Despite its many health benefits, Americans don’t seem to be eating enough dietary fiber. In fact, the average daily intake of fiber is so low, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines considers it a public health concern. But why is fiber so important, and how can you make sure you’re getting enough?
“Fiber aids in the reduction of total and LDL cholesterol by binding to cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract and moving it out of circulation,” says registered dietitian and nutritionist Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., CDN. It has also been proven to reduce the body’s blood sugar response to certain foods, increase mineral absorption, and improve feelings of satiety. Plus, it helps your digestion run smoothly.
Reset your gut
Sign up for our FREE ultimate gut health guide featuring healing recipes & tips.
“These actions reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes,” Feller says.
The average American is eating about 16 grams of fiber daily, but according to Feller, “the recommended intake is 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women.”
In order to fill what nutritionists call “the fiber gap,” consider adding these 25 foods to your diet. We consulted registered dietitians and the USDA Food Database to determine the best high-fiber foods.
Fiber: 8 to 16 grams per cup.
A standard serving size of steel cut oats is 1/4 cup, and a standard serving size of old fashioned rolled oats is 1/2 cup.
Start your morning off with 1 cup of steel cut oats, and you’re already at 16 grams of fiber, according to Feller. Add blueberries or strawberries to the mix for an added boost.
Fiber: 17 grams per cup.
“When compared to other grains,” registered dietitian Nour Zibdeh, M.S., RDN, says “buckwheat—which is technically a seed—has more fiber and protein.” Just 1 cup contains 17 grams of fiber.
Fiber: 6 grams per cup.
Barley is a type of grain, commonly used as a base for grain bowls. If you’re able to tolerate gluten, eating 1 cup of cooked barley will give you about 6 grams of fiber.
Fiber: 4 grams per cup.
Quinoa is a whole grain, which means it’s naturally high in fiber. According to registered dietitian Isabel Smith, R.D., CDN, there are four varieties of quinoa: white, red, black, and tricolor. White is the most common, and it contains about 4 grams of fiber per cup.
Fiber: 13.5 grams, one avocado.
“Avocado is rich in insoluble fiber,” research specialist in oncology nutrition L.J. Amaral, M.S., R.D., CSO, says. “And it contains 13.5 grams of total dietary fiber.” Eat it on its own with sea salt and red pepper, or mash it on top of whole wheat bread for extra fiber.
Fiber: 4.4 grams, one medium apple.
You know an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and maybe fiber has something to do with that. “One medium apple contains over 4 grams of fiber,” Feller says. They’re also high in calcium, potassium, and vitamin C.
Fiber: 4 to 8 grams per cup.
Blackberries and raspberries both provide about 8 grams of fiber per cup, while blueberries provide 4 grams. The berries are also a good source of polyphenols, which play a role in metabolism, as well as chronic disease and weight management.
Fiber: 5 grams, one medium pear.
One medium-size pear contains more than 5 grams of fiber. Pears also contain high amounts of immune-supporting antioxidants, like vitamin C.
Fiber: 2 grams, three to four prunes.
The fiber content in prunes helps relieve constipation. If you’re looking to stay regular, functional medicine doctor Elizabeth Boham, M.D., M.S., R.D., recommends eating three or four prunes at a time, which provides about 2 grams of fiber.
Fiber: 9 grams per cup.
Studies have shown that guava can be both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Just 1 cup of guava contains 9 grams of fiber and about 377 mg of vitamin C. Studies have also proven that the fruit possesses anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties—in case you needed another excuse to eat it.
Fiber: 3 grams, one medium banana.
Since bananas are berries, it’s no surprise they’re also high in fiber. Eating one medium-sized banana increases your fiber intake by about 3 grams.
Fiber: 3 grams per 2 cups.
Kale is rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and K, and can also add to your fiber intake. Eating 2 cups of baby kale provides nearly 3 grams of fiber.
Fiber: 5 grams per cup.
One cup of broccoli florets contains about 5 grams of fiber. The veggies are also high in sulfur—one of the most abundant minerals in the body—which helps to metabolize food. In other words, these nutrient-packed florets can be great for the gut.
Fiber: 3 grams per cup.
Just like broccoli, Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous veggie high in healthy sulfur and fiber (3 grams per cup). If Brussels are making you bloat, naturopathic doctor Kellyann Petrucci, M.S., N.D., suggests steaming them so they’re easier to digest.
Fiber: 5 grams, one small head.
One small head of cauliflower contains 5 grams of dietary fiber, or about 20%. Using ground cauliflower in place of rice is a simple way for people on grain-free diets to meet their fiber needs.
Fiber: 7 grams per artichoke.
Surprisingly enough, artichokes are one of the highest sources of fiber from a vegetable. One artichoke contains almost 7 grams of fiber, and registered dietitian Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN, says one can of artichokes contains about 5.
Fiber: 6 grams per sweet potato.
Sweet potatoes are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which can promote gut health and regular digestion. Eating one sweet potato with the skin on provides almost 6 grams of fiber.
Fiber: 15 grams per cup.
Fiber: 16 grams per cup.
Split peas are similar to lentils, but they’re grown from a different plant: the field pea. They’re called split peas because after being dried and hulled, they’re split down the middle. One cup of cooked split peas contains 16 grams of dietary fiber.
Fiber: 10 grams per cup.
Chickpeas are a staple in most diets but especially in vegan and vegetarian diets. The legumes provide high amounts of plant-based protein and fiber—10 grams per cup. When dried, they can also be ground into a fibrous, gluten-free flour.
Fiber: 9 grams per cup.
Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are a good source of the minerals manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and potassium, according to registered dietitian Megan Fahey, M.S., R.D., CDN. She adds that they contain 9 grams of fiber per serving.
Fiber: 15 grams per cup.
Another good source of plant-based protein and fiber are lima beans—1 cup of boiled lima beans contains 15 grams of protein and almost 14 grams of dietary fiber. They also contain nutrients like iron, magnesium, and potassium.
Nuts and seeds
Fiber: 4 grams per ounce (or 14.9 g per cup.)
Not only are almonds rich in protein (6 grams), but Feller says 1 ounce of almonds also contains 4 grams of fiber. The nutrient combo makes almonds an ideal snack when you want to stay satiated for a long period of time.
Fiber: 9 grams per 2 tablespoons.
Just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contain more than 9 grams of fiber. Adding these high-fiber seeds to your oatmeal or smoothie is a simple way to up your fiber intake first thing in the morning.
Fiber: 12 grams per cup.
Enjoy sunflower seeds as a tasty snack or on top of creamy soups. One cup contains 12 grams of fiber. They also provide 9% of the recommended daily intake for magnesium and 14% of zinc.