High-Fiber-Content Foods: Fruits, Vegetables, and Cereals

Updated on March 11, 2014

What is fiber?

Fiber is part of the structure of fruits, vegetables, and cereals.
Fiber is part of the structure of fruits, vegetables, and cereals. | Source

Fiber is plant matter that can't be digested by humans. It is basically the cell walls of plants. It makes up the structures that support the plant, gather water and sunlight, and protect its seeds. More or less, plants are made up of three things: water, carbohydrates that people can digest, and carbohydrates that people can't digest, namely fiber.

This fiber, or indigestible carbohydrate, is further classified as insoluble or soluble. Insoluble fiber is the stuff that wood is made out of: cellulose and lignin. Soluble fiber includes large sugar- and starch-like molecules, like polysaccharides and pectin.

Why eat fiber?

When modern civilizations process vegetable foods, they seek out the sugar and starch and protein: turning whole wheat and brown rice into white bread and white rice, peeling apples and potatoes, turning fruit into juice, turning beans into tofu. Along the way they remove and discard the fiber: the bran, the skins, the pulp, the gel, the big molecules that the human body never learned to break down into energy.

But these no-calorie, non-nutrient parts have health benefits of their own which are looking more important all the time. Not only does fiber regulate digestion, making people feel full and enabling the flow of digested matter through the body, but it absorbs toxins, feeds helpful microorganisms, reduces “bad” cholesterol, and fights diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Fiber content of different foods

The data below, from the USDA, includes many fruits, vegetables, and grain products that are high in fiber, plus a few that are less high in fiber but so low in carbohydrates or high in protein that they could be useful in a low carb/high protein diet.

Some fruits high in fiber

(click column header to sort results)
Fruit  
Fiber (grams)  
Carbohydrates (grams)  
Protein (grams)  
Coconut
9
6
2.29
Avocados
6.7
1.94
1.96
Dates
6.7
68.3
1.81
Raspberries
6.5
5.44
1.2
Guavas
5.4
8.92
2.55
Blackberries
5.3
4.31
1.39
Pomegranates
4
14.7
1.67
Pears
3.1
13
0.39
Kiwis
3
11.7
1.14
Figs (fresh)
2.9
16.3
0.75
Apples
2.8
10.8
0.44
Bananas
2.6
20.2
1.09
Oranges
2.4
9.35
0.94
Blueberries
2.4
12.1
0.74
Strawberries
2
5.68
0.67
Fiber, carbohydrate and protein content of some fruits (per 100 grams). Source: US Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database (USDA) http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/index

Some vegetables (and vegetable products) high in fiber

(click column header to sort results)
Vegetable  
Fiber (grams)  
Carbohydrate (grams)  
Protein (grams)  
Navy beans (cooked)
10.5
15.5
8.2
Kidney Beans (cooked)
9.3
12.5
9.5
Black Beans (cooked)
8.7
15
8.9
Artichokes (cooked)
8.6
2.79
2.89
Lentils (cooked)
7.9
11.6
9.02
Green peas (cooked)
5.5
10.1
5.36
Edamame (cooked)
5.2
4.74
10.9
Original Gardenburger
5
19.4
7.19
Winter squash (baked)
4.9
5.91
2.48
Refried beans (canned)
4.7
8.8
5.28
Collards (cooked)
4
1.65
2.71
Meatless Frankfurter
3.9
3.8
19.61
Kale
3.6
5.15
4.28
Broccoli (cooked)
3.3
3.88
2.38
Carrots (cooked)
3
5.22
0.76
Brussels sprouts (cooked)
2.6
4.5
2.55
Okra (cooked)
2.5
2.01
1.87
Spinach (cooked)
2.4
1.35
2.97
Cauliflower (cooked)
2.3
1.81
1.84
Tofu (firm, made with calcium sulfate)
2.3
1.97
15.8
Lettuce (raw)
2.1
1.2
1.23
Beansprouts
1.8
4.1
3.04
Celery
1.6
1.37
0.69
Tomatoes
1.2
2.69
0.88
Table 2. Fiber, carbohydrate, and protein content of some vegetables and vegetable products, per 100 grams. Source: US Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database (USDA) http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/index

