Illustration of a checked book and insoluble fiber foods

10 min read

Easy Ways to Add Insoluble Fiber Foods into Your Everyday Routine


If you’ve landed on this page, you probably already know that fiber is more than just a wellness buzzword. Instead, it’s the stuff our bodies can’t digest—the “bulk” or “roughage” that passes through our stomachs and colons pretty much intact, which makes it an essential ingredient for good gut health. It’s kind of like a sponge that keeps things moving through your system. But...let’s pause, do you know where fiber comes from, exactly? And what’s all this about soluble fiber versus insoluble fiber? What is insoluble fiber anyway, and what are easy ways to add insoluble fiber foods to your diet? You’ve come to the right place.


What is fiber?


First things first: Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate found in various foods. Unlike fat, protein, or even other kinds of carbs, which your body breaks down and absorbs, fiber cannot be digested and absorbed. It can come in a whole range of fruits and vegetables, and we’ll get to that later.


Soluble Fiber versus Insoluble Fiber


As you may have noticed on nutrition labels, there are two kinds of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble. The former holds onto water, turning into a gel-like material in the body. The latter doesn’t dissolve in water at all, and instead adds bulk to your stool, helping food pass through your system.


Why do we need fiber?


Fiber can support healthy bowel movements, helps lower cholesterol, and helps control blood sugar for people with diabetes. Because it’s a bulking agent, fiber also makes you feel fuller, which can help you maintain a healthy weight.1 And there’s more! (We told you it’s more than just a wellness buzzword.) Fiber can also contribute to gut health by serving as fuel for your microbes, says Stanford University Associate Professor of microbiology and immunology Justin Sonnenburg. In a 2016 study, he indicated that consuming less fiber translates to fewer microbes in the gut, while eating more fiber equals more microbes. And more microbes are a great thing for gut health.2


Recommended fiber amount


How much of this stuff should you be getting in your diet each day? The American Heart Association says most healthy people need 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a day from food, not supplements. (The reason for that last qualifier is that high-fiber foods are typically nutritionally dense, packed with vitamins and other good stuff, so incorporating those foods into your diet instead of just fiber supplements will have far-reaching effects.) Sadly, most Americans get just 15 grams a day.3 Not enough, folks. Not enough.


Understand Nutritional Labeling


To find the amount of fiber contained in a product, the food label will provide this exact information. Under the “carbohydrate” category, you will see the amount of fiber listed. If you do not see fiber listed in this space, you can assume that the product you are choosing is fiber-free.


Sources of insoluble fiber


Adding insoluble fiber to your diet really isn’t that hard if you know where to look. Some of your favorite foods probably have insoluble fiber, and you might not even know it! Well, now you do.


Whole-wheat flour


If you haven’t yet tried baking with whole-wheat flour or buying whole grain pasta (or making your own whole wheat pasta!), give it a whirl. The extra texture makes for a more satisfying experience, in our humble opinion, and it’s toothsome enough that it will leave you wanting more. Plus, there are 13.1 grams of fiber in 100 grams—a whole lot more than the 2.7 grams of fiber in 100 grams of white flour.4


Wheat bran


Speaking of baking, how do you like bran muffins? Great. Wheat bran is a mega source of insoluble fiber; in fact, it’s 90 percent insoluble fiber. There are 24.8 grams of the stuff in one cup, as opposed to the 14.5 grams of insoluble fiber in a cup of oat bran, for example. You get the picture.


Nuts


You might not think of nuts as a high source of insoluble fiber, but they’re quite high! For example, a cup of whole almonds contains 17.9 grams of fiber.5 There are 7.84 grams of fiber in a cup of walnuts,6 and 13 grams in a cup of pistachios.7


Beans


Beans, as you probably know, are fiber-full. Cooked black beans contain a whopping 15 grams of fiber per cup, while canned baked beans contain 10 grams per cup.8


Cauliflower


The cruciferous veggie of the moment contains almost four grams of insoluble fiber per cup.9 Roast florets, slice the whole head into steaks and sear in a cast-iron skillet, or just eat them raw. Either way, you will get a boost of fiber when you enjoy this veggie. The reason this vegetable is so beloved is that it’s sturdy and a great blank slate for all manner of preparations, so get creative, and get your fiber!


