Everyone knows that diet plays a critical role in human health. But too often we get carried away with the idea of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and forget one really important nutrient -- fiber. Despite multitudes of scientific evidence linking dietary fiber to various health benefits, most Americans still fall short of the recommended daily fiber intake -- which stands at 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
Although fiber was traditionally considered a mere roughage that simply adds volume to digested food, science has revealed that fiber plays a more important role. It actually nourishes the gut microbes, thereby aiding digestion and improving overall gut health. In recent times, fiber has also been linked with disease prevention and reduction in the risk factors of various conditions such as knee arthritis, food allergies and type 2 diabetes.
The bottom line? Fiber is more important than we realize and obtaining the minimum in our diet is critical to overall health. The following is a list of 7 fiber-laden foods that do more than just bulk up the diet:Chia seeds
There’s a good reason why chia seeds are popular in the natural health community. These nutritious seeds are probably the best source of dietary fiber in the world, packing a whooping 34 grams per 100 grams. Chia seeds contain high amounts of soluble fiber, which absorb water to form a gel-like substance that expands the stomach, thereby increasing the feeling of fullness. This, of course, helps you eat less. Studies have also shown that chia seeds can help with weight loss, blood pressure reduction and blood sugar regulation.
Almonds are a popular, but highly underrated nut. Not only are they rich in magnesium, manganese, vitamin E, protein and healthy fats, they’re also very rich in fiber, with 12.5 grams of fiber per 100 grams of the nut. In addition to improving gut health via its sizeable fiber content, almonds have also been linked to reduction of oxidative stress, lowering of “bad” LDL cholesterol and hunger reduction, while also aiding in weight loss.Flax Seeds
With 27.3 grams of fiber out of every 100 grams, flax seed remains one of the leading sources of dietary fiber. But it’s not just fiber either, it contains high amounts of protein (18.3 g) and omega-3 fatty acids (22.8 g) as well. As expected, flax seeds come with a plethora of health benefits such as improvement in gut health, reduction in hunger cravings, reduction of LDL cholesterol, blood pressure reduction and prevention of diarrhea and constipation.
If you’re looking to load up on healthy fiber while enjoying your favorite TV shows, organic popcorn might just be your best bet. Air-popped popcorn in particular, contains 14.5 g/100 g of serving, which makes it an excellent low-calorie snacking option. Organically-grown popcorn comes with a number of health benefits too. For instance, in one study that compared the filling capacity of popcorn to potato chips, it was observed that 15 calories of popcorn was just as filling as 150 calories of potato chips. This, of course, can help with weight management.
Oats are one of the best meals with which to start your day. In addition to its high fiber count (16.5 g/ 100 g), it’s also loaded with protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Oats contain a soluble fiber called beta glucan, which aids the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol. Other proven health benefits of oats include prevention of LDL oxidation and reduction in the risk of childhood asthma.
Dark chocolate is one of those delicious delicacies that doesn’t harm your health. For a dark chocolate with a 70-95% cocoa content, you can safely expect to get 10 g of fiber per 100 grams. In terms of health, dark chocolate comes with a load of health benefits, including reduction in insulin resistance and risk of heart disease, skin protection and improved brain health.
The chickpea is a leguminous plant lauded primarily for its protein content, but it’s also a great source of fiber. With 7.6 g/100g, chickpeas pack a sizeable chunk of fiber which can promote feelings of fullness. For instance, in a study where participants ate 104 g of chickpeas daily for 12 weeks, they reported a higher feeling of fullness and eating of less junk food. Other health benefits of chick peas include weight loss, blood sugar regulation and improved bowel function.
Also, as we learned from our previous blog, 6 Foods that Foster the Microbiome, fiber is considered a non-digestible dietary component, sometimes referred to as a prebiotic because it benefits the host by stimulating the growth of good gut bacteria. A diet low in fiber is linked to lower bacterial abundance, whereas a diet rich in these non-digestible carbohydrates increases Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. Other studies found non-digestible carbohydrate consumption positively correlated with increased abundance of Ruminococcus, E. rectale, and Roseburia, and negatively correlated with Clostridium and Enterococcus species.
And while higher fiber intakes resulted in reductions in the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 and insulin resistance, lower dietary fiber intake consistently showed a decreased short chain fatty acid (SCFA) production, confirming the intimate effect diet has on the microbial population and its influence on our health.
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