You've probably heard of fiber, but you may not know exactly what it is and why it is important to get your daily dose.
Dietary fiber is best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation, but this naturally occurring nutrient has other health benefits as well, including lowering the risk of diabetes and heart disease and helping maintain a healthy weight. Fiber includes all the parts of plant foods that our body can't digest, which is it ironically helps get your digestion going.
There are two kinds of fiber: soluble, the kind that dissolves in water, and insoluble fiber, the type that promotes the movement of material through the digestive system. Most plant-based foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, although not in equal amounts, which means it is best to eat a variety of foods rich in fiber. In general, above the age of 50, men should consume 30 grams and women 21 grams of fiber each day.
Here are the foods that will help you the most with your fiber dose, and you probably eat some of them every day!
One medium-sized apple contains about 17 percent of the daily recommended value for fiber intake, about 4.4 grams. Apples also have less than 100 calories and are probably already a staple snack in your diet. Make sure to leave on the skin when you eat the apple, because it contains all of the fiber.
Only a handful of walnuts contains about 2 grams of fiber, 8 percent of your daily value, and has only 190 calories. Add walnuts to your morning yogurt or pack them as a snack and you're good to go. Walnuts are also great additions to salad and deserts.
Sweet Corn (Yellow)
A favorite snack of the summer months. Each 6-inch ear of corn has 1.5 grams of fiber in it, and a 12 ounce can has nearly twice that! Eat sweet corn just as it is, or add it to your favorite dishes to get enough fiber in your diet
A great way to start off the day, oatmeal is high in fiber and so good for you! Not only does 1 cup of oatmeal contain 16 percent of your daily value and only 160 calories, oatmeal will also help lower cholesterol. You can eat oatmeal plain or add berries to up the fiber content even more!
In a soup or as a side, lentils are one of the fiber-richest legumes. They are also great sources of protein, folate, vitamins and iron. Just a cup of lentils contains 63 percent of your daily amount of fiber.
Of course artichokes are good for you! One medium artichoke can provide you with nearly half of the daily recommended amount of fiber, along with a number of other nutrients. Artichokes are also very low in calories, with only 64 calories per medium-sized artichoke, so eat up!
This deep green vegetable is super rich in fiber, with one cup providing over two grams of fiber and 9 percent of the daily value. However, it is important to know that when the broccoli is steamed or cooked, it loses a good deal of its nutritional value and becomes more of a carbohydrate than anything else. So try to consume as much raw broccoli as possible, either in salads or as a snack.
Shredded Wheat Cereal
Believe it or not, some breakfast cereals can be healthy! One cup of sugar-free shredded wheat cereal contains about 9 grams of fiber, 36 percent of your daily value.
If you're not a fan of Brussels sprouts its ok to refrain from this one, but if you do like them or are willing to try, they are an excellent source of fiber and other nutrients. One cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains about a quarter of the daily recommended value of fiber and are low in calories, only 65 per serving.
The fiber-rich cousin of couscous, bulgur wheat is rich in both protein and fiber. One cup of cooked bulgur wheat contains 33 percent of the daily value of fiber, and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner depending what spices are added to it.
Brown rice is rich in insoluble fiber, which can help relieve constipation and help keep you regular. Add it as a side dish to your daily serving of protein and you will take care of nearly 14 percent of your daily value with only one cup.
Dry fruit is traditionally known as a quick source of fiber, but not the amounts you may have thought. About 6 dried prunes contain 3.6 grams of fiber, or 14 percent of the daily value, which is good, but not amazing. However, prunes are full of plenty of other nutrients that make them worthwhile for eating.
When it comes to fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, navy beans steal the show. With 19.1 grams of fiber in one cup of cooked beans, you will take care of 76 percent of your fiber intake in a flash!
Who doesn't love red and sweet raspberries? Well, the good news is that these berries taste great and are an excellent source of fiber. One cup of raspberries contains nearly 32 percent of your daily value and can be enjoyed at any time of the day as a sweet, nourishing, and low calorie treat!
**REMEMBER – Drink enough water to get the most of your fiber intake!**
Images (from top to bottom): nixxphotography/ Phaitoon/ africa/ Bill Longshaw/ adamr at freedigitalphotos.net