Fiber: 10 Great Sources (Part 1)
Last month I posted about the benefits of kids eating a high fiber diet. This month the magazine Today’s Dietician came out with a list of their top ten foods high in fiber. This list is great because it’s chosen by dietitians for dietitians. It’s not just a list of foods that are highest in fiber – it’s a list of high fiber foods that are also overall really nutritious. Here are the first 5 in alphabetical order, with 5 more to come soon.
Did you know that of all the nuts in the USDA database, almonds are the highest in fiber? (Incidentally, this is also why homemade almond milk needs to be strained.) Just one 23 nut snack provides 3 grams of fiber. But not only are almonds the nuts highest in fiber, they are also the nuts with the highest calcium and Vitamin E.
Almonds also have the benefit of reducing heart disease. They lower bad LDL cholesterol while maintaining levels of good HDL cholesterol.* If your children are overweight and you are looking to help them lose some weight, including almonds in their diet may also help them lose weight faster.** And if your kids have diabetes or a pre-diabetic condition, eating almonds in a meal that otherwise causes blood sugar to spike can help moderate blood glucose levels so they don’t rise so much or so quickly.***
My kids eat a lot of almonds. They have some great snack cups that I fill with almonds for a snack when we go out. I also often keep a small bag of raw almonds on the counter – when my kids come begging for a snack while I’m preparing dinner, a few almonds keep them happy but don’t fill them up so much that they can’t eat their meal. I also mix chopped or slivered almonds into a lot of the foods I prepare. I add them to muffins and cakes, muesli and cereal, plus yogurt and salads. Finally, I always keep an abundance of almond meal on hand that I can mix into cakes, cookies, and muffins. You can even make entire recipes that substitute almonds for flour for a gluten free, high fiber treat!
Fresh artichokes can be a bit of a pain to prepare, but if you do they are worth it. Just one medium sized artichoke has 10.3 grams of fiber, making it one of the highest fiber vegetables out there. In addition to fiber, artichokes also boast high levels of Vitamin C, magnesium, and – especially good for pregnant mums – folate. Artichokes were also the highest ranked vegetable for antioxidants in a 2006 study and were in the top 10 out of the more than 1100 foods examined.****
When I make fresh artichokes, I like to steam or boil them and then make a hollandaise sauce. Kids can have fun pulling off the leaves, dipping them, and then sucking the meat off each leaf. (Of course they may need some assistance when they get to the choke, depending on their age and familiarity.) Personally, I find fresh artichokes can sometimes be a bit high maintenance, so you can cut corners by buying canned or jarred artichoke hearts. Add them to all sorts of dishes, like quiches and salads, for a big fiber boost.
When I first learned that avocados are a good source of fiber, I was really surprised. After all, they are so smooth and creamy! 1 cup of sliced avocado contains 10 grams of fiber. Avocados are really a superfood, as they contain lots of Vitamins C, E, K, and B6, in addition to folate, potassium, magnesium, beta-carotene, and lutein!
Avocados are also really high in healthy fats. Over 65% of the fat in avocados are monounsaturated fats, which are good for heart health, with over 10% of their fat polyunsaturated. Avocados are rivaled only by olives for their heart-healthy fat content. But another benefit of this type of fat is that it helps the body dissolve and integrate fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, as well as helping the body absorbing phytochemicals.
Avocados are one of the first foods I feed my babies. With their neutral flavor and smooth texture when mashed, they go over well as one of a baby’s first foods. They especially love a 50-50 mix of avocado and banana we call “avonana.” Older kids will enjoy avocados mashed and used as spread on sandwiches in place of butter or mayonnaise. Of course avocados are amazing sliced into salads. You can add them to any green salad, but my favorite is diced avocado, halved cherry tomatoes, and sliced hearts of palm dressed with olive oil and lime. Avocados are also great blended into a dressing for almost any salad you want to have a creamy dressing. You can also cook avocados. Cut an avocado in half or quarters, brush with grapeseed oil and season and stick them on the grill. If that’s too grown-up for your pint sized crew, they may have more fun with an avocado cut in half and the hole in the middle filled with something – try salsa or an egg.
