‘Tis the season for comfort food, be it vegan mac and cheese or gooey chocolate brownies–but what happens when the table is cleared and your stomach is feeling less than pleased? Including more fiber in your diet can help improve digestion, boost energy, and cleanse your gut, and also prevent you from feeling, shall we say, a little backed-up. Here are the top 10 fiber-rich plant-based foods to incorporate into your diet, especially during the winter when the temptation to eat fat and sugar-rich foods is strong. Your gut will be in tip-top shape in no time!
These delicious and versatile legumes are packed with nutrients and come in numerous varieties. From stews to curries to dips, they are an excellent plant-based staple to have on hand, especially in the fall and winter months. Just one cup of cooked beans contains anywhere from 40-75% of the RDA of fiber, with navy beans and white beans topping the list. If you have trouble digesting beans, check out this article for tips to make them more digestible and less prone to causing, shall we say, “musical” gastrointestinal issues. In addition to being fiber-full, beans are rich in protein, magnesium, and iron, and can promote better cardiovascular health.
An apple a day may not keep the doctor away, but it will give you a boost of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, making it beneficial for just about every organ in your body! From sweet and soft to tart and crispy, there’s an apple for every occasion, and they can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. One medium-sized apple contains roughly 4.5 grams of fiber, or 15-20% of the RDA, and this fiber is largely concentrated in the skin, so avoid peeling apples if you want to get the full benefits. Apples are also packed with antioxidants, fight tooth decay, and may even lower the risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
3. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are becoming increasingly popular as an all-natural way to add fiber to your diet, though their health benefits extend beyond cleansing the digestive system. They come from the Salvia hispanica L. plant, and were cultivated as early as 3500 BC in countries such as Mexico and Guatemala. One ounce of chia seeds contains a whopping 11 grams of fiber, nearly 50% of the RDA! They are also rich in protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids–quite a lot of nutrients for such a tiny seed. Chia seeds can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, granola, or yogurt, just to list a few ideas. “Chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength,” and these seeds will definitely make you stronger in more ways than one!
Good for more than just making plain ‘ol oatmeal, oats are filled with nutrients and can be used in recipes ranging from cookies to mock “meatloaf” to granola bars. They come in several varieties depending on how processed they are–steel-cut, Scottish, rolled, and quick-cooking are four common types found in most grocery stores, in order from least to most processed. Steel-cut oats rank highest in terms of fiber, with a mere quarter cup containing 5 grams of fiber. Still, regardless of the kind, oats are packed with other nutrients such as protein, magnesium, and zinc, and can help boost heart health and improve digestion. They are also cheap and easy to cook, so add them to your shopping list this winter!
Lentils, similar to beans, are a wonderful dried-food staple to have in the pantry during fall and winter, given their nutritional profile and versatility. They come in several varieties, some of which are red lentils, green lentils, and French lentils, and usually cook up in 30-60 minutes (red lentils cook the fastest). Fiber-wise, lentils are at the top of the pack, with one cooked cup containing roughly 15 grams, or about 50% of the RDA. They are also rich in protein, iron, and B vitamins, and also contain valuable antioxidants.
For recipe ideas, try out this tasty Red Lentil Curry With Black Tahini and Roasted Cashews, or make some Red Lentil and Butternut Squash Burgers.
Edamame, or immature soy beans that are still in the pod, has been around for centuries, and originated in China more than 2,200 years ago, later migrating to Japan and finally, in the early 1900s, to the U.S. Just one cup of edamame contains 8 grams of fiber, making it a nutritious and filling food to snack on. Edamame is also an excellent source of protein and iron, and could potentially help lower cholesterol and improve overall heart health. They can be purchased either fresh or frozen in most grocery stores, and can easily be steamed, boiled, or even sautéed with some non-dairy butter and chopped garlic.
7. Brussels Sprouts
These cruciferous veggies may have a bad reputation for smelly and foul-tasting, but when cooked properly (e.g. not overcooked!) they can be both delicious and nutritious, and make an excellent side dish for your next holiday party. One cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains approximately 4 grams of fiber, or about 16% of the RDA. They are also rich in protein, vitamin C, and folate, and contain antioxidants called organosulfur compounds. So give Brussels sprouts another shot, and add them to your menu for dinner.
Almonds are a nutritional powerhouse in the nut family, and can be eaten raw, roasted, salted, chopped up, or even ground into almond flour or butter. They are packed with nutrients and make for a filling and delicious snack, or as an addition to both sweet and savory dishes. A mere quarter-cup of almonds contains roughly 3 grams of fiber, or 10-12% of the RDA, making them beneficial for digestion. Almonds are also rich in vitamin E and magnesium, and may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. So instead of grabbing a handful of chips at your next holiday gathering, try a bowl of roasted and salted almonds instead!
The humble broccoli plant, is, believe it or not, technically a man-made vegetable, derived from the wild cabbage plant called Brassica oleracea, and “cultivated to have a specific taste and flavor that was more palatable to people.” Broccoli has approximately 2.5 grams of fiber per cup, or about 10% of the RDA, so if you give yourself a large enough serving, you’re well on your way to getting nearly a quarter of what you should be eating every day. In addition to its fiber content, broccoli is also high in calcium and vitamin K, both crucial nutrients for building and maintaining strong bones.
Sweet, juicy, and packed with flavor, raspberries are a delicious and nutritious fruit, perfect to eat as-is or added to desserts, sauces, smoothies, and more. They are also extremely high in fiber–one cup of raspberries contains approximately 8 grams of fiber, or about 32% of the RDA. In addition to their digestive benefits, raspberries are also a good source of vitamin C and are full of antioxidants that fight off destructive free radicals in the body. Though they are only in season during the summertime, raspberries can also be purchased frozen, which preserves some of the nutrients and is handy in the winter when fresh fruit is scarce.
For related articles, read about The Importance of Fiber and How to Get More of it in Your Diet, or check out even more Plant-Based Fiber-Rich Recipes to Feed Your Gut.
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