By Sharon O'Brien
Dietary fiber is the carbohydrate in plants that your body cannot digest.
Though it's essential to your gut and overall health, most people don't reach the recommended daily amounts (RDA) of 25 and 38 grams for women and men, respectively.
Both soluble and insoluble fiber help bulk up your stools and can be used as a food source for good bacteria in your large intestine.
Soluble fiber draws water into your gut, which softens your stools and supports regular bowel movements.
It not only helps you feel fuller and reduces constipation but may also lower your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Here are 20 healthy foods that are high in soluble fiber.
1. Black Beans
Black beans are not only a great way to give your dishes a meaty texture but also an amazing source of fiber.
One cup (172 grams) packs 15 grams, which is about what an average person consumes per day, or 40–60% of the RDA for adults.
Black beans contain pectin, a form of soluble fiber that becomes gummy-like in water. This can delay stomach emptying and make you feel fuller longer, giving your body more time to absorb nutrients.
Soluble fiber content: 5.4 grams per three-quarter cup (129 grams) of cooked black beans.
2. Lima Beans
Lima beans, also known as butter beans, are large, flat, greenish-white beans.
They mainly contain carbs and protein, as well as a little fat.
They're lower in total dietary fiber than black beans, but their soluble fiber content is almost identical. Lima beans also contain the soluble fiber pectin, which is associated with reduced blood sugar spikes after meals.
Soluble fiber content: 5.3 grams per three-quarter cup (128 grams) of lima beans.
3. Brussels Sprouts
The world may be divided into Brussels sprout lovers and haters, but whatever side you're on, it's undeniable that this vegetable is packed with vitamins and minerals, along with various cancer-fighting agents.
What's more, Brussels sprouts are a great source of fiber, with 4 grams per cup (156 grams).
The soluble fiber in Brussels sprouts can be used to feed beneficial gut bacteria. These produce vitamin K and B vitamins, along with short-chain fatty acids that support your gut lining.
Soluble fiber content: 2 grams per one-half cup (78 grams) of Brussels sprouts.
Avocados originate from Mexico but have gained popularity worldwide.
Haas avocados are the most common type. They're an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, potassium, vitamin E, and dietary fiber.
One avocado packs 13.5 grams of dietary fiber. However, one serving — or one-third of the fruit — provides about 4.5 grams, 1.4 of which are soluble.
Rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, avocados really stand out in this regard.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are high in potassium, beta carotene, B vitamins, and fiber. Just one medium-sized sweet potato packs over 400% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of vitamin A.
Therefore, sweet potatoes can contribute significantly to your total soluble fiber intake.
Soluble fiber content: 1.8 grams per one-half cup (150 grams) of cooked sweet potato.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that grows well in cool seasons. It's usually dark green, but you can also find purple varieties.
The high amount of soluble fiber in broccoli can support your gut health by feeding the good bacteria in your large intestine. These bacteria produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate and acetate.
Turnips are root vegetables. Larger varieties are usually fed to livestock, but the smaller types are a great addition to your diet.
Soluble fiber content: 1.7 grams per one-half cup (82 grams) of cooked turnips.
Pears are crisp and refreshing and serve as a decent source of vitamin C, potassium, and various antioxidants.
Due to their high fructose and sorbitol contents, pears can sometimes have a laxative effect. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may need to moderate your intake.
Soluble fiber content: 1.5 grams per medium-sized pear.
9. Kidney Beans
Their characteristic shape gave kidney beans their name.
Kidney beans are a good source of soluble fiber, particularly pectin.
However, some people find beans hard to digest. If that's the case for you, start increasing your kidney bean intake slowly to avoid bloating.
Figs were one of the first cultivated plants in human history.
They're highly nutritious, containing calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and other nutrients.
Both dried and fresh figs are great sources of soluble fiber, which slows the movement of food through your intestines, allowing more time for nutrient absorption.
Based on anecdotal evidence, dried figs have been used as a home remedy to relieve constipation for years. While one study found that fig paste improved bowel movements in constipated dogs, human-based research is lacking.