Cloud Ear Fungus
I don’t like eating fungus myself, but mushrooms and their ilk are so nutritious I definitely feed them to my family. My kids and husband just love mushrooms. For a fungus fiber boost, try giving your kids cloud ear fungus. A one cup serving contains 3/4 of the fiber your older kids need for the whole day! Not only that, but they are also good sources of manganese, selenium, and riboflavin. Animal trials of cloud ear fungus also show that it is better than aspirin for preventing atherosclerosis and heart disease by reducing plaque buildup.*****
Never heard of cloud ear fungus and don’t know how to make it kid friendly? It is common in Asian cooking, so look for it in Asian supermarkets. Add it to Asian dishes – try adding it to soups (we love egg drop and miso soups) or stir fries. It has a crunchy texture and absorbs the flavors of the foods it’s cooked with, which makes it a versatile addition to other foods. Experiment with adding it to less traditional dishes like pastas with sauce or various soups.
As a Southern gal, I’m very familiar with collard greens, but many people today have not heard from them. Not only are they a nutritious powerhouse like kale, but they contain 3 times as much fiber as kale! They also have 3 times as much calcium as kale and double the amount of protein, iron, and riboflavin. In fact, one cup of boiled and chopped collard greens contain 30% of the recommended daily value for fiber. They also have 3 times the daily recommended value of vitamin A. Furthermore, collard greens, like kale, bind to bile acids, which reduces risk of heart disease and cancer, which is particularly potent when they are steamed.****** They also contain amazing antioxidants called phenolic compounds, which further protect against cancer and heart disease, as well as the phytochemical sulforaphane, which may reduce the risk of stomach, breast, and skin cancers.*******
To prepare collard greens, first wash them well and remove the tough inner stems. Then, slice, chop, or chiffonade the leaves. There are as many ways to prepare collard greens as you can imagine! Traditional southern collard greens are sauteed with onion, then simmered slowly in stock, before being served with hot sauce. Try adding them to any soups or stews (unlike more wimpy leaves like spinach, they won’t fall apart into a gunky mess). If you are simply sautéing them, try blanching or steaming them first to soften up the tough leaves – then add them to any stir fry, sauté them with other veggies, or just serve them on their own as a side dish. You can even make collard greens into a salad! Like kale, the leaves are tough and need to marinate first, so dress your salad in advance with olive oil, salt, and any other dressing you’d like, then leave it overnight in the fridge to cure.
I hope you enjoy learning about these fantastic fiber-full foods! The wide variety of high-fiber foods and the huge range of preparation methods should make it easier to get your kids to have some! If you want to recall some of the benefits of fiber in a kid’s diet, just click here!
*Berryman CE, West SG, Fleming JA, Bordi PL, Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of daily almond consumption on cardiometabolic risk and abdominal adiposity in healthy adults with elevated LDL-cholesterol: a randomized controlled trial. J Am Heart Assoc. 2015;4(1)e000993.
**Abazarfard Z, Salehi M, Keshavarzi S. The effect of almonds on anthropometric measurements and lipid profile in overweight and obese females in a weight reduction program: a randomized controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19(5):457-464.
***Josse AR, Kendall CW, Augustin LS, Ellis PR, Jenkins DJ. Almonds and postprandial glycemia—a dose-response study. Metabolism. 2007;56(3):400-404.
****Halvorsen BL, Carlsen MH, Phillips KM, et al. Content of redox-active compounds (ie, antioxidants) in foods consumed in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;84(1):95-135.
*****Fan YM, Xu MY, Wang LY, et al. The effect of edible black tree fungus (Auricuaria auricula) on experimental atherosclerosis in rabbits. Chin Med J (Engl). 1989;102(2):100-105.
******Kahlon TS, Chiu MC, Chapman MH. Steam cooking significantly improves in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage. Nutr Res. 2008;28(6):351-357.
*******Cartea ME, Francisco M, Soengas P, Velasco P. Phenolic compounds in Brassica vegetables. Molecules. 2011;16(1):251-280.