Do you eat the recommended amount of dietary fiber every day? Most people don’t. Men need about 38 grams of fiber per day, while women need about 25, but on average people only consume about 15 grams of fiber daily. This is bad news because fiber is an important nutrient, and overlooking it can contribute to health problems. Fiber is most famous as a digestive aid, but it does a lot more than that: it helps keep your blood sugar stable, lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, and can even help you manage your weight. Here are seven easy and delicious ways to incorporate more fiber into your diet.
Add beans and legumes
If you’re trying to eat more fiber, beans should be one of your go-to foods. Navy beans, with 19 grams of fiber per cooked cup, are the fiber superstar of the bean world, while black beans and pinto beans each have a respectable 15 grams per cup. Legumes like lentils and peas are excellent high-fiber choices as well. Beans and legumes are incredibly versatile – they can be seasoned in a variety of ways and make a protein-packed, fat-free addition to salads, soup, casseroles, and rice dishes. Hummus and other bean dips are another great way to get the fiber-packed benefits of beans.
Sneak veggies into foods by pureeing
If you’re looking for ways to add extra vegetables to your foods, or if you’re trying to get kids to eat more veggies, using purees is a clever way to increase the nutrition and fiber content of familiar foods on the sly. Almost all vegetables are good sources of fiber, so you can’t go wrong when choosing which ones to add. Tomatoes, cauliflower, carrots, and greens are good choices, as they’re easy to cook and puree. Add pureed, shredded, or finely chopped vegetables to pasta sauce, meatloaf, soups, stews, casseroles, and lasagna. Delicious – and no one will ever know!
Swap processed grains for whole grains
If you’re used to eating white bread, rice, and pasta, consider switching to whole-grain versions of these foods to up your fiber intake. On average, a slice of whole wheat bread contains 1.9 grams of fiber, as opposed to just 0.8 grams for a slice of white bread. The difference between brown and white rice is even greater: a cup of cooked brown rice contains 3.5 grams of fiber, while the same amount of white rice has a paltry 0.6 grams. White flour and white rice have been refined to make them softer and sweeter, but this process strips much of the nutritious fiber from the grains. This means that white grains spike your blood sugar more than the whole-wheat versions, and you’ll feel hungrier sooner after eating them than you would if you chose whole grains. Opt for less-processed grains whenever you can to keep your blood sugar stable and stay satisfied longer. You may even find that you prefer the fuller, more robust flavor and texture of whole grain foods.
Eat fruit instead of drinking fruit juice
A glass of orange juice in the morning is delicious, but drinking fruit juice gives you all the sugar and most of the calories in the fruit with none of the nutritious fiber. Swap the juice for a piece of fruit and get all the flavor of the juice, plus the filling benefits of the fruit. This switch makes an especially big difference when you eat oranges and apples instead of drinking juice. Apples have about 4.4 grams of fiber each, while oranges have about 2.3 grams.
Scrutinize your breakfast cereal
Not all cereals are created equal. If your breakfast cereal is low on fiber, switching it out for a more fiber-rich option is a nearly effortless way to improve your diet. If bran isn’t your thing, try a low-sugar granola, or switch your cold cereal for a bowl of hot, satisfying oatmeal, which contains four grams of fiber per cooked cup. To boost the fiber in your breakfast even more, try topping off your favorite cereal with a handful of raspberries or blackberries.
Substitute whole wheat flour in baking
Next time you whip up a batch of goodies in the kitchen, experiment with replacing some or all of the white flour in the recipe with whole wheat flour. This switch won’t work with all foods – for instance, you probably wouldn’t want to make a whole wheat birthday cake. Many treats, though, are just as good when you replace refined flour with whole wheat. The texture and flavor of whole wheat flour works so well in oatmeal cookies and peanut butter cookies that you might not even notice a difference. Whole wheat waffles and pancakes are also delicious. And since ½ cup of whole wheat flour contains 6.4 grams of fiber while the same amount of white flour contains only 1.3 grams, making the switch is a painless way to increase your fiber intake quite a bit, especially if you love baking.
Add flax seeds or chia seeds
Flax seeds and chia seeds are both incredibly high in fiber – two tablespoons of flax seeds contain six grams, while two tablespoons of chia seeds contain a whopping eight grams. Add flax seeds or chia seeds to smoothies, oatmeal, soup, or almost anything else. They’re one of the simplest ways to add more fiber to your diet. They’re good for you in other ways too – flax seeds are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and chia seeds are packed with protein.
High-fiber foods don’t have to be boring or hard to chew. On the contrary, making an effort to eat more fiber can give a fresh, delicious twist to the foods you already love, and that’s just the cherry on top of the many health benefits that fiber provides. Are you inspired to make something delicious and fiber-rich for dinner tonight?