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Health Benefits of a High Fiber Diet + High Fiber Foods to Eat Today

Fiber is one of the most important nutrients to consume. Learn all about the health benefits of dietary fiber and the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber in today’s post, including a list of delicious foods to include in a high fiber diet!

Fiber is one of the most important nutrients for our diet, but it does not get the attention it deserves. Fiber is certainly less glamorous than other trendy nutrients, as it might evoke images of your grandparents sipping on metamucil. But, the benefits of fiber go so beyond keeping us regular! I’m all in for making fiber the coolest nutrient, and I hope you will be too after reading this post.

What is Dietary Fiber?

Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of plants that we consume when we eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Unlike the macro and micronutrients, our bodies are unable to digest and absorb fiber, so it passes through our digestive system intact.

Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. They each have unique health benefits. A high fiber diet should include sources of both types to get maximum benefits.

  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water, so it forms a gel in our digestive tract when we eat it. Because of this, it can bind to cholesterol in our bodies to help lower cholesterol levels. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, beans, flaxseeds, barley, and apples.
  • Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, so it speeds up digestion and increases stool bulk. Good sources of insoluble fiber include nuts, cauliflower, whole wheat products, Brussels sprouts, and raspberries.

Health Benefits of a High Fiber Diet

  • Keeps us regular. Fiber, especially insoluble fiber, speeds up digestion and increases stool bulk. This helps prevent constipation and diarrhea to keep our bowels healthy and regular.
  • Weight management. High fiber foods are very filling, and lower in calories than other foods. Including many high fiber foods in our diets can promote healthy weight management.
  • Lower cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber forms a gel like substance in our bodies, which binds to “bad” LDL cholesterol to rid it from our bodies. Soluble fiber may also help improve other lipid markers (1).
  • Controls blood sugar levels. Fiber, especially soluble fiber, helps slow the absorption of blood sugar when we eat. Studies show that soluble fiber intake can reduce HbA1C, fasting blood glucose, and insulin resistance in people with Type 2 Diabetes (2).
  • Promotes gut health. The good bacteria that live in our guts depend on fermentable dietary products as a source of energy so they can be healthy and grow. Fiber from our diets feeds these good bacteria, so a high fiber diet promotes probiotic health, abundance, and diversity. Healthy gut bacteria also produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which have their own health benefits such as reduced inflammation and reduced risk of chronic disease (3).
  • Reduced risk of chronic disease. High fiber diets are naturally high in plant foods, so they also come with lots of other amazing vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help prevent chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and Type 2 Diabetes.

Dietary Fiber Recommendations

The dietary fiber recommendations are 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. For women and men over 50, these numbers drop to 21 grams and 30 grams, respectively. For reference, one half cup of black beans has about 8 grams of fiber, one cup of shredded wheat contains about 5 grams, and one half cup of raspberries has 4 grams (4). As you can see, you need to eat multiple portions of fiber rich foods (i.e. plant foods) throughout the day to meet the recommendations.

One reason why many Americans are not meeting their daily fiber needs is because the standard American diet is low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. There are plenty of fiber supplements out there, but they are devoid of many of the other health benefits that come with plant foods, like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, fiber from supplements may not be as filling as fiber from plant foods.

High Fiber Foods to Add to Your Diet

Now, the fun part! This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some of my favorite high fiber foods to enjoy daily. There are also some yummy recipes to give you inspiration to add more fiber to your diet!

Oatmeal

Contains 4 grams of fiber per 1 cup cooked oats. Try this Cacao Banana Oatmeal or Banana Baked Oatmeal with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips for an easy breakfast!

cacao banana oatmeal

Quinoa

Quinoa contains 2.6 grams of fiber per half cup. These Quinoa Enchilada Stuffed Peppers or this Moroccan Quinoa Salad from Choosing Chia would be perfect to add to your dinner menu!

quinoa stuffed peppers

Whole Wheat Pasta

Swap out white pasta for whole wheat, and you’ll get 3.2 grams of fiber per half cup serving! Some of my favorite whole wheat pasta dishes are this Spring Pasta with Lemon, Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Peas, and this Pasta Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Tuna.

high fiber diet pasta salad

Kale

One cup of kale has 2.6 grams of fiber. Even more reason to keep up your kale caesar habit! Check out this dairy free version, this Kale Cobb Salad from Dishing out Health, and this Rose Pasta with Asparagus and Kale from The First Mess to get your kale on!

