You can reap the health advantages of cutting down on carbs -- like losing weight and balancing blood sugar -- and still keep up with your daily fiber. Getting plenty of dietary fiber is not optional if you want optimal health. Your body depends on fiber to help lower cholesterol, to keep your digestive tract moving and to feed the good bacteria in your gut. A low-carb diet won't sabotage your fiber intake if you put a few key foods on the menu, such as berries, leafy greens and nuts.
Three Low-Carb Berries
The top two fruit choices, raspberries and blackberries, have 8 grams of fiber in a 1-cup serving. When you count net carbs -- total carbs minus fiber -- both choices end up with just 7 grams of net carbs. You could also go with strawberries, which have 3 grams of fiber and 10 grams of net carbs in a 1-cup serving. The net carbs you'll get from these berries work well in a low-carb diet, but they'll fill about half of the daily carb budget if you're on a more restrictive low-carb diet.
All three berries are excellent sources of antioxidant vitamin C, which keeps your immune system, bones and skin healthy. They also deliver a big boost of another antioxidant -- manganese. Antioxidants neutralize reactive molecules in your body before they have the chance to damage healthy cells.
High-Fiber Green Vegetables
Raw veggies are great, but you'll get more fiber from cooked vegetables. That's because they shrink during cooking, allowing you to fit more into a measuring cup. One cup of raw spinach or collard greens has 1 gram of fiber. Cook these greens, though, and their fiber content in a cup increases to 8 grams for collards and 4 grams for spinach. When you enjoy a cup of raw greens, you'll get a mere 1 gram of net carbohydrate and only 3 grams of net carbs in a cup of cooked greens.
Cooked artichoke hearts deliver 7 grams of fiber in 1/2 cup, but you'll get about 3 grams of fiber in the same portion of cooked broccoli and Brussels sprouts. And no matter which of the three you choose, that 1/2-cup serving has just 3 grams of net carbs. Like the berries, these veggies are good sources of vitamin C. They also promote strong bones with plenty of vitamin K and, with folate, support metabolism of protein and DNA.
Nuts and Seeds Work in Small Amounts
Good news -- you can add some crunch to your diet and up your fiber intake at the same time. Toasted sesame seed kernels make a great choice, with 5 grams of fiber and only 4 grams of net carbs in a 1-ounce serving. Roasted pumpkin seeds also have 5 grams of fiber in 1 ounce, but you'll get double the carbs.
Nuts are on the menu, too. A 1-ounce serving of almonds contains 4 grams of fiber, while pistachios, hazelnuts and pecans all have 3 grams. They're all low in carbs, but pecans shine with just 1 net carb. With 2 net carbs, hazelnuts and almonds aren't far behind, while pistachios deliver 5 net carbs per ounce.
Your heart will benefit from the cholesterol-lowering fats in nuts and seeds, but keep in mind that it's easy to eat too many. To make sure you don't overdo your carb budget, measure your servings or simply use nuts and seeds as a garnish.
Preparation Tips for Boosting Fiber
Most adults get just 17 grams of dietary fiber daily, while the recommended daily intake is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Combine high-fiber foods with other sources of protein and fat to infuse your low-carb diet with more fiber.
Sprinkle sesame seeds or roasted pumpkin seeds over a salad or add them to cooked spinach or broccoli. Blend sesame seeds into a paste and use it to make hummus or a salad dressing. Most people associate raspberries and blackberries with sweet desserts, but they can be mixed into a vinaigrette for your salad or used as a glaze for chicken. Just combine berries with balsamic vinegar, a touch of olive oil, shallots and seasonings such as fresh ginger, then drizzle it over chicken. Create a quick, high-fiber meal by stir-frying broccoli, spinach and sesame seeds, or pecans and artichoke hearts.
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool: Raspberries, Blackberries, Strawberries
- Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute: Manganese
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool: Collards
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool: Spinach
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool: Artichokes, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool: Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds
- University of Michigan Health System: Healthy Nuts, Go Nuts
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber
- Harvard School of Public Health: Vitamin K
- Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute: Folate