Multiple scientific studies show that a diet rich in fiber can reduce the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. High-fiber foods are also important sources of essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to maintain health and vitality. Dietary fiber helps regulate the digestion system, and because many fiber-rich foods are low in calories, they can assist with weight loss as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, most Americans consistently under-consume dietary fiber.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?

The CDC recommends that adults intake 14 grams of dietary fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed and advises that most people need to increase their consumption of legumes, vegetables, fruits and whole grains to meet daily requirements. When choosing packaged foods, you can check the product's Nutrition Fact label under the Daily Value column to view the percentage of your daily fiber that a single serving of the item will provide. Fiber-Rich Legumes Legumes are plants with seeds that grow in pods, like beans and peas. They're among the most fiber-rich foods that you can consume. A cup of cooked split peas, for example, provides more than 16 grams of fiber. Legumes are also excellent sources of protein and other nutrients, including iron, zinc, folate and potassium. Other legumes with high fiber content include:

  • Lentils: 15.6 grams per cup
  • Black Beans: 15 grams per cup
  • Lima Beans: 13.2 grams per cup
  • Baked beans: 10.4 grams per cup

Whole Grains

The term "whole grain" refers to products that contain the parts of the grain called the bran, germ and endosperm. Bran, the outer layer of grains like oats, wheat and rice, is rich in dietary fiber. Bran also has essential fatty acids, including omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which help regulate your metabolism. The CDC recommends that people make half of the grains that they consume each day whole grains. The wide variety of whole-grain foods available in the market today makes it easy to include healthy grains in every meal:

  • Breakfast: One cup of instant cooked oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber. Top it with a half cup of raspberries to double the fiber content.
  • Lunch: One cup of whole wheat spaghetti has 6.3 grams of fiber. Serve up the noodles with two medium cooked tomatoes to add 3 more grams of fiber.
  • Afternoon Snack: One medium-sized oat bran muffin contains 5.2 grams of fiber.
  • Dinner: One cup of cooked brown rice has 3.5 grams of fiber. Top it with broccoli, onions and mushrooms to add around 5 more grams of fiber.
  • Snack: Three cups of air-popped corn contains 3.5 grams of fiber.

A Word About Whole Grain Bread

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DOH), packages marked "wheat bread" typically contain a mix of 75-percent white flour and only 25-percent wheat flour and are not likely to include whole grain. Packaging marked "multi-grain," "bran" or "100-percent wheat" are also usually not whole grain products. Look for "whole grain" on the label and check the Nutrition Fact label for fiber content. Even incremental increases to the amount of fiber that you consume in your daily diet can greatly enhance your health and well-being. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adding just 3 grams of fiber from whole grain foods into your daily diet can reduce your risk of heart disease. Shop wisely, read labels, get creative with cooking, and you can enjoy the multiple benefits of a fiber-rich diet at any age.

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