kale caesar salad

Sweet Potato

One medium sweet potato has almost 4 grams of fiber. Make sure you’re eating the skin, though, as this is where most of the fiber (and other nutrients) lives! These Mexican Stuffed Sweet Potatoes are a favorite of mine, and I’ve been dying to try these Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges by Mad About Food!

mexican stuffed sweet potato high fiber diet

Chickpeas

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are an excellent source of plant based protein and fiber. One half cup contains 8 grams! Fill up on this Chickpea and Roasted Vegetable Salad, Loaded Greek Hummus for a Crowd, or Chickpea and Avocado Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.

chickpea and roasted vegetable salad

Black Beans

Black beans pack 7.5 grams of fiber per one half cup. Try out this delicious mango avocado salsa over my Mushroom Tacos, or this Black Bean Tomato Avocado Salad by Little Spice Jar.

mango avocado black bean salsa

White Beans

Are you guys picking up on a bean trend here? White beans are also a good source of fiber. One half cup will give you 5.7 grams! I love to make this Dreamy Pink Beet and White Bean Dip for dipping, and this Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup from Kristine’s Kitchen sounds so cozy.

white bean dip

Lentils

I love lentils of all kinds. One half cup has almost 8 grams of fiber. This Coconut Curry Red Lentil Soup is one of my favorites. Also, check out this Lemony Lentil Soup by Gimme Some Oven.

coconut curry red lentil soup

Apples

One medium apple has about 4.5 grams of fiber. I love to put sautéed apples in my morning oatmeal and munch on apple nachos as a healthy snack.

apple nachos

Pears

Pears have even more fiber than apples. One pear has almost 6 grams of fiber! Some of my favorite pear recipes are Hasselback Baked Pears and Ginger Roasted Beets, Sweet Potatoes, and Pears.

hasselback baked pear

Chia Seeds

Last but not least, chia seeds are a really excellent dietary fiber source. One tablespoon has a 4 grams! Try this Blended Chocolate Chia Pudding or this Dreamy Coconut Chia Pudding with Blueberries from The Wooden Skillet.

chocolate chia pudding

High fiber diets are super healthy, because as you can see, they include lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. If you’re increasing your fiber intake, make sure to also drink plenty of water, because fiber digests better with water. What is your favorite way to get more fiber in your diet?

Let me know if you love this post by leaving a comment below, and check out Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy lifestyle inspiration.

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high fiber diet pinterest graphic

Blended Chocolate Chia Pudding

When I first tell people that I am a dietitian, they tend to ask some typical questions:

“What do you think of X diet?”

“How much should I be eating to lose weight?”

“Am I getting enough protein?”

One of my favorite questions to help answer is “How can I eat a healthy breakfast when I’m super busy during the week?” If you guys follow me on Instagram, you know that I LOVE breakfast! I always have a filling meal to start the day, whether that be peanut butter and banana toast, a loaded sweet potato yogurt bowl, or oatmeal with a hasselback baked pear. When we sleep, our bodies use up some of the glycogen we store in the liver as energy. It’s important to replenish those lost stores upon waking with breakfast! Including some carbohydrates like whole grains, fruit or dairy helps replenish these stores and allows our bodies to use the glucose in these foods for energy. As with every meal, pairing these carbs with protein, fiber, and healthy fats makes for a balanced meal that will keep us feeling full.

Preparing breakfast the night before to take with you to work is an easy solution to skipping breakfast because you are too busy. Some great options include overnight oatmeal, egg muffins, and chia pudding! Each of these choices are balanced mixes of the macronutrients + fiber.

If you’re not keen on the gelatinous texture of chia pudding, try blending it! Blending turns it into a creamy, smooth pudding that is so dreamy. This recipe will turn any chia pudding skeptic into a lover! It really tastes like a rich dessert. In fact, I would definitely make this for dessert and be completely satisfied! It’s naturally sweetened with just dates, gluten free and paleo friendly. I hope you guys give it a try!

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 5 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 ½ tbsp creamy almond butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Toppings of choice: I used banana, pomegranate seeds, hemp hearts, chia seeds and pepitas.

Instructions:

  1. Combine chia seeds and water in a jar, close lid and shake very well. I shake the jar a few times, wait a minute, and shake again. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  2. Add chia gel to a blender along with the other ingredients. Blend on high speed until creamy.
  3. Divide between two bowls and add any toppings you desire! This can is easily prepared ahead of time – just store in a jar in the fridge, so it’s ready to grab and go in the morning.

