Vegetables and Fruits
High-fiber vegetables include sweet potatoes, corn, broccoli, cabbage, greens, carrots, celery, lettuces, snow peas, string beans, tomatoes, and avocados. There are a lot of vegetables out there, but they are not equal in fiber content. For example, choose more fiber-rich field greens over iceberg lettuce. Follow the rule “the greener the better” when shopping for lettuce and other green vegetables.
Vegetables and fruits eaten raw with their skins on are a better source of fiber than cooked and peeled vegetables. For example, a fresh apple has more fiber than cooked applesauce in a comparable serving. However, some vegetables cannot be eaten raw (think artichokes) or are simply not appealing unless cooked (think Brussels sprouts).
Not all preparations of vegetables are a good source of fiber: French fried potatoes are not, but a baked potato with the skin is. A healthy alternative to fried potato chips with a sour cream — based dip could be corn tortilla chips with fresh tomato salsa and avocado dip. Raw carrots, radishes, or celery sticks in place of potato chips as a side for a sandwich are a good way to start adding fiber to the diet.
Dehydrated vegetables, such as corn, carrots, and sun-dried tomatoes, are a nice snack alternative to have around the house. They can be simmered in chicken or vegetable broth for a quick vegetable soup.
Cruciferous vegetables — the cabbage family — are high in dietary fiber and offer a variety of shapes and colors to choose from. Cabbage is found in different cuisines around the world and is the foundation for dishes such as American coleslaw, German sauerkraut, and Korean kim chee. It is a filling in Hungarian strudel and Polish pierogies and a must-have ingredient for Russian borscht.
Cabbage comes in different varieties such as white head cabbage, purple head cabbage, bok choy, wrinkly Savoy head cabbage, and Napa cabbage. Other members of the cruciferous family to look for include broccoli, cauliflower, broccoli rabe, broccolini, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, arugula, mustard greens, and watercress.
Eat raw broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots as crudités. Chomp on celery and radishes between meals. Make your own coleslaw and add lots of celery seeds or caraway seeds to boost the fiber.
Pickled vegetables are good to have in the pantry for the times when you need a side salad to go with a sandwich and there are no greens in the fridge. Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago are served with giardiniera (pickled carrots, onions, celery, zucchini, and cauliflower) right on the sandwich, and Vietnamese pork sandwiches come with pickled carrots inside. Pickled veggies are also great added to salad greens, shredded cabbage, and sautéed onions.
Corn, the All-American Vegetable
The Pilgrims would never have survived that first winter in New England if Native Americans had not supplied them with corn. Dried corn was boiled, popped, added to meat stews, and ground for bread. Corn's insoluble fiber content retains much of its original form as it goes through the digestive system. The increased bulk in the stool after eating a vegetable like corn is what makes the high-fiber diet effective, by toning the colon.
There is nothing exactly like corn for cleansing the colon. However, there are many vegetables when eaten with their skins on that will do pretty much the same thing. Red, green, and yellow peppers and hot peppers all have edible skins. Snow peas and sugar snaps are very high in fiber and deliciously sweet as a snack, stir-fried, or tossed in salads.
Asparagus and artichokes are extremely high in fiber. Asparagus can simply be blanched, but artichokes must be well cooked with the spiny, indigestible “choke” cut out. Parsnips are usually cooked or added to stews, but they're worth a try raw.
Fruits of all kinds are another excellent source of dietary fiber. Eat raw fruits to get the most fiber out of them. Cooked fruits have less fiber but are a better source than fruit juices. The general rule is: the less processed the more fiber. However, dried fruits like apricots, raisins, and prunes are a very good source of fiber and are easy to take along for on-the-go snacking.
Berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are an extra-good source of fiber due to the seeds in them. Blueberries are another because of their skins and pectin content. Citrus fruits are loaded with fiber, as are figs (both fresh and dried), bananas, mangoes, melons, pineapples, and cranberries.
Dried apricots can be added to tapioca pudding, rice, cookies, or stuffing to add fiber and flavor, making them a flexible choice for a high-fiber diet. Try adding dried cherries or cranberries to rice, stuffing, and pudding or sprinkle them into apple, peach, or other fruit pies for added flavor. There are so many possibilities, both sweet and savory, for adding more fruit to the diet.