Fiber may not be as trendy to talk about as some other nutrients, but it's an important — and often overlooked — part of a healthy diet.
Although we aren't able to actually digest fiber, it has a "sponge-like" effect, helping to absorb water for smoother digestion. Fiber is also linked to good heart health, stable blood sugar and weight loss or maintenance, as explained by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Adults should get 25 to 38 grams of fiber every day — but 95 percent of us are falling short of these recommendations, according to a January 2017 study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
On average, we're only consuming 16 grams per day, according to a September 2014 analysis by the USDA. Get more of this important nutrient in your diet by adding these high-fiber foods to your shopping cart.
Pears rank as a top high-fiber fruit with 5.5 grams of fiber in one medium-sized pear. That meets nearly a quarter of your daily fiber needs.
Pears contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Both types aid digestion, while soluble fiber also helps reduce cholesterol. Keep the peel on, though, since that's where most of the fiber is.
Pears are perfect as a healthy on-the-go snack, or you can add them to your favorite salad for some added crunch and natural sweetness. For a nutritious, delicious dessert, try a simple poached pear by simmering halved pears in water, brown sugar, and red wine.
If you've never had bulgur, it should be on your must-try list. One cup of the whole grain has 8.2 grams of fiber and 5.6 grams of protein. A staple food of the Middle East and Mediterranean, bulgur is a grain made from different varieties of wheat that have been parboiled, dried and cracked.
It comes in four different textures: fine, medium, coarse and very coarse, and each type lends itself to a particular kind of dish. Commonly used to make Tabbouleh, bulgur's nutty flavor makes it a great base for salads and pilafs. You can also add it to breads and muffins or try it cooked as a hot cereal.
One cup of mango is a good source of fiber, providing 11 percent of your daily needs. What's more, mangoes are a true "superfruit" — bursting with antioxidants and more than 20 different vitamins and minerals — with just 100 calories a serving!
Wondering how to pick out a perfect mango? Squeeze gently to judge ripeness. If the mango has a slight give, it's ripe and ready to eat. If it's too firm, let it ripen on the counter for a few days at room temperature. And don't judge a mango by its color: The red blush you'll see on some varieties is not an indication of ripeness or quality.
Many popular varieties of seeds are an excellent source of fiber. For example, a quarter-cup of sunflower seeds contains 3 grams of fiber while flaxseeds have 10 grams. Seeds are great snacks and you can add them to baked goods for extra flavor and crunch. Some seeds like flaxseed also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have heart health benefits.
However, when you eat flaxseed whole, it'll pass through the intestinal tract mostly undigested, which means your body will get the fiber benefits, but not the omega-3s. So grind them first using a mini-blender or electric coffee grinder, and then try mixing seeds into foods like yogurt, smoothies, or pancake batter and even brownies.
Looking for good nutrition in a nutshell? Crack open some pistachios. A one-ounce serving (about 49 kernels) has 6 grams of protein and nearly 3 grams of fiber — about twice the fiber in a serving of oatmeal.
Plus, they offer more than 30 different vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients and are a good source of plant-based protein. Pistachios make a satisfying snack as well as a healthful ingredient in many meals.
Barley contains high levels of a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Research shows that beta-glucans reduce cholesterol and help control blood sugar, according to the Whole Grains Council. Barley is also a good source of iron, niacin and vitamin B6.
And this whole grain isn't just for soup. It can be made into a great side dish, like a barley pilaf. It's also a great addition to breads and you can even use barley flour to bake your favorite cookies.
One large apple has more than 5 grams of fiber per serving — helping keep your digestive system and your appetite in check. Apples contain a type of antioxidant called polyphenols, which have cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits.
Research indicates that apple pectin (a soluble fiber found in apples) may have a protective effect against bowel disorders. Apples are a perfect, portable snack — you can eat them anytime, anywhere.
Do not fear the artichoke! It may have an unusual shape and texture, but artichokes are easy to prepare and wonderfully tasty and nutritious. They'll go a very long way to meeting your fiber needs, too. A medium-sized artichoke contains 7 grams of fiber and only 60 calories. You might not have have guessed, but an artichoke also has 4 grams of protein.
To prepare, steam them and pull off the outermost petals. Dip the base of the petal into your favorite sauce (try lemon, salt, pepper and a little bit of olive oil). Once all the petals have been removed, you've arrived at the heart. Carefully remove the fuzz, cut, dip and enjoy. They make an excellent appetizer or side dish.
Just one cup contains 3.3 grams of fiber and a serving of strawberries (about eight berries) also supplies more vitamin C than an orange — meeting 160 percent of your daily needs! Strawberries also contain other essential nutrients like folate, potassium, magnesium and vitamin K.
Additionally, they're a great source of free-radical-fighting antioxidants, according to a January 2014 study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Strawberries will add sweetness and texture to just about any salad and work well in smoothies. For a special yet simple dessert, try dipping strawberries in dark chocolate for a sweet treat.
Affordable, nutritious, convenient and tasty, beans are the unsung hero of the food world. Plus, they're an excellent source of fiber: A half-cup of cooked black, kidney or pinto beans contain around 7 grams fiber. Beans also contain protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants and important nutrients including folate, manganese, potassium, iron, phosphorous, copper and magnesium.
