Fiber is about so much more than preventing and relieving constipation and keeping you regular. In fact, this nutrient can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, keep your blood-sugar levels normal and can help prevent colorectal cancer. It’s an essential part of a well-rounded diet, yet many of us aren’t incorporating enough into our daily diet.
According to the Mayo Clinic, women age 50 or younger should meet a 25-gram intake daily, while women over the age of 50 should meet a 21-gram intake. Men age 50 or younger should have 38 grams, while those over the age of 50 should have 30 grams daily. However, according to the American Dietetic Association, the mean fiber intake in the U.S. is only 14 to 15 grams a day.
What foods are high in fiber? First, let’s go over the two types of fiber: soluble (meaning the food dissolves in water) and insoluble (meaning it doesn’t dissolve). Fiber isn’t digested by your body like other food components and passes through your body about the same as it came in. Soluble fiber is typically found in oats, peas, beans, apples, carrots and barley (among others) and helps lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, is found in whole-wheat flour, nuts, beans and vegetables and helps move food through your digestive system. In short, insoluble fibers are what helps normalize your bowel movements.
So, if you aren’t getting enough fiber, look first to whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Click ahead for the list of high-fiber foods (ordered from most to least amount of fiber) you should incorporate into your daily diet and the amount of fiber found in each.
One tip before you continue, though: As you increase your fiber intake, be sure to drink plenty of water. Fiber works best when it absorbs water.