Dietary fibers are contained in plant foods and are essential for a functioning digestion. Because of its important role in the digestive process, fiber promotes overall health and can help prevent various diseases. (13,14,17)
The daily recommended consumption of 30 grams per day (1) is reached by very few in Germany. This is due to diet trends that particularly favor meat, dairy and processed products. In this article you will find all the important information about foods with fiber and how you can use them to consciously change your diet to a healthier one.
the essentials in brief
- Fiber is an indigestible part of plant foods. Despite their indigestibility, they are important for our digestion and promote general health.
- Foods high in fiber include dried legumes, collard greens, and whole grains. However, all plant foods contain fiber and should therefore be consumed regularly.
- To transition from a low-fiber to a high-fiber diet, you should slowly increase the amount of fiber foods. Since the digestion is not used to it, flatulence and abdominal pain can otherwise occur.
Definition: What is dietary fiber?
There is no internationally binding, uniform definition of the term for roughage. However, all definitions have in common that roughage is indigestible. The German Society for Nutrition defines fiber as follows:
The collective term dietary fibers (dietary fibers) includes components of plant food that are not broken down by the body's own enzymes in the human gastrointestinal tract. (1)
Despite the slightly misleading name and its indigestibility, fiber is anything but ballast in our bodies. Dietary fiber swells up when it absorbs water and thus stimulates intestinal activity. They are therefore essential for healthy digestion. (2)
Background: What you need to know about dietary fiber in food
So that you can eat a diet rich in fiber in the future, we have put together the most important information on fiber in food for you below. Here you will also find the foods with the most fiber.
What types of fiber are there in food?
Dietary fiber is a heterogeneous group of food components and can be classified according to various properties. The most common classification is based on solubility: there are soluble and insoluble dietary fibers.
- Examples of soluble fiber are pectin, guar and beta-glucan. Pectin is a structural substance of plant cell walls. Guar is part of a type of bean and beta glucan is found in oat and barley grains. (3.15)
- Insoluble fibers include lignin and cellulose. Both are classic fibers of the cell walls of higher plants. (3.15)
Soluble fiber can absorb large amounts of water, while insoluble fiber can absorb only a small amount. Both are important for a healthy and functioning digestion.
Which foods contain fiber?
Roughage is also referred to as dietary fiber. This is due to their chemical composition and form. Most dietary fibers such as cellulose, pectins, lignin and many other structural components are only found in plant foods. In plants, fiber is the building block of cells. (2)
All plant-based foods contain fiber and should therefore be part of every meal. (Image Source: Somi Jaiswal / Unsplash)
Dietary fibers can therefore be found in every form of vegetables, grains, legumes and fruit. Dried legumes have a particularly high fiber content, sometimes with more than 20 grams per 100 grams. (3,15) Legumes include lentils, beans, peas, peanuts, chickpeas, and soybeans.
Which foods contain the most fiber?
In the different food groups, the exact fiber content of the individual foods differs enormously. If you want to change your diet to a high-fiber diet, at least some of the following foods should be on your shopping list from now on:
|food group||Foods with the highest fiber content (per 100g)||Foods with the second highest fiber content (per 100g)||Foods with the third highest fiber content (per 100g)|
|ready-to-eat legumes||kidney beans (8.3)||white beans (7.5g)||red beans (6g)|
|dried legumes||white beans (23.2g)||Soybeans (22g)||Lentils (18.3g)|
|vegetables and salad||Brussels sprouts (4.4g)||Celeriac (4.2g)||Fennel (3.3g)|
|Fruit||Blueberries (4.9g)||Raspberries (4.7g)||Kiwi (3.9g)|
|dried fruit||Figs (9.6g)||Dates (9.2g)||Plums (9g)|
|nuts and oilseeds||Almonds (9.8g)||Coconuts (9g)||Hazelnuts (7.4g)|
|grain foods||Wheat bran (49.3g)||Oat bran (18.6)||Muesli (varies by composition) (14.3)|
|Fine baked goods||Rusk (5.2g)||Onion Pie (4.9g)||Plum cake (4.9g)|
|bread and pastries||Rye crispbread (14.1g)||Wheat crispbread (12.9g)||Wholemeal rye bread (8.9g)|
Some of these high-fiber foods require longer or special preparation. For example, dried legumes must either be cooked for a very long time or soaked overnight. Other foods are great as a high-fiber snack, such as a portion of berries or nuts.
Which foods do not contain fiber?
