Part of the dietary fiber family, cellulose is one of several insoluble large-chain polymers that are present in plant food sources. A high-cellulose foods list includes many vegetables and fruits, as well as beans like navy and mung beans.
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Cellulose is an insoluble dietary fiber made up of glucose polymers that are found in all plant cell walls. Examples of foods that contain cellulose include leafy, green vegetables like kale, Brussels sprouts and green peas.
What Is Cellulose?
Cellulose is just one of the several types of dietary fiber that naturally occur in food sources. Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center explains that the cell walls of all plants contain cellulose. Chemically, cellulose is an abundant polymer made up of glucose molecules that are joined together by beta glycosidic bonds.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most adult women require between 25.2 grams and 28 grams of dietary fiber, daily. Adult males, on the other hand, require a slightly higher amount — between 30.8 grams and 33.6 grams of dietary fiber, per day.
In plants, cellulose protects the plant cells from damage. But because of its sizable molecular structure, it's unable to be digested by humans. However, both ruminants such as cows and sheep, and non-ruminant herbivores like horses and camels, are able to effectively digest foods that contain cellulose, thanks to their longer digestive tracts.
Read more: Why Can't You Digest Raw Vegetables?
According to Michigan Medicine, nondigestible fibers like cellulose are helpful for individuals dealing with constipation. The cellulose is not digested by bacteria, and instead remains in the intestine, creating a laxative effect. Foods high in cellulose fiber absorb water and increase the water content of stools, softening any hard stool that may be present in the intestine.
Foods That Contain Cellulose
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans explains that beans like navy beans, white beans and adzuki beans are foods high in cellulose fiber. The high-cellulose foods list offers a list of food sources and their fiber amounts — beans provide anywhere from 7.5 grams to 9.6 grams of dietary fiber, per half cup of cooked beans.
Read more: 19 High-Fiber Foods — Some May Surprise You!
Other cellulose examples in food include leafy green vegetables and fruits. According to a June 2012 review published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, approximately 30 to 40 percent of dietary fiber comes from vegetable sources, while roughly 16 percent comes from fruits in the diet.
Read more: Fiber in Potatoes
Vegetables like sweet corn contain large amounts of cellulose — according to the USDA, a 1-cup serving of corn offers 3.28 grams of dietary fiber. A cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains a little bit more, approximately 4 grams of dietary fiber, whereas raw wheat bran offers some of the highest-cellulose examples in food, at 12.5 grams of fiber per 1/2-cup serving.
Foods high in cellulose fiber will often contain large amounts of total fiber. Sugarcane juice may contain as much as 46 percent of cellulose. According to an August 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, diets with foods high in cellulose fiber cause a significant reduction in the incidence of colorectal cancer.
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: “Fiber"
- Health.gov: “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 13. Food Sources of Dietary Fiber”
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: "Understanding a Horse’s Digestive System"
- Michigan Medicine: “High Fiber Diet"
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: “Dietary Fiber in Foods: A Review”
- USDA FoodData Central: “Corn, Sweet, Yellow, Canned, Whole Kernel, Drained Solids"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Brussels Sprouts, Cooked, From Fresh, Made With Oil”
- Louisiana State University Pennington Biomedical Research Center: "Potential Health Benefits of a Natural Fiber From Sugarcane”
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Dietary Fiber Intake and Risk of Colorectal Cancer and Incident and Recurrent Adenoma in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial”