Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Best Sources of Fiber

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, fiber is essential to our overall health. It's found in many sources now, but what are the best? Believe it or not, there are differences between the fiber added to cereals and yogurts and the fiber found naturally in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. As always, I'm a proponent for the natural, whole foods route.

The fiber added to foods is called “functional fiber.” It has been extracted or isolated with chemicals or some other new fangled scientific method. Their effects are not extensively studied and benefits are not the same as natural soluble and insoluble fiber. Although they may bulk up stool and prevent constipation, they do not have the cholesterol-lowering effects of natural soluble fiber. The American Dietetic Association even states that natural fiber is superior to functional fiber.

The bottom line is look to natural, whole foods for the best sources of fiber. The following foods contain a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber, but they have been categorized by the fiber that they contain more of.

Some great sources of soluble fiber are:
Nuts & Beans: Black-eyed peas, chickpeas, pinto beans, flaxseeds, kidney beans, lentils, northern beans, soy
Vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, jerusalem artichokes, most root vegetables, most (e.g., sweet potatoes, onions, daikon, burdock white potatoes, beets, turnip), summer squash, winter squash
Fruits: Apples, apricots, avocados, citrus (e.g., oranges, grapefruits, tangerines), figs, mangoes, plums, prune juice, strawberries
Whole Grains: Most starchy grains, barley, brown rice, oat bran, oats (rolled), psyllium seed husk (a mucilage soluble fiber), quinoa

You can find insoluble fiber in:
Nuts & Beans: Cashews, lima beans, cocoa powder-natural, peanut and peanut butter, pecans, seeds (e.g., sunflower, pumpkin), white beans
Vegetables: Artichokes, bitter gourd, carrots, corn, celery, leafy greens, parsnips, peas, pepper, sprouts, tomato, vegetable skins (e.g., potatoes, cucumber, tomato, squash), zucchini
Fruits: Bananas (slightly more insoluble), blackberries, cherries, grapes, melons, persimmon, pineapple, skins of fruits
Whole Grains: Bran cereals/muffins, granola, muesli, popcorn, rye products, wheat bran, whole grain bread, whole wheat

My favorite form of healthy fiber is steel cut oats with tons of cinnamon and almond milk for breakfast. What is yours?

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