Soluble fiber content: 1.9 grams per one-fourth cup (37 grams) of dried figs.
Nectarines are stone fruits that grow in warm, temperate regions. They're similar to peaches, but don't have the same characteristic fuzzy skin.
Apricots are small, sweet fruits that range in color from yellow to orange, with the occasional red tinge.
Carrots are one of the most popular and tasty vegetables on Earth.
Boiled or steamed, carrots are a key ingredient in many recipes, but they can also be grated into salads or used to make desserts like carrot cake.
With good reason, you may have been told as a child to eat carrots to help you see in the dark.
Carrots are packed with beta carotene, some of which is converted into vitamin A. This vitamin supports your eyes and is particularly important for night vision.
One cup (128 grams) of chopped carrots contains 4.6 grams of dietary fiber, 2.4 of which are soluble.
Since many people enjoy this vegetable daily, it can be a key source of soluble fiber.
Apples are one of the most commonly eaten fruits in the world. Most varieties are quite sweet, but others like Granny Smith can be very sour.
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is an old proverb that may have some truth, as eating this fruit is associated with a lower risk of many chronic diseases.
Apples pack various vitamins and minerals and are a good source of the soluble fiber pectin. Apple pectin may have many health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease and improved gut function.
Guavas are a tropical fruit native to Mexico and Central and South America. Their skin is typically green, while the pulp can range from off-white to deep-pink.
This fruit has been shown to reduce blood sugar, as well as total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in healthy people. In part, this may be due to the soluble fiber pectin, which can delay the absorption of sugar.
16. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds, also known as linseeds, are tiny brown, yellow, or golden seeds.
They pack a nutritious punch and can be a great way to improve the nutrient content of your smoothies, breads, or cereals.
Sprinkling 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds over your porridge can add an extra 3.5 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein to your breakfast. They're also one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fats.
If possible, soak ground flax seeds overnight, as this allows their soluble fiber to combine with water to form a gel, which may aid digestion.
Soluble fiber content: 0.6–1.2 grams per tablespoon (14 grams) of whole flax seeds.
17. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a great nutritious snack and often purchased already shelled to reveal the tasty sunflower heart.
They contain about 3 grams of dietary fiber per one-fourth cup, 1 gram of which is soluble. What's more, they're rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, protein, magnesium, selenium, and iron.
Hazelnuts are a delicious type of nut that can be eaten raw or roasted for a stronger flavor. They're also often used as an ingredient in chocolate bars and spreads.
Partly due to their soluble fiber content, hazelnuts may help reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Oats are one of the most versatile and healthy grains around. You can use them to make breakfast cereals, breads, scones, flapjacks, or fruit crumbles.
They contain beta glucan, a form of soluble fiber that's associated with reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol and improved blood sugar control. It's estimated that 3 grams of oat beta glucan per day can reduce your risk of heart disease.
About 1.25 cups (100 grams) of dry oats contain 10 grams of total dietary fiber. This is divided into 5.8 grams of insoluble and 4.2 grams of soluble fiber, 3.6 of which are beta glucan.
Beta glucan is also what gives porridge its characteristic creamy texture.
Some people may associate barley with the brewing industry, but this nutritious ancient grain is also often used to thicken soups, stews, or risottos.
Like oats, it contains about 3.5–5.9% of the soluble fiber beta glucan, which has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Other forms of soluble fiber in barley are psyllium, pectin, and guar gum.
The Bottom Line
Soluble fiber is great for your gut and overall health, reducing your risk of heart disease by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and helping you balance your blood sugar levels.
If you want to increase your soluble fiber intake, it's often best to start slowly and build it up gradually.
It's also a good idea to drink plenty of water. This will help the soluble fiber form a gel, which aids digestion and prevents constipation.
All fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes contain some soluble fiber, but certain foods like Brussels sprouts, avocados, flax seeds, and black beans are the cream of the crop.