Fill up for less dough.

Karla Walsh
January 15, 2020
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Recipe pictured above: Blueberry-Banana Overnight Oats

Shocking but true: Just 5 percent of Americans meet the recommended goals for fiber, 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, according to the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

Okay, okay, so what's the big deal?

"It's critical to the health of our gut bacteria, which affects our overall health," explains Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.

Adequate fiber consumption can also reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

So how can you get it? Fiber can be found in fruit, veggies, nuts, beans, seeds and whole grains. There are two types:

  • Insoluble fiber, which can't be dissolved in water and helps food move through the digestive tract and adds bulk to stool
  • Soluble fiber, which can be dissolved in water and acts like a gel that can help improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels

"By increasing fiber intake, we also benefit from the accompanying vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals present in plant foods that help to prevent chronic lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Plus, it's filling and helps to keep us feel satisfied longer, which can lead to an overall decrease in caloric intake—if that's a goal," Harris-Pincus says.

In order to be considered a "high-fiber food," an item needs to contain 20 percent of the recommended daily value based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, or at least 5 grams per serving.

"I recommend slowly and progressively increasing your fiber intake as tolerated," says Michelle Hyman, R.D., C.D.N., a registered dietitian at Simple Solutions Weight Loss. "Be sure to drink enough fluids. While fiber usually helps prevent or alleviate constipation, if you aren't drinking enough it can actually have a binding effect."

Aim to sip at least 64 ounces of water and add no more than two to three additional grams of fiber to your menu each day.

Luckily, you don't need to rely on pricey powders or pills to hit your daily fiber quota. Several affordable refrigerator and pantry staples can help you reach that 25- or 38-gram mark. Here are six that Harris-Pincus and Hyman always have on-hand.

Beans

Fiber per ½ cup black beans: 8 grams

"These are one of the healthiest pantry staples you can get on a budget," Hyman says.

Canned or dried—and consider peas and lentils, too—legumes offer an average of 8 grams of fiber per half cup. They are also full of nutrients and vitamins our body needs, like iron, folate and magnesium.

"Beans are an amazing way to reach fiber goals because they're so versatile. Salads, chili, burritos, tacos, pasta salads...you name it, you can probably add beans to it," Harris-Pincus says.

If you're using canned, just be sure to seek out a lower-sodium or no-salt-added version. Rinsing them well can also decrease the salt content by up to 40 percent compared to traditional canned beans.

Oats

Fiber per cup: 8 grams

Your oat options have come a long way from mom's additive-filled packets.

"Toasted and delightfully chewy, many of the rolled oats on the market offer at least 6 grams of fiber per serving. They make for great additions to baked goods like oatmeal cookies and bars," Harris-Pincus says.

If you're seeking a fast fiber fix in the morning, try this affordable fiber-rich food in overnight oats.

Berries

Recipe pictured above: Berry-Kefir Smoothie

Fiber per cup of raspberries: 8 grams

Among the highest-fiber fruits, berries are always in season and budget-friendly when you find them in the freezer aisle.

"One cup of raspberries or blackberries has 8 grams of fiber. Strawberries and blueberries are a little bit lower in fiber, but are still great choices. These are very convenient as snacks and are helpful for satisfying a sweet tooth," Hyman says.

Plus the heart-healthy polyphenols—the antioxidants in the berries that are responsible for those vibrant colors—"offer a wide range of health benefits including possible prevention of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more," Harris-Pincus says.

High-Fiber Pasta

Fiber per cooked cup of rotini: 5 grams

Instead of standard white pasta, swap in something less processed for about 4 more grams of fiber per serving.

"There are so many healthy and delicious pasta alternatives on the market. They've become so mainstream that you no longer have to go to a health food store to find them," Hyman says. "Some of the highest fiber options I've seen are 100 percent whole-wheat and legume-based pasta, including chickpea, edamame or lentil noodles."

Wheat Bran

Recipe pictured above: Banana-Bran Muffins

Fiber per ¼ cup: 6 grams

A totally-sneakable ¼ cup packs a surprisingly strong amount of fiber—6 grams. And this isn't just good as an ingredient in basic bran muffins.

"Fine wheat bran is surprisingly versatile. I use it in place of breadcrumbs in homemade meatballs and meatloaf," Hyman says.

Or try it in our five-star fluffy oat bran pancakes.

High-Fiber Cereal

Fiber per ⅔ cup Fiber One: 18 grams

"Many 'healthier' cereal options are still low in fiber. A ⅔-cup serving of Fiber One Original contains a whopping 18 grams of fiber which gets you well on your way to your daily goal in one bowl," Harris-Pincus says. Be sure to read the label and check sugar content, as well as fiber, as many cereals are high in added sugars. Opting for a lower-sugar, higher-fiber alternative will help prevent an energy crash later in the day.

Enjoy it mixed into Greek yogurt (protein and fiber make for the most satisfying combo!) or combine with dried fruit and nuts for a DIY trail mix. If you are looking for more sweetness, try adding frozen or fresh fruit as well.

"You can also grind it up and use it instead of flour or breadcrumbs to coat chicken before baking for an easy way to amp up your fiber consumption," Harris-Pincus says.

*All fiber estimates according to the United States Department of Agriculture FoodData Central