This recipe makes 2 servings.

*I actually made this entire recipe in my NutriBullet Balance blender. It was super convenient just adding all the ingredients to one container – easy cleanup!

What are your favorite breakfast on-the-go recipes? I would love to hear! If you guys try this chia pudding, tag @daisybeet on Instagram so I can see your creations 🙂

toast with peanut butter and homemade chia seed jam

Two Ingredient Berry Chia Jam (No Added Sugar)

Hands up if you’re and peanut butter and jelly fan! I’ve always loved this classic combination. It’s the ideal two minute meal for beach days, hikes and quick breakfasts. It’s the perfect play on that salty/sweet flavor combo paired with a creamy and jammy texture. Let’s be real, though…pretty much anything tastes amazing when paired with peanut butter!

Conventional jams and jellies you find on the shelves have added sugars. This is partially necessary to increase shelf life, as sugar acts as a preservative and inhibits bacterial growth. And while all fruits/fruit products inherently have sugar in them, the naturally occurring sugar in fruit is nothing to shy away from. Fruit is full of nutritional benefits, including important vitamins and fiber. The fiber in fruit slows down the digestion and eventual release of its sugars into the bloodstream, so it won’t cause a speedy spike in blood glucose the way refined sugars do. If you’re trying to limit added sugars in your diet, preparing this homemade jam is an easy place to start!

This jam takes about 10 minutes to make, and will last in the fridge for about a week. You can customize the size of the recipe, too. If you don’t think you’ll use a whole jar in one week, cut the recipe in half! It’s so versatile – I use it on toast, in my oatmeal, and even as a compote on pancakes. Heating up the berries really coaxes out the natural sweetness of the fruit, so you’ll find you won’t even miss the added sugars. You can use any kind of frozen berries in this recipe – I’ve used blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups frozen mixed berries
  • 1.5 tbsp chia seeds
  • Optional flavorings: lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Heat a large shallow pan over medium heat. Add frozen berries and chia seeds, and stir to combine.
  2. Stir occasionally until berries are broken down and mixture begins to thicken, about 5-10 minutes. You may need to break up larger pieces of fruit with your mixing spoon as they soften for a more even texture.

Note: If using only frozen blueberries, you will need to add about ¼ cup of water to the recipe, as blueberries do not break down and release their liquid as much as other berries.

Have you guys made chia jam before? What is your favorite berry combination? If you try this recipe, make sure to tag @daisybeet on Instagram so I can see your creations 🙂

Zucchini Bread Pancakes with Berry Compote

The past few days, it has begun to really feel like late summer. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few weeks with my family on Martha’s Vineyard, and we are experiencing shorter days, less humidity, and cooler temperatures. Before we know it, fall will be rolling around – including pumpkin spice EVERYTHING.

Until then, I am soaking up every last bit of summer I can! Of course, this includes all my favorite summer foods. I’m loving watermelon, tomatoes, basil and peaches. I’ve been filling my plate with an abundance of this fresh produce, but I’ve also been treating myself to some less nutritious treats. One of my absolute favorites to indulge in during the summer is fresh baked zucchini bread from a local farm here on the Vineyard. It’s something that reminds me of my childhood, and I can’t help but reach for a slice when I’m on island.

These zucchini bread pancakes were inspired by my favorite zucchini bread, but without refined grains and excess added sugar. They are super moist and hearty, just like my favorite slice of zucchini bread! I used Elmhurst Unsweetened Milked Hazelnuts ™ in this recipe, as this has become my favorite milk alternative to use daily. I truly believe that when it comes to food, simpler is better, and Elmhurst® shares this same mindset. Their nut and grain milks all contain six ingredients or less, and their unsweetened varieties have just two. They also do not use any added gums or emulsifiers, which is rare to find in milk alternatives! Plus, Elmhurst plant milks have a super smooth consistency and taste creamier than other plant milks I have tried. They have 10 different varieties, including unsweetened and lightly sweetened choices. I’ve been itching to try their Chocolate Milked Peanuts – how delicious does that sound?! You can find Elmhurst products at Whole Foods, and here is the store locator! They also deliver any of their varieties if you order through their website.

