with sugar and high in empty calories. In addition, recent research has shown that the liquid sugar in juice leaves your system more quickly than the natural sugar in fruit, leaving you less full. Whole fruits—particularly raspberries, pears, and apples — are the way to go if you want to keep yourself feeling full and prevent disease.
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, people who ate at least two servings of whole fruit each week (particularly blueberries, apples and grapes), reduced their risk for type 2 diabetes by as much as 23 percent compared to those who only ate one serving of whole fruit per month. The results of the study also showed that those who consumed one or more servings of fruit juice per day increased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 21 percent. The study found that swapping three servings of juice per week for whole fruits can decrease the risk of developing diabetes by 7 percent.
2. Leave the Skin on Potatoes, Fruits, and Veggies, Don’t Peel It Off
The peels or skins from fruits and vegetables have a high concentration of insoluble fiber, which can help prevent constipation, lower cholesterol and control blood sugar. For example, the skin from potatoes (ounce for ounce) has more fiber, iron, potassium and B vitamins compared to its flesh. Apple peels contain pectin, which slows digestion, keeps blood sugar low and can also help lower your bad cholesterol. Grape skins contain resveratrol, the much talked about phytochemical that benefits the heart and brain, which is why a moderate amount of red wine can be good for you. All of a cucumber’s fiber comes from its peel, which includes calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin K, a cucumber’s inner flesh mostly contains water.
Just remember to wash your fruits and veggies with plain water and scrub to remove any dirt or pesticide residue.
3. Eat Spinach and Dark Leafy Greens, Not Iceberg Lettuce
Spinach is definitely the most approachable in terms of taste within the dark leafy greens category. Kale, swiss chard, collards, arugula and dandelion are also widely available and can bring variety into your diet. Kale is particularly high in fiber, iron, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and calcium. However, if you do not enjoy kale’s somewhat bitter taste, spinach is still an excellent source of iron, fiber, and folate.
4. Snack on Dry-Roasted Nuts, Not Oil-Roasted Nuts
If you don’t have any nut allergies, there are a wide variety that you can add to salads or just keep on hand for snacking that will boost your fiber and protein intake in addition to other notable nutrients such as omega 6-fatty acids and magnesium. Almonds, pistachios, pecans, and walnuts are hard hitters in this category. One ounce of almonds contains 3.5 grams of fiber, 1 ounce of pistachios contains 2.9 grams of fiber, 1 ounce of pecans contains 2.7 grams of fiber and walnuts have 1.9 grams of fiber per ounce. Always opt for raw or dry roasted nuts instead of nuts roasted in oil or with lots of added sugar. (See “Snack Attack: Spicy Nuts Three Ways”.)