Potatoes


We’ll forgive you if you’re surprised by this one, but potatoes are actually a great source of insoluble fiber, too. One medium Russet potato contains almost four grams of fiber.10


Easy Ways to Add Insoluble Fiber Foods in Everyday


If you need a little inspiration for working some of these foods into your everyday diet, we’ve got you covered.


Bake with Whole Wheat Flour


All you whole wheat flour skeptics can start by swapping in one-third a cup of whole wheat flour into your recipes and tasting the impact for yourself. Your taste buds will thank you, to say nothing of your gut. Quick bread -- think zucchini bread or banana bread -- is a good place to start with desserts, and if you’re a bread baker, just go for it. You’ll never look back.


Snack Right


Put down the chips and start snacking like a grownup. That means peanut butter on that crusty whole wheat bread you just baked, crudités and dip with high-fiber veggies, popcorn, and nuts. It might be hard at the beginning, but once you find flavors and combinations that you like, you’ll be delighted at how sustaining snacking this way can be, as opposed to mindlessly shoving chips in your face.


Start with Breakfast


Don’t skip breakfast! It’s such a good opportunity to get in that high-fiber fruit, oatmeal, bran muffins, bran cereal, whole grain bread, whole grain waffles… we could go on. Plus, starting your day with a high-fiber breakfast will leave you full and satisfied for at least a few hours. But seriously, you should be good until lunchtime.


Switch to whole grains


A lot of pre-packaged foods are made with whole grains, making it easy to add fiber to your diet. At home, use whole grains in your cooking. Choose whole grains instead of refined choices -- think brown rice instead of white or whole grain bread instead of classic white.


Sneak in legumes


While you’re at it, sneak in the legumes whenever you can. Making a quesadilla? Crack open a can of black or pinto beans, rinse, warm in the microwave with some olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and your spice of choice (try cumin or smoked paprika for starters). Toss them into your quesadilla and you’ve added flavor, texture, and, you got it, fiber, with about two minutes of extra work. Throw some chickpeas into your salad, or white beans on top of your soup. It’s really that easy.


Adding in insoluble fiber takeaway


Adding insoluble fiber to your diet truly isn’t a difficult endeavor, and the effects will pay off immediately. Making simple swaps in your diet can help you meet your daily quota, and in turn, support your gut health in a natural way. We’ll drink—some OLIPOP—to that!


If you want to learn how much fiber you should eat per day, check out our other article on daily fiber here.



Sources


  1. “How to Add More Fiber to Your Diet.” Mayo Clinic. , 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983.
  2. Edward C Deehan and Jens Walter, “The Fiber Gap and the Disappearing Gut Microbiome: Implications for Human Nutrition - PubMed,” Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism: TEM 27, no. 5 (May 1, 2016), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tem.2016.03.001.
  3. UCSF Health. “Increasing Fiber Intake.” ucsfhealth.org. UCSF Health, March 14, 2019. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/increasing-fiber-intake.
  4. “FoodData Central.” Usda.gov, 2021. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169761/nutrients.
  5. “FoodData Central.” Usda.gov, 2021. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170567/nutrients.
  6. “FoodData Central.” Usda.gov, 2021. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170187/nutrients.
  7. “FoodData Central.” Usda.gov, 2021. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170184/nutrients.
  8. “Best Sources of Insoluble Fiber & Benefits of Insoluble Fiber - FAFHHC.” Family Always First Home Care, May 6, 2020. https://fafhhc.com/the-top-sources-of-insoluble-fiber-and-why-you-need-it/.
  9. “Best Sources of Insoluble Fiber & Benefits of Insoluble Fiber - FAFHHC.” Family Always First Home Care, May 6, 2020. https://fafhhc.com/the-top-sources-of-insoluble-fiber-and-why-you-need-it/.‌
  10. “FoodData Central.” Usda.gov, 2021. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170030/nutrients.
Cheat Sheet
  • Fiber doesn’t just help promote healthy bowel movements. It’s great for gut health, and helps keep cholesterol and weight in check.
  • Soluble fiber and insoluble fiber are both important. One dissolves in water into a gel-like substance in the body, acting like a sponge, and the other acts as a bulking agent.
  • With the long list of fiber-rich foods, getting enough fiber in your diet is easier than you think.
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