Some fiber-rich cereals, seeds and grains

(click column header to sort results)
Cereal, seed, or grain  
Fiber (grams)  
Carbohydrate (grams)  
Protein (grams)  
General Mills Fiber One Bran Cereal
47.5
37.09
6.69
Kellogg's All-Bran Bran Buds
42.5
38.5
8.9
Flaxseeds
27
1.88
18.29
Popcorn (air-popped)
14.5
63.3
12.9
Wheat germ, raw
13.2
38.6
23.15
Almonds
12.5
9.05
21.15
Post Shredded Wheat
12
66.76
11.37
Sesame seeds
11.8
11.65
17.73
Kellogg's Raisin Bran
11.4
65.89
7.72
Pistachios
10.3
17.21
20.27
Homemade granola
9
44.25
14.85
Sunflower seeds
8.6
11.4
20.78
Peanut butter, chunky
8
13.57
24.06
Walnuts
6.7
7.01
15.23
Pumpkin seed kernels
6.5
8.21
29.84
Whole wheat spaghetti (cooked)
4.5
22.04
5.33
Quinoa (cooked)
2.8
18.5
4.4
Brown rice (cooked)
1.8
21.16
2.58
Oats (cooked)
1.7
10.3
2.54
Fiber, carbohydrate, and protein content of some cereals, seeds, and grains. Source: US Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database (USDA) http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/index

Health benefits of fiber

In the last few decades, nutritionists have realized that populations with traditional high-fiber diets are less subject to “diseases of affluence” like heart disease and diabetes than people on the refined-carbohydrate 20th-century Western diet.

Fiber lowers cholesterol. Soluble fiber, found in oats and other grains, lowers “bad”, or LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. It also lowers blood sugar levels.

Fiber seems to reduce cancer. Alice Bender, a nutritionist for the American Institute for Cancer Research, says it is likely that fiber-rich foods--either the fiber itself, or something else in these whole vegetable foods--reduce some kinds of cancer. “We know that a plant-based diet rich in fruits, nonstarchy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains is associated with a lower risk of a number of the most common cancers.”


"We don't dine alone, we dine with trillions of friends - we have to consider the microbes which live in our gut”

Prof. Jeffrey Gordon, Washington University School of Medicine

Relationship between fiber and microflora

Fiber may provide its more mysterious benefits to health by means of the microflora (bacteria and other microbes) in the human gut. Fiber feeds “trillions” of microorganisms living inside us, creatures that provide us with services we are just now beginning to appreciate. We can contain three to five pounds of these passengers. In fact, of the cells contained in the human body, only 10% are actually human: the other 90% are microbes of many kinds. The mix of microbe species changes with age and with diet. Babies are born with no bacteria in their gut, but quickly acquire them. People who eat a lot of carbohydrates have a different mix of species than those who eat a lot of meat. Obese people have a different mix than slender ones.

Many of these microorganisms can digest the soluble fiber components that people cannot. They live off this extra energy and in turn provide nutrition to human organs like the colon and liver. It’s beginning to appear that gut bacteria provide chemical signals that can affect mood and the immune system. These microbes have coevolved along with us and the plants we eat over millions of years; they belong with us, just like whole plants belong in our diet.

How much fiber do you need to eat?

Nutritionists recommend 25-30 grams a day; Americans eat about half that much. For children, nutritionists recommend five grams a day plus the child’s age.

Even though fiber is good for you, people say not to make a drastic increase in your intake, but to add whole foods gradually, to avoid digestive disruption. No doubt our trillions of gut bacteria need a few lifetimes (a few weeks?) to adapt to change in their world, even beneficial change.

