There is no debate about it: Americans do not get enough fiber, and in fact our intake is woefully inadequate–as low as 3% of Americans are getting the recommended amount of fiber (28 grams a day for women and 38 grams for men). This deficiency has been linked to contributing to coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, certain gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, certain types of cancer (especially colon) and the continuum of metabolic dysfunctions including pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Since animal products contain NO FIBER whatsoever, I hope this fact alone will encourage you to stay committed to eating more fruits and vegetables and make strides toward adding substitutions for animal products. In addition to disease prevention here are some things I have learned along the way about the benefits of fiber:
Weight loss. A 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that participants who made no dietary changes other than meeting the daily requirement of fiber showed similar benefits, including weight loss, to participants who made more complicated dietary changes that are in line with American Heart Association recommendations.
Carbohydrate deduction. For those who need to follow a low carbohydrate diet you can actually subtract the fiber to get the total carbohydrate. That is because fiber carbs do not affect your blood sugar and are not absorbed. So though a 1/2 cup serving of the can of Goya black beans in my pantry has 19 grams of carbohydrates, it has 6 grams of fiber. That means the count would be 13 carbs instead of 19. If you need to watch carbohydrates, considering “effective carbohydrates” is helpful.
Lower glucose levels. When considering a vegetarian or vegan diet for diabetics, the American Diabetes Association mentions that when fiber intake is greater than 50 grams per day, it may help lower blood glucose levels
Feel fuller. Here are 4 answers to why foods that are high in fiber help us to feel fuller longer.
Besides a standard assortment of fruits and vegetables, here are some particularly fiber rich foods you might consider adding to your diet:
Chia seeds. I had never heard of these other than when making Chia pets as a kid, and found them one day at Costco. But wow, three tablespoons have 11 grams of fiber! Not only that, but 5 grams of protein, high in calcium, iron, all sorts of other nutrients and 150 calories. A great thing to add to your food somewhere every day, such as in oatmeal, smoothies, salad or sprinkled on casseroles.
Edamame or young soybeans. These can be served steamed in the pod or shelled. 1 cup has 8 grams fiber and 20 grams of protein. I have been getting them frozen, but you can also have them as a dried snack or fresh. They are nice to add to salads or soups.
Legumes. The number of grams of fiber is usually equal to the grams of protein in most legumes, making it a great choice for both nutrients. The average for all types of beans is about 14 grams of fiber per cup–about 50% of the daily requirement!
Just eating those 3 items each day would give you 35 grams of fiber, and plenty of protein! Here is a handy list of other fiber rich fruits and vegetables.