Top 10 Fiber-Rich Foods
Your digestive tract is home to millions of bacteria — both good and bad — that need to stay in balance. This is called your "gut microbiome," and it’s responsible for absorbing and regulating nutrients that are essential to your body’s health. Keeping these bacteria at a healthy, balanced level is one of the most crucial elements of maintaining your body’s health at any stage of life — but it’s especially important during menopause
The Fiber Gap
Fibers are compounds from plant-based foods that cannot be digested by the human stomach alone. Gut bacteria help break down fibers, and extract nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream and sent throughout the body. In order for good bacteria cultures to grow and be maintained in the digestive tract, they need to consume fiber.
Consuming enough fiber is especially important during menopause, as changes in estrogen levels can have a negative impact on the gut biome. But most Americans do not get enough fiber in their diets. Only 5 percent of people in the United States meet the Institute of Medicine's recommended daily target of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Nutritionists call this the “fiber gap.”
If you’re looking to close the fiber gap in your lifestyle, start by including these high-fiber foods in every meal.
Kale, spinach, cabbage, you name it! Leafy greens are a great source of fiber and essential vitamins. One cup of kale has around 3.6 grams of fiber and can represent well over 600% of your daily value of Vitamin K, among many other nutrients. Leafy greens are easy to add to any meal and are a fairly cost-effective option. You can get a lot out of a few bags of spinach for a decent price.
Beans are one of the best sources of fiber per cup. One cup of cooked beans can be up to 12 grams of fiber, depending on the type of bean. Some beans are more fiber-rich than others. Black beans, lima beans, and kidney beans have a higher fiber content, while baked and refried beans are going to have lower fiber content.
All fruits have some form of fiber in them, but fruit skins are where we tend to get higher concentrations of fiber. One of the things that make fruits, and berries more specifically, such excellent fiber options is because they are also packed with Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps regulate the immune system, which the body is heavily dependent on, even the gut. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries can offer anywhere from 2 to 8 grams of fiber per cup.
You’ve probably been taught that bread is a great source of fiber. That’s partially true — but certain types of bread are better sources of fiber than others. Sprouted bread, whole wheat bread, and rye bread are excellent sources of fiber because they are made with less refined grain, which retains more nutrients. Refined breads like white bread are actually stripped of a lot of the natural components found in grains and therefore don’t have as much fiber in them. Whole grains also extend beyond bread and can include things like rice, quinoa, and oats.
Cruciferous vegetables are some of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. They’re full of nutrients like Vitamin K, B vitamins, folate, iron, and potassium, all of which can help maintain a healthy heart, healthy skin, and neurological functions. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower are some of the more popular choices for cruciferous vegetables and are also more cost-effective.
You might not think that popcorn would give you much in terms of fiber, but it’s actually not a bad option, especially when it comes to the often-unhealthy world of snack foods. Popcorn is one of the more fiber-dense foods per calorie. A 3-cup serving of popcorn has 4 grams of fiber, meeting 10 to 15 percent of your daily fiber needs. On top of that, popcorn is a good source of iron, which your body needs to create new red blood cells.
Chia seeds have grown in popularity in recent years, with good reason — they are probably one of the best sources of fiber there are. They’re great for adding to smoothies, oatmeal, granola, and even salads. . You can get almost 10 grams of fiber from an ounce of chia seeds. They also contain essential nutrients like calcium and magnesium, which can help support bone health and neurological health.
Artichokes aren’t a frequent snack for most of us, but they are one of the more fiber-rich and nutrient-rich vegetables to be found in the produce aisle. One artichoke can yield up to 7 grams of fiber. Artichokes are also rich in folate, an important type of B vitamin that helps create red blood cells and helps maintain healthy cell growth.
While beets may not be commonplace in the American diet, they are one of the more nutrient-dense vegetable options out there. Beets are high in iron, copper, magnesium, and potassium, as well as high in fiber. A cup of beets works out to around 3.8 grams of fiber. Beets can often be expensive at the supermarket, but depending on where you live, beets are actually pretty easy to grow yourself. They tend not to need a lot of water so long as the soil doesn’t dry out easily.
A lot of people tend to overlook nuts and seeds as fiber-rich snacks, but they’re one of the healthier snacking options. Almonds, especially, are rich in nutrients and full of fiber — one cup of almonds can give you up to 3.5 grams of fiber and supply you with immune-boosting vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin E, manganese, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients can also help keep your skin healthy!