Adding fiber-rich vegetables to your meals is one of the easiest, tastiest and most nutritious ways to get more fiber into your diet. And that’s something most of us probably need to pay more attention to.
Adults should get between 25 and 38 grams of fiber each day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But many people fall well short of that, ending up closer to 10 to 15 grams a day, experts tell TODAI.com. This may leave you feeling withdrawn and bloated. You may also notice that you feel hungry shortly after a meal.
So how can you get more fiber? Fiber-rich vegetables are a great place to start. Not only are there many delicious, varied vegetables to choose from, but they often come with other nutrients, such as vitamin C and folic acid. That’s why eating with fiber and gut health in mind can also help you achieve other health goals.
Why is fiber so important?
Fiber is “your system’s street cleaner,” as Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, puts it, helping to clear excess waste from your body. It maintains your ability to absorb nutrients from food and prevents constipation and bloating, Derocha tells TODAI.com.
Soluble fiber, which swells in water, slows the movement of food through the intestines. This helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, explained TODAI.com earlier. Insoluble fiber does the opposite, meaning it pushes the stool through the intestines faster. It also bulks up your stool and increases the feeling of fullness after a meal, which can help with weight loss.
It’s important to get both types of fiber in your meals throughout the day, which can be a challenge. But including more plant foods, especially vegetables, in your diet is an easy way to get both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Because fiber is found in plants, filling your plate with plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes is “a surefire way to increase your fiber intake,” says Whitney Linsenmeier, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Saint Louis University and a spokesperson for the Academy. for nutrition and dietetics, says TODAI.com
In particular, vegetables are rich in insoluble fiber, which bulks up your stool and speeds up transit time, says Linsenmeier. “Because of these properties, the fiber found in vegetables may be particularly useful for preventing or treating constipation,” she adds.
Fiber-rich vegetables to add to your meals
While all plants contain fiber, some get “MVP status because of their higher fiber content,” says Linsenmeier.
Some of those top fiber-rich vegetables include:
A medium artichoke contains 7 grams of fiber, says Linsenmeier. Cooking with artichokes can be a little intimidating because of the tough outer leaves. But they are surprisingly versatile and can be grilled, stuffed, steamed or stewed.
Hearty greens like kale, collards, turnips, and spinach come with lots of fiber, says Derocha. Use them as a base for a salad full of vegetables, stewed as a side dish with dinner or mixed into your morning quiche.
A chopped cup of this brightly colored vegetable contains nearly 4 grams of fiber, according to the USDA. Plus, they also have natural fruit sugar for an energy boost. Raw carrot sticks or baby carrots make a great, nutritious snack (especially paired with a little hummus or peanut butter), or try baking them with a honey-balsamic glaze.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, are a great option if you want to add more fiber to your diet. Try adding roasted broccoli to your meals with other high-fiber foods, such as cauliflower, chickpeas, or Brussels sprouts. And, yes, frozen broccoli works too!
These root vegetables provide nearly 4 grams of fiber per cup, according to the USDA, making them a nutritious and colorful addition to any salad or side dish. They also contain a good amount of folate, also called vitamin B9, which is beneficial for heart development and health.
Another high-fiber vegetable, cauliflower is also rich in vitamin C and is an extremely versatile ingredient. Roasted cauliflower makes a great side dish (especially when topped with a delicious sauce) or added to salads. Or starchy potatoes or rice can be added to many recipes.
Both sweet potatoes and regular potatoes are nutritious root vegetables, each containing 3 to 4 grams of fiber per serving (with skin). There are countless ways to use potatoes in meals, including pan-roasting them, roasting them whole, or adding them to a casserole.
Since they’re on the starchy side, you may want to pair sweet potatoes and potatoes with foods that are higher in satisfying protein and healthy fats, like chicken, salmon, or tofu.
Roasted Brussels sprouts are a classic holiday side dish. And this tiny vegetable packs a whopping 3 grams of fiber per half-cup serving, says Linsenmeier. Switch things up by tossing lightly cooked sprouts into a salad or sautéing them alongside salmon and another fiber-rich vegetable: asparagus.
Tomatoes might be a less obvious fiber-rich vegetable, but Derocha has good reason to include them on his list. With about 1.5 grams of fiber per medium-sized tomato, according to the USDA, they’re easy to add as a fiber boost to any sandwich, pasta dish or salad.
Vegetables rich in prebiotic fiber
In addition to all the other health benefits of fiber, some specific fiber-rich vegetables also act as prebiotics, Linsenmeier says, meaning they promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
“We know how important the gut microbiome is to our overall gut health and the underlying health of every body system,” she says. You can think of prebiotic fiber as healthy food for the bacteria (that make up your gut microbiome) to help them thrive and reproduce.
These are fibers, often soluble fibers, that are not chemically digested in the colon, she explains, but are instead fermented by the good bacteria there.
Some vegetables that contain prebiotic fiber include:
Fiber-rich vegetables are a good place to start getting more fiber into your meals, but they’re by no means the end of the road. Combine these vegetables with a variety of whole grains, fruits, beans and legumes to get even more healthy fiber in every bite.
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