Many common foods are considered excellent sources of fiber. Most fruits, vegetables, legumes, and different types of grains have high-fiber levels, as do some snack foods. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are important facets of the human diet, as each aid in digestion and promote certain other health properties.
Fiber is necessary in the human diet to promote regularity and general digestive health. It additionally lowers blood cholesterol, regulates blood sugar levels, and may play a role in deterring colorectal cancer. Since a high-fiber diet helps people feel full faster, it also may be beneficial for weight loss purposes.
There are two types of fiber found in foods. Soluble fiber, which aids in softening stool, is often found in fruits, vegetables, oats, and legumes. Insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to stool and remains unchanged when entering the intestines, is often found in whole grains, vegetables, and wheat products. Both types are found in most fiber-rich foods, and both are necessary for proper digestion.
The best sources of fiber tend to be foods which are less processed. Grain refining reduces the level of fiber in breads and other grain products. Therefore, whole wheat, whole grain, and multi-grain products tend to be much higher in fiber than those made from white flour. When practicing a high-fiber diet, it is also recommended to eat fruits and vegetables with the peels and skins left on.
As fiber is, by definition, a virtually indigestible carbohydrate, it is only natural that it is found in many types of grain products. High fiber breads include those labeled as whole wheat, whole grain, and multi-grain. Additionally, brown rice, wild rice, barley, oats, whole wheat pasta, and bulghur have high fiber levels. Multi-grain snacks, such as tortilla chips and crackers, are available on the market as well, though it may be advantageous to check nutrition facts on these labels. While being marketed as healthful products, some actually do not contain as much fiber as a consumer may be lead to believe.
Fruits, vegetables, and legumes are considered to be excellent sources of fiber. Apples, oranges, tomatoes, and bananas are a few high-fiber fruits. Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, celery, and corn also have high fiber levels, as do unpeeled potatoes. It may be beneficial to eat fruits and vegetables raw as often as possible, though cooked fruits and vegetables still offer health benefits. Legumes such as kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lentils, and peas are among the best sources of fiber available.
Certain sources of fiber found in pill form may be helpful to some, though are not recommended to actually replace the fiber that comes naturally from foods. Such supplements contain fairly small amounts and restricted types of fiber. Additionally, they do not contain the other vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are found in food sources.