Fiber in a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet

Some people control their weight by shifting their diet to include more protein and less carbohydrate. But such dieters risk not getting enough fiber, because animal proteins--meat, milk, eggs--do not contain fiber, and "meat substitutes" made from tofu and gluten may or may not contain much. Here are some fiber sources that may be useful in such a diet:

  • Nuts, for example sunflower seeds and almonds (high protein, high fiber, relatively low carbohydrate).
  • Non-starchy green (or greenish) vegetables like artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and okra (low carbohydrate, high fiber).
  • Juicy or leafy vegetables like celery, greens, and tomatoes (low carbohydrate, high in water and fiber)
  • High-fat fruits: avocados, coconut (low carbohydrate, high fiber)

Unless a low-carbohydrate diet is very strict, it should include the following whole, high-fiber foods in moderation:

  • Fruit (contains carbohydrate, but better than sweets or soda)
  • Beans (high protein, though relatively high carbohydrate)
  • Whole grains (relatively high carbohydrate, but some protein, and better than white bread or rice)

People can add additional fiber to their diet with supplements like bran cereals or psyllium, although this runs the risk of missing micro-nutrients present in whole plant foods themselves. Or they can sprinkle ground flaxseeds on their food as a fiber supplement (the seeds are easier to digest if they are ground up).

Keeping fresh fruit in the house is a good way to increase the fiber in your diet.
Keeping fresh fruit in the house is a good way to increase the fiber in your diet. | Source

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Jenny Balaji 

        7 years ago

        Hi, I am 63yrs old, female, and have just been diagnosed with thyroid, borderline diabetes and cholestrol. I am on medication and since i had pain in my legs and have put on weight, I am feeling so much better . I would like to know what veggies and fruits I can really eat without thinking twice about calories etc. Please help me lead a good and healthy life from today onwards....Thanks

      • mabmiles profile image

        mabmiles 

        7 years ago

        Thanks for the list.

      • profile image

        Multiman 

        7 years ago

        Good information, I have voted up and linked

      • JPSO138 profile image

        JPSO138 

        9 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

        This is very informative and helpful...

      • advisor4qb profile image

        advisor4qb 

        9 years ago from On New Footing

        bookmarking this page!

      • skgrao profile image

        S K G Rao. 

        9 years ago from Bangalore City - INDIA.

        Dear Mr.Paul Edmondson,

        Please give Veg Diet for 73+ Male ( Diabetic )

        What should be for:

        1) Breakfast.

        2) Lunch.

        3) Evening Snacks.

        4) Dinner.

        5) Bedtime.

        6) Early Morinng.

        Must be South Indian Veg.

        Thanks.

        S K G RAO

      • ocbill profile image

        ocbill 

        9 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

        I wonder what is more favorable fruits that are higherin fiber thanothers or fruits that have more anti-oxidants..fibrousruits takes out pollutants in the body and anti-oxidants helps combat them.. correct me if I am wrong.

      • ethel smith profile image

        Eileen Kersey 

        9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

        Love kidney beans, and chick peas

      • Staci-Barbo7 profile image

        Staci-Barbo7 

        9 years ago from North Carolina

        Paul, my favorite is kidney beans, served with basmati rice and homemade sweet yogurt.  The juice of the kidney beans makes a wonderful soup base, too.

        I found a webpage of video notes for the video "GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER IN THE NEW MILLENIUM - FIBRE," produced by Video Education Australasia.  The article can be found at:

        http://www.veavideo.com/teachersNotes/GUESS22.PDF

        According to the video notes, "Cooking foods does not reduce their fiber content, but cooking does make some foods more palatable and digestible. Much of the fiber is in the skins of fruit and vegetables."

        It seems reasonable to me that you can't destroy fiber in food, so long as one can still CONSUME essentially the same amount of food (minus water loss) after all the soaking, boiling, poaching, baking, blanching,  broiling, sauteeing, fricaseeing, stir frying, deep frying, skewering, and barbecuing! 

      • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

        Paul Edmondson 

        9 years ago from Burlingame, CA

        I think cooking vegetables takes out some of the good stuff in them, but I don't know what the reduction value is, but isn't fiber non digestable. It seems to reason, although I don't know, that cooking them would increase the percentage of fiber.

      • profile image

        gredmondson 

        9 years ago

        I am so surprised that raspberries are so high in fiber! I wonder if raw foods, such as carrots, have the same fiber content cooked.

      • RVDaniels profile image

        RVDaniels 

        9 years ago from Athens, GA

        Heathy and tastes good too! Thanks.

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