If you guys are holding on summer like I am, these pancakes are for you!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 and ¼ cup oat flour (use a blender to make this out of rolled oats)
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Elmhurst Elmhurst Unsweetened Milked Hazelnuts
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup, plus more for serving if desired
  • ½ cup frozen raspberries
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • Butter, coconut oil or cooking spray for pan

Instructions:

  1. Using a paper towel or clean dish towel, squeeze out excess moisture from grated zucchini
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine oat flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
  3. In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together egg, hazelnut milk, lemon zest and maple syrup
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry, and stir to combine
  5. Fold in grated zucchini until mixture is well combined. Add more hazelnut milk as needed if batter is very thick
  6. In a cast iron skillet or frying pan, heat butter/oil/cooking spray over medium heat. Spoon batter into pan, using about 1/3 cup
  7. Cook pancakes until edges begin to brown, then flip, after 2 minutes or so
  8. While pancakes are cooking, prepare the berry compote: combine frozen berries and chia seeds in a shallow pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until berries are cooked down and mixture begins to thicken
  9. Serve pancakes while still warm with a generous pile of berry compote and a drizzle of maple syrup.

This recipe makes about 10 pancakes.

I hope you guys give this recipe a try! If you make these zucchini bread pancakes, I’d love to see how they turn out! Tag @Elmhurst1925 and @daisybeet on Instagram 🙂

 

Hasselback Baked Pears

This warming bowl of oats is the perfect way to start a chilly morning! Naturally sweetened with banana, this breakfast is topped with a caramelized, soft, hasselback baked pear. Prep the pears the night before, and you can throw this bowl together in 5 minutes! Baking fruit may not sound appealing, but it makes them SO sweet and juicy. I have tried baking pears in the fall and peaches in the summer. Both taste like dessert when added to a hearty breakfast bowl. I hope you all give it a try!

Pears are definitely an underutilized fruit in my eyes. They have a smooth, not overly sweet taste that is enhanced when cooked. Pears, just like apples, come in many different varieties! Bosc pears are one of my favorites for this recipe because of their soft and creamy texture. If you're looking for a more firm, tart variety, try Bartlett or D'anjou. Pears are an excellent source of fiber, and just like any fruit, they are part of a well-balanced diet. I would love to try replacing some of the apples with pears in a Thanksgiving apple pie!

I love seeing all of your Hasselback pear creations on Instagram - they are stunning! I decided to post the recipe here so you have a permanent place to refer back to it. I can't wait to continue to see all  your delicious baked pears 🙂

 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry oatmeal (old fashioned or quick)
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1 USA Bosc pear
  • Coconut oil
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice or Apple Pie Spice
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • Creamy almond butter (other nut butter is fine)
  • Blackstrap molasses (optional)

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Slice pear in half and remove seeds. Cut side down, make narrow slits into each half, being careful not to slice all the way through.
  3. Grease a small cast iron skillet or baking dish with coconut oil. Place pears cut side down in skillet.
  4. Sprinkle with a little more coconut oil and Pumpkin Pie Spice. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until soft and tender.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the oats with water or milk, according to package instructions.
  6. Mash banana in a bowl, and add to cooking oats with chia seeds and 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice.
  7. Stir well until oatmeal is cooked to desired consistency.
  8. Divide oatmeal evenly into two bowls. Top each bowl with half of the baked pear, a scoop of almond butter, molasses and other toppings of choice. Enjoy immediately!

If preparing the pear the night before, microwave for 30 seconds – 1 minute to reheat.

Tag your baked pear bowls with #Daisybeet so I can see your creations 🙂

cacao banana oatmeal

My Go-To Breakfast: Cacao-Banana Oatmeal

Rise and shine! You guys know by now how much I love my oatmeal for breakfast. I’ve been eating it every morning 99% of the time for years - it’s almost comical! I occasionally get messages for my oatmeal recipes or for tips to make oatmeal more exciting. I decided to write a post here for you all to refer to! Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’ve mastered the bowl of oats.

