Eating plenty of fiber is good for digestion and may help to reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease and certain types of cancer. Eating fiber-rich foods may also help you feel fuller. But most of us eat only about half as much fiber as we should. Nutrition guidelines recommend 25 to 38 grams per day; the average American consumes only about 15 grams. It’s not hard to boost your fiber intake: these 10 simple tips may help you get started.
1. Choose whole fruits over fruit juice. Pure fruit juice, though often rich in the same vitamins, minerals and healthful phytochemicals as the whole fruits it’s made from, doesn’t contain fiber. A cup equivalent serving of most whole fruits contains between 2 and 8 grams of fiber.
2. Eat beans. Beans are a terrific source of fiber: a half cup of cooked navy beans packs about a whopping 7 grams of fiber, while the same amount of lentils and kidney beans provide about 8 and 6 grams, respectively. Much of this fiber is the soluble kind that may benefit blood cholesterol levels. Add beans to soups and salads, or serve them as a side with dinner.
3. Buy a better breakfast cereal. There are plenty of tasty fiber-rich cereals out there. Shop around until you find one that you enjoy.
4. Go for whole-wheat pizza crust. Some pizza joints offer whole-wheat crust options. Also, whole-wheat pizza dough—fresh or frozen—and premade whole-wheat crusts are generally available in large supermarkets.
5. Switch to whole-wheat pasta. Or, if you’re reluctant to make the switch directly to whole-wheat pasta, transition gradually by starting with a whole-wheat/white blend.
6. Trade white potatoes in for something sweeter. Sweet potatoes deliver about double the fiber of white potatoes. Roast them with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, or add them to stews.
7. Choose your daily bread wisely. Look for whole-grain breads that provide at least 3 grams of fiber per slice.
8. Eat from an edible bowl. All squash varieties are rich in fiber; some make perfect serving bowls. Hollow out a buttercup squash half and use it to serve a veggie-rich soup or stew. Once you’ve reached the bottom, you can dig into the fiber-rich bowl for "dessert."
9. Snack on popcorn. The crunchy whole-grain snack satisfies a "salty" tooth. Four cups of air-popped corn (about 120 calories) delivers up to 5 grams of fiber.
10. Bring on berries. Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are all great sources of fiber (about 8 grams per cup). Off-season, frozen berries are more widely available and generally less expensive than fresh ones. Keep a bag or two in the freezer for a quick, healthy snack. Spread the frozen berries on a baking sheet to thaw for half an hour before adding a handful to fat-free yogurt or stirring into your oatmeal.