Animal foods do not contain fiber. Whether meat, fish, eggs or dairy products of any form - none of these foods contain the important dietary fiber. The only exception is chitin, which is found in insect shells and crustaceans, among other things. (16)
Dietary fiber is only naturally found in plant foods.
Animal products such as cheese, eggs and yoghurt are therefore completely unsuitable for a high-fiber diet. Artificial fiber is often added to processed products such as cold cuts, puddings or spreadable sausages because the food itself does not contain fiber.
When should I eat foods with fiber?
The German Society for Nutrition specifies 30 grams per day as the minimum daily fiber requirement for an adult. (1) To achieve this amount, each meal should contain foods with fiber. (16) A high-fiber diet can be particularly beneficial for our health in the following aspects:
- Cardiovascular disease risk reduction (4,5,7,8,17)
- Risk reduction of diabetes (6,9,10,11,17)
- Risk reduction of various cancers (7,8,9,12,17)
- Overall lifespan extension (13,14,17)
- Digestive support (3.15)
- Stimulates intestinal activity, especially in the case of constipation (3.15)
- Lowering cholesterol levels (15,16,18)
- Prevention of obesity (15,16,19,21,23,24)
- Strengthening of the immune system (16,23)
The sheer volume of scientifically based evidence supporting health benefits from fiber is impressive. However, due to the frequent eating of processed foods and pre-cooked meals, most people in Germany consume too little fiber. (15,16) These often contain harmful substances that can be bound and eliminated by detoxifying the body with foods rich in fiber.
When should I avoid fiber in foods?
Foods with fiber should only be avoided if there is a medically diagnosed illness. For example, dietary fiber can aggravate the symptoms of fructose intolerance or malabsorption. In this disorder, the high-fiber foods must be carefully selected because each type of fiber has different effects.(15)
Foods with fiber should only be avoided in some diseases.
In the case of an acute attack of chronic inflammatory bowel disease or a persistent gastrointestinal disorder (disorder of the gastrointestinal tract), a sudden switch to a high-fiber diet can exacerbate the disorder and the symptoms. In these cases, you always have to discuss a change in diet with a specialist and you should make sure that you mainly consume soluble fiber.(16,20)
In the case of the so-called irritable bowel syndrome (irritable bowel syndrome), patients were and are often recommended a high-fiber or low-fiber diet. However, studies have not shown any significant change in symptoms with either diet. (22)
Finally, a very high-fiber diet can delay the absorption of medications. So if you take medication regularly, you should discuss a change in diet with your doctor. (16)
What happens if I eat too many foods with fiber?
An adult person should drink two liters of unsweetened liquid without caffeine per day. (1) With a high-fiber diet, this is all the more important. If you eat a lot of foods with fiber but drink too little, the constipation that should be prevented can occur.
The fermentation of dietary fiber in the intestine produces methane, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. This can cause bloating , bloating, and mild pain in the lower abdomen. These symptoms are more likely to occur when your digestive tract is not used to a high-fiber diet, and can be relieved with warming pads and herbal teas that warm you from the inside.(15)
Do foods with fiber help you lose weight?
In addition to the benefits and functions of fiber mentioned so far, foods with fiber make it easier for you to control how many calories you eat. This reduces the risk of overweight and obesity.
This is related to the early and long-lasting feeling of satiety with a high-fiber diet. Observational studies indicate that an increased intake of foods with fiber reduces the risk of obesity by about 30 percent. (19,23,24)
Foods with a high fiber content ensure a stronger feeling of satiety and can thus prevent obesity. (Image Source: Yunmai/unsplash)
So while fiber foods can help control hunger pangs, switching to a high-fiber diet alone is not enough. In a study on the treatment of obesity, it was found that reducing caloric intake produced more significant results than increasing fiber intake.
Foods with fiber: The best tips & tricks for a diet rich in fiber
Do you often have digestive problems or food cravings? Then start eating more foods with fiber today! We have put together the best tips and tricks for you so that you can successfully switch your diet to one that is high in fibre.
