Natural Sources of Fiber

Last Update: June 4, 2024

Regardless of your eating style, no healthy diet is complete without fiber.  Fiber is essential to maintain regular digestion, keep your heart healthy, and decrease your risk for long-term illness. 

If you’re like many people, you may not be getting enough fiber: studies show that as little as 5% of the United States population gets enough fiber on a daily basis. Read on to learn more about symptoms to look out for if you’re concerned you’re not getting enough fiber, the health benefits of fiber, and natural food sources of fiber that you can easily add to your diet. 

What is Fiber?

Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate from plant sources, like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, that the body can’t digest. While this may sound unideal, it’s actually a very good thing and a very useful source of food. The job of fiber is to keep food moving through the intestinal tract, taking toxins and waste along with it. As fiber moves from the stomach to the small intestine to the colon, these discardable elements will cling to it, absorbing water as it goes, and resulting in regular bowel movements.

There are two types of fiber, known as soluble and insoluble.

  • Soluble fiber can’t be fully digested, but can be broken down a bit. This type of fiber will dissolve in water, becoming more gelatinous as it moves through the digestive system. It also takes longer to digest, so eating more soluble fiber leads to feeling fuller for longer. Some foods that have a good concentration of soluble fiber include blueberries, oatmeal, apples, beans, and nuts.
  • Insoluble fiber can’t be broken down at all. It moves through the digestive tract without changing its shape until it’s excreted. Insoluble fiber is found in several vegetables, including bell peppers, onions, cabbage, and lettuce.

Health Benefits of Fiber

A high-fiber diet is vital for keeping the digestive system, and overall body, healthy. Here are some of the health benefits of fiber: 

  • It helps to keep bowel movements regular.
    Fiber compacts waste into the right size and weight to help it pass easily. This reduces this risk of constipation and hemorrhoids.
  • It helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Because soluble fiber takes longer to digest, it slows the rate in which sugar is absorbed into the blood. That prevents blood sugar spikes and improves overall blood sugar levels, which is especially important for people with diabetes.
  • It helps to prevent heart disease and lowers cholesterol. Another job of fiber is to bind with bile in the intestines. Bile contains cholesterol, which gets excreted along with the fiber. Lower levels of cholesterol reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • It helps to stabilize weight. Foods with high fiber content make the stomach feel full faster, leading to a decrease in calorie intake, which is an essential component of weight loss and maintenance.
  • It helps to support the immune system. Soluble fiber has been shown to speed up recovery time from bacterial infections, making sure cells have the anti-inflammatory properties needed to battle infection.

Signs of Low Fiber

Most people don’t get enough fiber. The daily recommended amount is between 22 and 34 grams, depending on your age, weight, and gender. If you’re concerned that your diet is lacking the adequate amount of fiber, here are some telltale signs that it’s time to amp up your daily fiber intake:

  • Weight gain. Fiber helps the body feel full after a meal. Without the right amount of it, you may still feel hungry and need to eat more after each meal. 
  • Constipation or irregular bowel movements. Not eating enough fiber is one of the main causes of constipation. Fewer than three bowel movements per week is a sign of constipation, as is hard or dry stools.
  • Nausea and fatigue. Feeling weak, sick, and tired are all symptoms of a fiber deficiency. Not eating enough vegetables is usually the culprit; see if adding more in your diet helps with the symptoms. If not, you might want to consult with your doctor about other underlying issues.
  • Hemorrhoids. Sometimes as a result of constipation, hemorrhoids can occur when stools aren’t soft and going to the bathroom requires straining. Eating more fiber-rich foods will help reduce both of these risks.

Natural Food Sources of Fiber 

Not getting enough fiber can lead to some very uncomfortable side effects. While you may take a fiber supplement to increase your fiber intake, fiber is also readily available from many food sources. You can fulfill your daily quota by chowing down on foods like:

5 Ways to Add More Fiber to Your Diet 

If you want to stick to the natural route, there are a number of healthy swaps and alterations that can help you get more fiber into every meal. For example:

  1. Eat more whole grain cereals for breakfast, such as oatmeal.
  2. If you’re a meat eater, replace meat with beans a few times each week.  You can do this by making soups, stews, chili, on salads, or black bean burgers, for example, or these chickpea patties for sandwiches.
  3. Ditch fruit juices for a piece of whole fruit, as a good amount of fiber is concentrated in the skin. 
  4. Skip the chips when it comes to your afternoon snack, and opt for raw vegetables instead.
  5. Replace white bread, pasta, and rice with whole grain alternatives.

Best Fiber Products at Thrive Market

While fresh fruits and veggies are still the go-to when it comes to getting the right amount of fiber, there are other convenient options to supplement each meal.

Thrive Market Organic Pitted Prunes
Rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber, prunes are the perfect snack if you’re trying to up your daily fiber intake. Add them to your morning smoothie, oatmeal, or just stash a bag in your car for an on-the-go snack.  

wellmade Organic Acacia Fiber
Great for baking, cooking, or blending into a shake or smoothie, this fiber powder enhances the nutrient value of everyday foods without adding a medicinal taste or grainy texture. This powder is a natural soluble fiber that dissolves completely, leaving no grittiness behind.

Manitoba Harvest Hemp, Chia & Flax Seed Mixture
With 5 grams of fiber per serving, this three-seed blend is an easy way to add fiber to smoothies, muffins, or even as a crunchy topping on your lunchtime salad.

Thrive Market Organic Black Beans
Add these easy-to-use bean pouches to rice, use them as a side dish, or stir them into soups for an added dose of natural fiber. 

Garden of Life Unflavored Organic Fiber
With 5 grams of prebiotic fiber from organic superfood sources, this supplement is a great option for those who can’t handle psyllium.

This article is related to:

Nutrition Tips

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