Top 10 High-Fiber Foods for Great Gut Health
You'll be surprised by how easy it is to squeeze these delicious ingredients into your diet.
Fiber is essential to the body. “Numerous studies have shown that adequate fiber consumption can help to reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers,” explains Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, president of KAK Consulting and former lead nutritionist at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. “It can also help with weight management and optimal gut health.” In fact, a 2019 study found that for every 8 gram increase of dietary fiber eaten per day, total deaths and incidence of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer decreased by 5 to 27 percent.
Two main fibers are found in foods. These are soluble (which swell in water) and insoluble (which do not swell in water). According to Kirkpatrick, both are critical for good health and both are best obtained through food. “I tell my patients to avoid any plant that has been stripped of fiber—think juice, white bread, white rice—and to always look for a more-bang-for-your-nutrition-buck option whenever you can. That means keeping those skins on your apples and throwing some seeds into that salad.”
Fiber plays a major role in improving gut health. A 2020 study found that diet and gut health were directly related and that foods rich in fiber had a beneficial impact on the gut microbiome. According to Kirkpatrick, fiber is converted into short chain fatty acids after fermentation by gut bacteria, which in turn has been associated with multiple health benefits. “In addition to consuming plenty of fiber, individuals may also consider supplemental probiotics as well to improve gut health,” she explains. (Find what you need to know about probiotic foods and supplements here).
These are the 10 best fiber-rich foods you should be eating, according to Kirkpatrick.
Blackberries are one of the best berries the body can get—flavor-wise, yes, but also nutritionally speaking. “In addition to their fiber content, blackberries boast the deepest hues in the berry family,” explains Kirkpatrick. Studies show that the deeper the color or hue of a plant, the more anthocyanins it provides and thus the more benefits. “Though all berries provide benefit (especially to the brain) blackberries have that extra boost of color that may yield added benefit.”
Fiber content: 7.5 grams per cup
Oats provide a double whammy of fiber benefit since they contain both soluble (the oat) and insoluble (the husk) fiber. “That means that oats can help to move bulk out of the body and help to lower cholesterol as well,” says Kirkpatrick. “Also, though ready-to-eat cereals are also often high in fiber, oats (and oatmeal) beat them out in a study showing that they were superior in controlling appetite and thus weight.” They also don’t have the added sugar that many cereals have.
Fiber content: 4 grams per half cup
Popcorn packs plenty of fiber and is one of the highest antioxidant snacks you can get. One study actually found that popcorn may contain more antioxidants than some fruits and vegetables. According to Kirkpatrick, the key to making healthy popcorn is to air pop it or make in avocado or coconut oil. You can add additional nutrient dense ingredients, like a drizzle of olive oil and some cinnamon or turmeric, too.
Fiber content: 6 grams per 2 tablespoons raw popping corn
Beans are the powerhouses of fiber content, providing a huge amount in a small serving. Additionally, bean-based noodles (like Banza) that contain just beans and water can be a great alternative for individuals who either don’t know how to cook them (learn here!) or prefer pasta to bean dishes. “What I love about beans is that they’re one of the only sources of fiber that also packs a serious protein punch as well,” Kirkpatrick says. “In addition, beans have been identified as a major player in helping to reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Fiber content: 9.6 grams per half cup
Fiber content: 5 grams per half cup
Pistachios are a great snack, especially if you want to get some crunch and satisfaction without carbs. According to Kirkpatrick, pistachios have been found in studies to help in the reduction of stress, reduce cholesterol, help with weight loss, and perhaps may have more antioxidants than other nuts. In terms of gut health, some studies suggest that pistachios are better than other nuts for gut health.
Fiber content: 3 grams per quarter cup
“Lentils have similar benefits to other beans—they reduce your risk of heart disease and help you manage your weight—but a 2019 study found that replacing potatoes or rice with lentils could result in a significant improvement in blood sugar control,” Kirkpatrick explains. The study found that lentils may inhibit enzymes involved in the process of absorbing glucose.
Fiber content: 7.8 grams per half cup
“Collard greens are one of my favorite foods to recommend to patients since they happen to be one of the best sources of plant-based calcium,” says Kirkpatrick. They are also easy to throw in a casserole, soup, or even eggs in the morning since they wilt down.” Collards have also been associated with improvements in eye health, as well as reducing the risk for colon cancer.
Fiber content: 1.4 grams per cup