Eat foods with fiber regularly
You don't have to change your entire diet to increase your intake of fiber foods. Instead, you can swap out some foods to increase your fiber intake. The German Society for Nutrition gives examples of an exchange of certain foods in the following table:
|Have a good meal||Groceries||Fiber content (in grams)||food alternative||Fiber content (in grams)|
|Breakfast||2 slices of toast, 1 kiwi||1.5 + 2.9||1 slice of wholemeal bread, 1 kiwi||3.9 + 2.9|
|snack||100g of grapes||1.6||1 apple||2.5|
|Lunch||150g meat, 200g Brussels sprouts, 200g pasta, 150g jelly||0 + 8.8 + 3.8 + 0||150g meat, 200g Brussels sprouts, 200g wholemeal pasta, 150g red fruit jelly||0 + 8.8 + 10.2 + 2.5|
|snack||3 shortbread cookies||0.5||50g almonds||5.3|
|Dinner||2 slices of mixed bread, 2 gherkins||4.2 + 0.8||2 slices of wholemeal bread, 1/2 bell pepper||8.2 + 3.6|
|snack||40g potato chips||1.7||40g almonds||4.5|
For a high-fiber diet, you should therefore eat foods with fiber at every meal. In particular, unprocessed foods such as whole grain products, fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes and nuts are preferable to processed products with fiber added later.
If you don't like whole grain products such as pasta or rice due to years of white flour consumption, you can slowly switch to them by first mixing the pasta or rice types. Alternatively, you can switch to vegetable noodles or noodles made from legumes.
Chew foods with fiber sufficiently
Foods with fiber need to be chewed well. This is due to their fiber structure. In addition to better digestion of chewed foods with fiber, chewing more intensively has other health benefits: (15)
Foods with fiber should be eaten slowly and chewed well.
On the one hand, prolonged chewing stimulates saliva secretion, which contributes to maintaining dental health. The teeth are cleaned of food residues by the saliva and the acids formed by bacteria are neutralized by the bicarbonate content of the saliva. (23)
Furthermore, a higher chewing effort causes you to eat slower and less overall. Eating and chewing slowly and mindfully will make you feel full sooner. In the long term, you can counteract the development of obesity. (23)
Combine fiber-rich foods with sufficient liquid
Since fiber from food attracts water and swells during digestion, drinking enough water is particularly important when eating a high-fiber diet. (16) Drink a large glass of water during or after each meal. This also applies to between meals and snacks.
The more fiber foods you eat, the more water you should drink.
The minimum amount should not differ from two liters of unsweetened liquid without caffeine. (1) You should be careful not to drink too large amounts at once, but rather to drink many small portions throughout the day. This is how the water is best absorbed and used by your body.
Properly prepare foods with fiber
Some foods with fiber contain inhibitors such as phytic acid or tannins. These inhibit the absorption of important nutrients. With the right preparation, however, they can be rendered harmless. Dried legumes and grains should be soaked for at least 10 hours before cooking. The soaking water is no longer used after this time. (16)
Broccoli and other collards are best lightly steamed. This makes them more digestible and only loses a few nutrients. (Image source: Ravi Sharma / unsplash)
For a balanced and high-fiber diet, you should consume around 600 grams of vegetables and fruit. Because heat has a negative impact on the effectiveness of fiber, you should eat about half that amount raw in salads or similar.
However, some vegetables, such as cabbage, are somewhat unpalatable raw. These become more digestible through gentle steaming with little water. (16)
Spices for foods containing fiber
Eating a high-fiber diet can cause bloating and abdominal pain. These usually occur at the beginning of a change in diet. Certain spices can prevent and even alleviate these side effects.
Foods with fiber can be combined with certain spices. These can prevent bloating.
Caraway, anise and fennel are considered to be particularly effective against flatulence. Especially cabbage dishes can be combined well with these. You can also make tea or an infusion from them and drink it after the meal. The inner warmth also helps to relax the muscles and thus alleviate possible digestive cramps. (15)
Gradually transition from a low-fiber to a high-fiber diet
If you're looking to change your diet from a low-fiber to a high-fiber diet, the most important thing is to do it slowly. Since your digestive system is not used to a high fiber intake, you may experience side effects such as flatulence and abdominal pain, especially at the beginning. (15)
A muesli with fruit, nuts and dried fruit is an ideal high-fiber breakfast that will keep you full for a long time. (Image source: Alexander Mils / unsplash)
You should therefore gradually increase your fiber intake. You can also start by avoiding gassy veggies like legumes, cabbage, and onions, and instead focus on whole grains, nuts, fruits, and other veggies. Gentle physical activity, such as going for a walk after eating, can also help prevent and improve symptoms. (15)
Foods with fiber are part of every healthy diet. They support digestion and thus promote our overall health. For this reason, plant-based foods should be part of every meal. This way you can make sure you're getting enough fiber.
If you want to change your diet, you should do it slowly. The easiest way to make the transition is to replace some of the ingredients in your favorite dishes with higher-fiber alternatives. However, care should be taken when consuming foods with fiber if there is a problem with the gastrointestinal tract. If this is not the case and you focus your diet on vegetables, fruit and whole grain products, you and your digestion will be great!
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