Fiber can help improve cholesterol levels, combat high blood pressure, control blood sugar and help maintain a healthy weight. Looking to increase the amount of fiber in your diet? Here are some helpful tips for getting the fiber you need:
* To avoid gas and bloating, start slowly. Try adding just 2 to 3 grams a day until you reach the amount that's right for you. And make sure to drink plenty of water.
* Choose whole wheat or whole grain bread and rolls, and whole wheat pasta and flour tortillas.
* Substitute whole grain flour for half of the white flour when baking. Try adding crushed bran cereal or unprocessed wheat bran to muffins, cakes and cookies.
* Snack on fiber-rich fruits like berries, apples, pears and peaches, and dried fruit including raisins, prunes, apricots and cranberries.
* Beans offer more fiber than most plant foods, so eat them a few times a week. Add kidney beans to soup, black beans to a salad.
* A tablespoon of ground flaxseed stirred into soup, casseroles or smoothies will boost the fiber content by 3 grams.
* Instead of a doughnut for breakfast, have a bran muffin, whole wheat toast or a bowl of oatmeal with fruit.
* Grab a handful of nuts for snacking or sprinkle them on salads.
* When shopping, keep in mind what these product labels mean: "High fiber" products contain 5 or more grams per serving, "good source of fiber has 2.5 to 4.9 grams per servings and "more or added fiber" has at least 2.5 grams per serving. Check nutritional labels.
How Much Fiber You Need
Here are the daily recommendations for adults, from the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine:
* Age 50 and younger—38 grams
* Age 51 and older—30 grams
* Age 50 and younger—25 grams
* Age 51 and older—21 grams
Some Fiber-Rich Foods
* 1 cup black beans, cooked—15 grams
* 1 cup kidney beans, cooked—13 grams
* 1 medium artichoke, cooked—10 grams
* 1 cup vegetarian baked beans, canned, cooked—10 grams
* 3 ounces of peanuts—8 grams
* 1/2 cup peas or lima beans—7-8 grams
* 1 cup whole wheat spaghetti—6 grams
* 3/4 cup bran flakes—5 grams
* 1 cup carrot, cooked —5 grams
* 1 medium pear—5 grams
* 1 cup cooked broccoli —5 grams
* 1 cup cole slaw—4 grams
* 1 medium apple—4 grams
* 1 ounce almonds—3.5 grams
* 1 cup brown rice, cooked—3.5 grams
* 1 medium banana—3 grams
* 1 medium orange—3 grams
* 1 slice whole wheat bread—2 grams
* 2 tablespoons raisins—1 gram