By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Quick question: What foods come to mind when you think about getting more fiber in your diet?
Bran cereal? Whole-grains? Prunes?
Odds are, whatever you thought of probably didn’t excite your taste buds!
I’m not sure how it started, but we seem to live with a misguided notion that fiber-rich foods are bland and tasteless. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are many flavorful ways to get your recommended daily 25–35 grams of fiber. In fact, several of my superfoods—foods that I love because they’re rich in all kinds of healing nutrients that help balance the body—are fantastic sources of fiber. Here are five that will give your taste buds something to look forward to…
High Fiber Superfood #1: Avocados
Most people think about healthy monounsaturated fats when they think of avocados, but these fruits are also an excellent source of dietary fiber. Slice one up, and you’ll get about 10 grams in every cup.
Not surprisingly, guacamole seems to be the most popular way to eat this high fiber fruit. I’m fine with that so long as it’s made with fresh organic ingredients and you skip the chips. Instead, enjoy it with fresh vegetables, which are also good sources of fiber.
Another way to eat more avocado is by using it as a substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream. Or, slice and toss it with your salad. Not only will it give your greens some extra body, but it can help with satiety if weight loss is one of your goals.
High Fiber Superfood #2: Almonds
I’m leading with almonds, here, but nuts and seeds in general are a tremendously underappreciated way to work more fiber into your diet. They’re usually thought of as a protein source—and in the case of almonds, a source for healthy fats—but they pack a big punch where fiber is concerned, too. One cup of sliced almonds will give you 11 grams of this important nutrient.
Some of the best sources in addition to almonds? Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, pistachios, and flax seeds, to start.
Eating more nuts and seeds is easy. Just keep a stash on hand, and grab a handful when you’re craving a snack. Even better, combine a few of your favorites with some dried fruit to create a healthy trail mix. If you prefer them in smaller doses, nuts and seeds can be a nice addition to cereal, yogurt, salads, and even breakfast smoothies.
High Fiber Superfood #3: Coconut
Its high saturated fat content tends to scare people away from coconut, but I like it. The medium-chain triglycerides it contains are great for heart health, brain health, and they can even help you lose weight.
One cup of shredded coconut contains about 7 grams of fiber, and one cup of coconut milk, 5 grams. That gives you a couple of options for adding it to your diet. Shredded coconut can be sprinkled on salads, yogurt, or snacks, or you can add it to trail mix or granola. Coconut milk, on the other hand, is fantastic in smoothies. I use it that way all the time.
Unfortunately, coconut oil and coconut water have virtually no dietary fiber content. They’re still great for you, but don’t expect the same bump in fiber that coconut meat and milk provide.
High Fiber Superfood #4: Cauliflower
Cauliflower has been one of my top healing foods for decades—and its fiber content is just one of its benefits. One medium-sized head of this cruciferous veggie contains about 12 grams—not to mention loads of potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
For maximum benefit, eat cauliflower raw—as part of a salad or with a dip (maybe even with the guacamole I mentioned earlier). If raw cauliflower isn’t to your taste, you can also steam or roast it. I like to add a touch of salt and pepper and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil—itself a superfood—over the top for added flavor (and a dose of healthy fats).
Cauliflower was lucky enough to receive a rating of “least contaminated” on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 foods list the past couple years; however, it’s always best to buy organic in order to avoid exposure to pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
High Fiber Superfood #5: Berries
I wrote about the fiber benefits of berries in my article about healthy breakfast foods. Adding them—and all other high-fiber foods—to meals is a great way to help blunt our insulin response and protect against inflammation. At 8 grams of fiber per cup, blackberries and raspberries are the best high fiber fruits,but all berries will give you a lift.
You can add berries to just about anything. I like them in my cereal, yogurt, and smoothies, and they also make a great snack entirely on their own. Be sure to buy organic, though, because berries are among the foods most likely to contain pesticide residues.
Bonus Superfood: Spices
Pound for pound, few foods beat many of my favorite healthy spices for fiber content. Turmeric, cinnamon, rosemary, oregano, coriander, sage, fennel, parsley, basil—they’re all surprisingly rich in it.
Of course, you probably won’t sit down to a full helping of parsley or any other spice, so it may be unfair of me to single them out as a way to increase your dietary fiber intake. Still, every little bit helps. Plus, spices pack a lot of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, which help balance the body and promote health.
I like to use seasonings to flavor meats and, of course, pasta sauce. They also can be combined with olive oil and drizzled over vegetables, or used as a dip for breads. Add a splash of vinegar to the mix, and you’ll have a zesty and healthy salad dressing.
Don’t Forget to Add H2O
Before I wrap up, there’s one more thing you need to know. When you add fiber to your diet, you have to add water, too. A lot of water.
As fiber passes through your GI tract, it will either dissolve in water (soluble fiber) or bind with it (insoluble fiber). Either way, your body needs more water, so make sure you add an extra glass or two.
Most of all, though, remember that dietary fiber doesn’t have to be bland. These are just five of the many great-tasting high fiber foods out there, and I hope they’ll motivate you to look for more.
- United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. USDA Food Composition Databases. Release 28, Sep 2015, rev. May 2016. Accessed March 10, 2017.
© 2016, 2017, 2019 Stephen Sinatra, MD. All rights reserved.