Keren Gilbert, MS, RD, ranks the top hydrophilic superfoods to quench thirst and hunger.
Today healthy consumers are vying for nutritious food offerings that will help keep them fuller longer. In an attempt to manage their weight and improve overall digestive health, consumers in the U.S. and internationally are turning to dietary fiber for support.
Global research firm TechNavio estimated that the worldwide fiber market, which was valued at $1.83 billion in 2013, will reach $3.76 billion by 2018, growing at a CAGR of 15.49%.
While knowledge around the benefits of fiber is growing, Keren Gilbert, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist, has advocated for the importance of hydrophilic foods rich in soluble fiber. The founder and president of Decision Nutrition stressed the importance of these “water loving” foods for their role in quenching hunger and hydrating the body.
Describing hydrophilic foods’ method of actions, she said, “Think of oats when water is added. They plump up! When a food is high in soluble fiber, it forms into a gooey gel.” Using chia seeds as an example, she referenced the gelatinous texture they take on when submerged in a liquid. “This gel is what forms in your digestive system, which translates into feeling full. It also causes a slow consistent rise in blood sugar so cravings are diminished,” she explained.
Here’s Ms. Gilbert’s list of top hydrophilic foods to keep the digestive system hydrated and healthy.
The popular superfood chia, which has seen explosive growth in recent years, is known for its ability to absorb water. Chia’s capacity for taking in up to 12 times its weight makes it an excellent food for supporting hydration and electrolytes in the body, according to Ms. Gilbert. In addition to providing hydrophilic sustenance, chia is rich in omega-3s, antioxidants, fiber, iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium.
Sales for chia seeds are expected to reach $1.1 billion by 2020, according to Nutrition Business Journal.
A gelling agent derived from seaweed, agar contains 80% soluble fiber and no calories, carbs, sugar or fat. Ms. Gilbert explained that agar is a powerful superfood that reabsorbs glucose in the stomach, passes through the digestive system quickly, and prevents the body from retaining and storing excess fat.
Rich in soluble fiber, protein, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, manganese and iron; steel-cut oatmeal is a nutritious way for consumers to get their hydrophilic fix.
An August 2014 report from Mintel analyzing the cereal market saw an increase in sales for hot cereals, especially oatmeal, from 2009-2014. Mintel underscored the importance of fiber as a key motivator for consumers in the breakfast category.
While all beans are highly hydrophilic, kidney beans and chickpeas are an especially excellent way to hydrate and load up on fiber. Ms. Gilbert recommended kidney beans for their antioxidant content, while chickpeas promote satiety with their abundance of soluble fiber.
In addition, Ms. Gilbert said eating more beans is proven to decrease the risk of coronary disease.
The low calorie vegetable okra ranks high on the list because it is rich in the soluble fiber mucilage. A great way to support digestive health, okra also offers vitamins C, A, and B6, folate, calcium, iron and magnesium.
Ms. Gilbert recommended pears because they contain pectin—a complex carbohydrate found naturally in plant cell walls that acts as a detoxifier. Pectin is also a gastrointestinal tract regulator and an immune system stimulant. Like other hydrophilic foods, pears help with digestion, lowering cholesterol and regulating the body’s absorption of sugar.
Oranges also offer pectin in its white outer layer, in addition to vitamin C. This hydrophilic citrus is a great source of phytochemicals, vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, potassium and calcium.
This whole grain hydrophilic food is highly water absorbent. It also contains beneficial fiber to assist digestion.
Rich in soluble fiber, Brussels sprouts provide satiety while also supporting detoxification.