You hear all the time that you should be eating more fiber. But why? And what is fiber anyway? Well, dietary fiber is a naturally occurring, nondigestible component in food. Eating enough fiber can boost your metabolism, help control blood pressure, keep you feeling full for longer, help maintain a regular digestive system, and prevent blood sugar spikes. Convinced? Good, because nine out of 10 Americans aren’t getting the recommended amount of fiber (25 grams or more) each day.
The benefits of fiber are long-lasting, too. A new study published in the Journals of Gerontology suggests that consuming adequate fiber from bread, cereal, and fruit can help you avoid diseases and disabilities as you age. In fact, the research, which studied the eating habits of more than 1,600 adults ages 50 and older, found a correlation between eating larger amounts of fiber and a reduced risk of hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disabilities, all of which can ultimately shorten someone’s life. The authors say those people who ate the most fiber “had an almost 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life.” You should definitely be sold by now.
To get those 25+ grams of fiber per day, aim to eat seven or more grams of fiber at each meal, plus three grams or more in snacks. Here are some fiber-rich foods that you can easily add to your diet today.
Figs: 1/2 cup = 8 grams fiber
Eaten fresh, baked, dried, or made into a sauce, figs pack a punch of both protein and fiber. Try fresh or dried figs with a slice of cheese and some pancetta.
Barley: 1 cup cooked = 6 grams fiber
Barley is a versatile grain that can be eaten at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Use barley in soups or as a side dish to help you fill up and stay satisfied.
Raspberries: 1 cup fresh = 8 grams fiber
Eat raspberries on their own or in a salad. These little berries are packed full of fiber and antioxidants.
Air-popped popcorn: 3 cups = 8 grams fiber
Want more food for fewer calories? (Who doesn’t?) Try popcorn! It not only provides a ton of fiber, but you can add different seasonings to make plain popcorn taste even better. Try adding cocoa powder! Each tablespoon packs 2 more grams of fiber.
Artichokes: 1 steamed = 10 grams fiber
Most people think of artichokes as part of a traditional (and typically unhealthy) spinach and artichoke dip appetizer. But artichokes are really healthy and are easy to mix into a variety of dishes. Try adding artichokes to pasta sauce, salads, pizzas, or egg dishes.
Acorn squash: 1 cup = 9 grams fiber
Try this fall favorite year round. With its slightly sweet and nutty flavor, squash is a great side dish when you’re craving comfort food. Use it to make soup to freeze for an easy fiber-packed meal.
Shredded wheat cereal: 1 cup = 9 grams fiber
Shredded wheat is always a great fiber-filled staple for breakfast. But you can also add it to yogurt, use it as a filler for meatballs, or put it on top of cooked vegetables for added crunch.
Black beans: 1/2 cup = 15 grams fiber
Black beans should be a staple in everyone’s pantry. Add this high-fiber legume to salads and tacos. Your taste buds and your body will thank you for it.
Quinoa: 1 cup = 5 grams fiber
Quinoa is a popular ancient whole grain that not only provides fiber but a good helping of protein, too. Consume quinoa as a side dish, in a grain-based salad, in pizza crusts, or in muffins, meatballs, and more.
Blackberries: 1 cup = 8 grams fiber
Just like raspberries, these berries provide a quick fiber boost to your meal. Add blackberries to oatmeal, yogurt, and salads, or simply pair a few with cheese.