Follow the fiber

This article was originally published in August 2014

Fiber doesn’t receive as much praise as other nutritional buzzwords (antioxidants, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids), but it should — a food’s fiber content is a great indicator of wholesome, minimally processed foods.

The more processed a food is, the lower its fiber content will be. A whole apple provides 3 to 4 grams of fiber while a peeled apple provides 2 grams, and apple juice contains no fiber at all. The same trend is visible as whole grains are refined, as vegetables get peeled, and as nuts (and beans) are processed into nut milks.

 

How much fiber?

Most Americans consume less than half of the recommended 25 to 38 grams of fiber we should be consuming each day, so there is plenty of room for improvement. It is wise to go slowly when increasing your fiber intake to allow your body to adapt — abdominal cramping or gas may occur if you transition too quickly to a higher fiber diet. Although the human body can handle much more than the 38 grams/day recommended by the USDA. Our “Paleolithic” ancestors very likely consumed over 100 grams of fiber each day — they certainly didn’t have any processed, packaged foods at their campfires!

 

Why fiber?

Increasing your fiber intake will help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you full in-between meals. Adequate fiber intake supports heart health because soluble fibers lower cholesterol levels. And of course fiber also supports gut health, as insoluble fibers help to push food through the GI tract. Another reason to love foods high in fiber (beans, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts) is because these foods provide those other nutritional buzzwords — vitamins, minerals and antioxidants galore!

 

Fiber and food preparation.

Peeling fruits and vegetables lowers their fiber content; but chopping, cooking, puréeing or blending foods will not reduce the fiber content at all.

Search for high-fiber foods made in the PCC Deli using our online deli nutrition database. “High fiber” is one of 10 nutritional filters to help you select the healthiest dishes.

 

Where you will (and won’t) find fiber

Super

Legumes: beans, lentils, peas
Whole grains: barley, buckwheat, bulgur
Dried fruits: apricots, prunes, raisins, etc.
Other: chia seeds, cocoa powder, tempeh, and certain fruits (avocados, figs, pears)

High

Whole grains: oats, popcorn, wild rice
Produce: artichoke hearts, bananas, Brussels sprouts, dates, winter squash, yams
Nuts & seeds

Good

Grains: brown rice, quinoa
Produce: apples, berries, oranges, peaches, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale, mushrooms, onions, potatoes (with skin), spinach
Other: peanut butter, tofu

Low

Refined grains: bread, pasta, “white” rice
Certain veggies: bell peppers, lettuce, peeled produce
Processed foods: baked goods, crackers, potato chips

No fiber

juice, soda, sugar, milk and other milk alternatives, eggs, cheese, meat, poultry, cooking oils

Tofu is a good source of fiber but tempeh is a fiber superstar! Try it in our recipe for PCC Southeast Asian Tempeh.

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