Before my oatmeal love affair came to be, I went through many years of protein smoothies for breakfast, starting in college. I would start my day with a smoothie consisting of ice, a frozen banana, some skim milk, and a scoop of chocolate meal replacement protein powder. Sometimes I would add in a spoonful of powdered peanut butter, too. This breakfast couldn’t have been more than 300 calories, and while it was delicious, I never felt completely full afterwards. I always NEEDED a midmorning snack a few hours later as I could hear my stomach rumbling. This coincided with a time in my life where I was very “calorie conscious”. I would select foods based off of their calorie count rather than their nutrition qualities. I was eating a lot of low fat products, that, looking back, were definitely loaded with artificial ingredients. I absolutely loved my college experience, but I realize now that it was an environment which perpetuated this type of eating and thinking about foods. I subconsciously compared my body to others and made food choices based off what my peers were doing, which meant low calorie, low fat, and sometimes lacking real food ingredients.

Once I began researching nutrition more, I realized this protein smoothie habit was probably not the most nutritious way to start my day. Not only did it leave me hungry for real food a few hours afterwards, but the ingredient list was a mile long. There was a myriad of ingredients I could not pronounce. I decided to transition to real food based smoothies, and began making oatmeal in the winter when it was colder. I noticed that oatmeal filled me up much more than smoothies, and sustained me all the way until lunch on my less active days. I also enjoyed the act of eating food, physically chewing, and taking my time enjoying breakfast, rather than slurping down a smoothie in 3 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong now, I think smoothies are delicious and refreshing! They are an excellent way to add calories and nutrients in the clinical setting, and can be very healthy when you are mindful of the ingredients you add. For me, though, physically eating a big breakfast works best. Oatmeal is my breakfast of choice for so many reasons. It is quick and easy to make, cheap, delicious, customizable, and filling.  One of my favorite ways to flavor my oatmeal is by adding sweet caramelized banana, cacao powder, cinnamon and nut butter. This satisfies my undying sweet tooth in a nutritious way! I hope all of you who have a sweet tooth try this recipe.

Here are some of the RD Approved ingredients you’ll need:

  • Old fashioned rolled oats
  • Raw cacao powder (unsweetened cocoa powder is fine, too)
  • Cinnamon
  • Banana
  • Peanut butter (or another nut butter)
  • Salba Chia chia seeds

 

And the nutrition breakdown:

  • Oats: Oats are one of the best sources of soluble fiber. This type of fiber has many health benefits. A diet containing soluble fiber can lower cholesterol levels, because the fiber binds to cholesterol in your body so it can be excreted. It also is not fully absorbed, so it does not cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber keeps you fuller for longer because it is digested slowly, and helps keep you regular by adding bulk when you go to the bathroom.
  • Cacao Powder: Raw cacao powder is rich in antioxidants in the form of flavanols. The flavanols found in cacao powder may have more powerful antioxidant effects than those in green tea and blueberries! Flavanols may have numerous heart-healthy functions. They can reduce inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory cytokine production. Flavanols also may prevent blood clots by reducing platelet aggregation and reduce oxidative damage within blood vessels.
  • Salba Chia chia seeds: Chia seeds are also a good source of soluble fiber, and thus exert similar health benefits as oats. Notice how they swell when you add liquid? They expand to 10x their dry weight! This adds a lot of bulk to your diet and fills you up. Chia seeds are also a rich plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids we must consume in our diets, because our bodies cannot produce them. They are essential for growth and development, can lower blood triglyceride levels and may be anti-inflammatory. I love Salba Chia in particular for so many reasons! There are over 100 different strains of chia seeds, but they grow only the 2 strongest varieties.  They are a single source company, co-own and operate all of their farms, and partner directly with the farmers to ensure the best possible seeds. Salba Chia also grows ALL of their chia seeds organically with no pesticides! Therefore, the nutritional profile of their products is always top quality.

Without further adieu, here is my favorite oatmeal recipe. Adding the banana to the bowl before you microwave your oats breaks it down so it becomes super creamy and extra sweet. No other sweeteners needed!

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup oats (I use old fashioned)
  • ~1 cup water (enough to top off the oats in your bowl)
  • 1 small ripe banana
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • ½ tbsp Salba Chia chia seeds
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp nut butter
  • Toppings of choice: I like fresh fruit, hemp hearts, cacao nibs, etc.

Instructions:

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, add oats and water.
  2. Slice the banana into the bowl and stir.
  3. Microwave for 2-2.5 minutes, until cooked.
  4. Remove bowl and stir in chia seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder.
  5. Add nut butter and toppings of choice, and enjoy!

I hope you guys enjoy this simple recipe. Oatmeal is very customizable – I love to experiment with different spices! Tag your oatmeal bowls with #Daisybeet so I can see your lovely creations.