Get all the facts on fiber, like why it’s good for you and the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber. Plus, info on fiber and athletes and 12 high fiber foods that you might want to avoid before training.
I love the “f word”. Fiber, that is! When asked about healthy foods, I almost always recommend foods that have plenty of fiber. After all, fiber is the nutrient that helps keep you regular, and it’s associated with lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. Not to mention that fiber is found in the healthiest of foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains.
But there is one slight problem–fiber can cause gas, especially in athletes that have to deal with stomach issues on the regular. [Read more about common GI complaints from runners and how to fix them in The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Runner.]
That doesn’t mean you should avoid fiber, but it does mean you may have to steer clear of some of these foods before exercise. As they say, knowledge is power, so arm yourself with some info about fiber in order to fuel the right way.
What is fiber?
Fiber is the stuff that makes you go to the bathroom, right? Well yes, but in even simpler terms, fiber is a carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. Whereas most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber passes through the body undigested. As it does so, it takes bile acids with it, which decreases blood cholesterol.
It also takes the body a while to digest fiber, which helps keep you full and plays a role in regulating hunger. Fiber adds bulk to the stool and contributes to digestive regularity.
But that’s not all– fiber has been linked to a reduction in many serious diseases. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that “higher intakes of dietary fiber reduces the risk of developing several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers, and have been associated with lower body weights.” Only 1 in 10 American adults eat enough veggies everyday, so most people don’t get enough fiber. The daily fiber recommendations are:
- 25 grams for women
- 38 grams for men
Soluble versus insoluble fiber
There are two main categories of fiber– soluble and insoluble. Almost all plant foods contain a mixture of these two types of fiber, but some are higher in one type. Let’s break these down:
Soluble fiber is the main type of fiber found in grains, legumes, seeds, and some fruits and vegetables. It’s dissolved in water and helps slow the rate at which carbs enter the blood stream. That means it regulates blood sugar and contributes to feelings of fullness.
Insoluble fiber is not dissolvable, and it passes right through the body. In other words, insoluble fiber is the kind that helps you poop, treats constipation and adds bulk to the stool.
Fiber and Athletes
Fiber affects everyone differently, and it can be beneficial and problematic for athletes. Certain endurance sports, like running or swimming, can cause stomach issues and eating high fiber foods contribute to this unrest. [Read How To Avoid Stomach Issues While Running.] Unfortunately, the only way to know what foods may affect you is through trial and error. But some of the below foods may be too much on your stomach to eat before exercise. Yet, they are still part of a healthy athlete’s diet.
To learn more about how to time your meal for fueling, check out The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Runner.
12 High Fiber Foods
Green starchy peas have plenty of healthy carbs and fiber. Keep a bag of frozen peas in your freezer to whip up a simple soup or add to a stir fry.
2. Black Beans, ½ cup, 7g
Beans are known for their gas-inducing properties. They might be a little too harsh on the stomach the night before a long run, but they have plenty of protein and fiber to fill you up afterwards. If you’re looking for some bean inspiration, whip up some Vegan Tacos or Pumpkin Black Bean Brownies.
3. Beets, 1 cup, 3g
These purple root veggies are packed full of nutrients, like antioxidants and fiber. And they are gorgeous, tasty and easy to roast up in the oven.
4. Cauliflower, 1.5 cup, 3.2 g
This trendy cruciferous veggie proves that white foods can be good for you! Cauliflower has been known to give some people gas, so be careful about eating it before a workout. Otherwise, dig into this Buffalo Cauliflower Rice Bowl and make a batch of these Cauliflower Poppers.
5. Brussels Sprouts, 1.5 cups, 5 g
This once hated tiny cabbage is now a fan favorite, and it’s loaded in fiber. Brussels Sprouts are so easy to roast in the oven or throw them on a flatbread for a family friendly dinner.
6. Pears (with skin), 1 medium, 9.9 g
The skin on this sweet fall fruit gives it a fiber boost. That means pears are a fruit that won’t spike your blood sugar!
7. Prunes, 1 cup, 12.3 g
Prunes are the answer to your constipation woes. Whether you like dried prunes or prune juice, these tiny fruits are sure to help you go. That said, you probalby want to stay away from them as pre-workout fuel.
8. Sweet Potatoes (with skin), 1 medium, 3.7g
Make sure you keep the skin on your sweet potato because that’s where all the fiber is found. Roast some up with other root veggies on a sheet pan for a simple weeknight dinner.
9. Lentils, ½ cup cooked, 7.5 g
These legumes are a favorite in my kitchen because of their protein and fiber content. Lentils keep me full and make a great replacement for meat. My favorite recipe is this Greek Lentil Power Bowl.
10. Apples (with skin), 1 medium, 5.3 g
This juicy portable fruit has tons of fiber in the skin, so make sure you munch on the entire thing to reap all the benefits.
11. Blueberries, 1 cup, 3.5 g
12. Oats, ½ cup dry, 4 g
It’s no secret that I love a good bowl of oats in the morning. It’s the fiber in them that keeps me full all morning. Not to mention that they are versatile, affordable and easy to turn into Pumpkin Oat Breakfast Cookies.