Despite its popular association with trips to the restroom, fiber is no joke. The benefits of an efficient bowel aside, a high-fiber diet can also reduce the risk of , and . Unfortunately, fiber consumption is currently at an all-time low, with less than three percent of Americans meeting the recommended intake Clemens R, Kranz S, Mobley AR. The Journal of nutrition, 2012, May.;142(7):1541-6100..
Fiber is something the body needs but never actually digests—in fact, it remains more or less the same from plate to toilet. It comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble, and most plant-based foods contain a mixture of the two. Soluble fiber turns to gel in the stomach and , which helps . Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, remains unchanged all the way to the colon, making waste heavier and softer so it can more easily. Regardless of these differences, neither type of fiber is ever absorbed into the body.
Skipping out on a often leads to constipation, which can make going to the bathroom painful and uncomfortable—hence the term “backed up.” Eating too little fiber can make it tough to control blood sugar and appetite because fiber regulates the speed of digestion and contributes to (aka feeling full). There can be too much of a good thing, though. with fiber can move food through the intestines too quickly, which means fewer minerals get absorbed from food. It can also result in uncomfy gas, bloating, and cramping, especially when fiber intake is dramatically increased overnight .
So what’s the magic amount? The recommends that men under 50 eat about 38 grams of fiber each day and women consume 25 grams. Adults over 50 require less fiber (30 grams for dudes and 21 grams for ladies) due to decreased food consumption. To put that into perspective, a young man is supposed to eat the same amount of fiber found in 15 slices of every day.
But fear not! Despite common , whole grains are hardly the best source of fiber around. Read on to learn about a few of our favorite, fiber-rich foods, a tasty recipe to help get ‘em on the table.
The Best High-Fiber Foods
Note: The amount of fiber in these foods can vary slightly between the raw and cooked versions.
Fiber: 16.3 grams per cup, cooked.
A staple in Indian cooking, split peas form a terrific, protein-rich base for soups, stews, and . This South Asian recipe is the best kind of comfort food: healthy, satisfying, and super filling.
Fiber: 15.6 grams per cup, cooked.
Lentils are kitchen all-stars—they take less time to cook and are more versatile than many other legumes. This recipe takes advantage of their slightly meatier taste and turns them into a juicy patty that’s held together with lemon juice, cilantro, and walnuts.
Fiber: 15 grams per cup, cooked.
Sweet potato pairs perfectly with the smokiness of chipotle peppers and adds even more fiber to this hearty bean dish. Loaded with complex carbs and protein, this cold-weather stew makes a perfect post-workout meal.
Fiber: 13.2 grams per cup, cooked.
Lima beans might sound unappetizing, but when cooked in bacon fat, paired with leeks, puréed into a soup, and topped with sour cream, they’re pretty darn delicious.
Fiber: 10.3 grams per medium vegetable, cooked.
Packing more fiber per serving than any other vegetable, artichokes are curiously underused in most people’s kitchens (perhaps because they look a bit… prickly). Get creative and try this simple recipe with lime, garlic, and black pepper.
Fiber: 8.8 grams per cup, cooked.
Puréeing veggies is a great way to squeeze extra nutrients into any meal—this recipe comes together lightning-fast and is filled with protein, omega-3s, and, of course, fiber.
Fiber: 5.1 grams per cup, boiled.
This caveman-friendly dish is pretty simple. To make these fritters, just combine onion, garlic, broccoli, eggs, and almond meal. Once they hit the table, you’ll be surprised how much broccoli gets finished in one sitting.
Fiber: 4.1 grams per cup, boiled.
Try this Asian twist on the old standard—this meal carries tones of ginger, sesame, and peanut that will keep you coming back for seconds (and maybe thirds).
Fiber: 8 grams per cup, raw.
Raspberries aren’t a hard sell—they’re basically nature’s candy. With the help of coconut, oatmeal, and vanilla, they make a relatively healthy dessert that pleases any palate.
Fiber: 7.6 grams per cup, raw.
Successfully mixing sweet and savory isn’t for the faint of heart, but this salad makes use of blackberries, lemon, scallions, and dill to great effect.
Fiber: 6.7 grams per half, raw.
Few foods deserve the title of “superfood” more than the avocado, which is jam-packed with vitamins, fiber, and healthy fats. Pile it on top of this low-carb, Mexican-inspired salad to add some creamy goodness.
Fiber: 5.5 grams per medium fruit, raw.
This recipe is a simple and inexpensive way to experiment with an unusual flavor combination. Pork works well with sweeter flavors, and the high sugar content of pears makes them easy to caramelize.
Fiber: 7 grams per cup, raw.
Short on time? Whip up a nutritious smoothie and take breakfast to go. This shake is a healthy and delicious way to get plenty of fiber and a hefty amount of protein, all in one glass.
Fiber: 6.3 grams per cup, cooked.
With the right sauce, whole-wheat pasta is indistinguishable from its high G.I., white-flour cousin. Mix in avocado to add a wonderful creaminess to your pasta without using dairy.
Fiber: 6 grams per cup, cooked.
It’s not just for making beer—barley is a chewy, nutritious grain that contains more fiber than oatmeal and brown rice. It can be used in soup, salad, or , but try it out in this tasty risotto with seasonal fall vegetables.
Fiber: 4 grams per cup, cooked.
With just one tablespoon of maple syrup per serving, this breakfast is a guilt-free way to indulge in the morning. Plus, it’s packed with fiber-friendly oats, carrots, and coconut.
Sneaky Tips to Add More Fiber to Any Meal
- Add flaxseed meal to oats, smoothies, yogurt, and baked goods—you can even try breading chicken or fish with it. A contains 3.8 grams of fiber and a dose of omega-3 fatty acids to boot.
- Chia seeds have a whopping per tablespoon. When they meet with water, they form a goopy gel that is great for thickening smoothies, making , or replacing eggs in cakes and cookies.
- While and aren’t as high in fiber as the veggies mentioned above, they can easily be sliced or grated and snuck into many dishes without much hassle: Try adding some to banana bread, shakes, eggs, or even a homemade pizza base.
- Food processors are fiber’s best friend. Purée some cooked vegetables and add them to sauces and stews, or swap out rice for chopped-up cauliflower.