The lean protein in beans helps you maintain and promote muscle growth while beans' complex carbohydrates provide a sustained energy source. Beans can serve as a main meal or a side dish, or they can be added to other foods, such as soups and salads, to increase nutritional value and add flavor and texture.
Prunes, or if you wish to call them by their somewhat sexier name, "dried plums," are another excellent source of fiber and nutrition. A single serving (about five dried plums) contains 3.4 grams of fiber for under 100 calories!
Prunes are famous for their digestive health benefits: If you need help "going," they might be your best friend. About half of the fiber in dried plums is insoluble, which helps speed food through the digestive tract. An April 2017 study in Nutrients shows that dried plums are linked to better bone and heart health.
Popcorn is an excellent low-calorie, high-fiber snack that'll keep your hunger at bay. Three cups of air-popped popcorn contains 3.5 grams of fiber and less than 100 calories.
Popcorn is really just popped corn kernels, so it's a whole grain. Many people don't realize that popcorn can be a healthy snack because too often it's doused in butter and salt. Instead of drizzling it in butter, try topping it with a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese instead.
Almonds are a versatile, power-packed nut and a good source of fiber. One ounce of almonds (about 23 whole almonds) contains 3.6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. They're also low in saturated fat and high in powerful antioxidants, particularly vitamin E. Eating just 1.5 ounces of nuts, like almonds, per day is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, according the American Heart Association.
Almonds are a great, portable snack but they're also perfect on salads and cereals. When kept in the refrigerator, whole almonds can last up to two years with virtually no decline in quality, as shared by the California Almond Board.
Avocados are another nutritional all-star. While not typically associated with fiber, one medium-sized avocado has about 14 grams of fiber. Avocados contain nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds that can enhance the overall quality of your diet.
Here's how to choose a ripe avocado: The best way to find out if it's ripe is by touch — if the avocado yields to firm gentle pressure you know it's ripe and ready-to-eat. The firmer ones need to wait a few days at room temperature. Avocados are perfect for sandwiches, salads and spreads.
There are a lot of misperceptions about potatoes, but the truth is that potatoes are good for you. One medium-sized potato (with skin) has 160 calories and 3.6 grams of fiber. Potatoes don't contain any fat, sodium or cholesterol, plus they provide 24 percent of your daily value of vitamin C. And a medium potato has more potassium than a banana!
If you're making a baked potato, keep it healthy by choosing your toppings carefully. Avoid using high-calorie ingredients like butter, cheese and bacon bits. And don't forget that potatoes are perfect for summer as they are great on the grill. The trick with potatoes is to keep an eye on portions — and of course, avoid the chips.
One cup of raspberries packs in a whopping 8 grams of fiber for just 50 calories! They're also high in vitamin C and a good source of folate.
Raspberries contain several important phytonutrients including anthocyanin, a natural compound that gives them their red color, according to an August 2017 study published in Food & Nutrition Research. This powerful antioxidant scavenges free radicals, helping to prevent aging of cells.
Bananas are one of nature's many perfect foods. A medium banana has about 110 calories and provides 3 grams fiber. Bananas are also great for your heart: One banana contains about 10 percent of your daily potassium needs. Research shows that potassium-rich diets can help reduce blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.
Bananas are an ideal snack for any time of the day. To top it all off, they come in their own package, so they are an excellent "grab-n-go" option.
Edamame is a great source of fiber and protein, with 8 grams of fiber and almost 9 grams of protein in one cup. Edamame is packed with other healthy nutrients like vitamin C, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6.
You can find edamame in the fresh produce section or freezer aisle at your local grocery store. You can steam them in minutes, and they make an excellent, filling snack. Edamame can also be added to salads, dips, spreads and stews.
19. High-Fiber Cereal
Not all cereals are nutritionally equal. Fiber, vitamin and mineral content can vary greatly. Get a jump start on your day — and your daily fiber needs — by choosing a high-fiber variety with a minimum of 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Good options include Grape-Nuts Original (7.5 grams fiber per 1/2 cup serving) and Bran Buds All-Bran Cereal (17 grams fiber per 1/2 cup serving). High-fiber cereals are great for breakfast, but they also make a great mid-afternoon power snack. Always remember to try to choose cereals that are made with whole-grains and avoid the sugary ones.
- MyFoodData: "Pears"
- Harvard Health: "Fiber"
- American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine: "Closing America’s Fiber Intake Gap"
- United States Department of Agriculture: "Fiber Intake of the US Population"
- MyFoodData: "Cooked Bulgur"
- MyFoodData: "Mangoes"
- MyFoodData: "Dried Sunflower Seeds"
- MyFoodData: "Organic Brown Flaxseeds"
- MyFoodData: "Whole Pistachios"
- Whole Grain Council: "Compare the Nutrients in Various Whole Grains"
- Whole Grain Council: "Health Benefits of Barley"
- MyFoodData: "Apples"
- MyFoodData: "Artichokes (Globe Or French)"
- MyFoodData: "Strawberries"
- Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry: "Strawberry and Human Health: Effects beyond Antioxidant Activity"
- MyFoodData: "Black Beans"
- MyFoodData: "Cooked Red Kidney Beans"
- MyFoodData: "Pinto Beans"
- MyFoodData: "Prunes (Dried Plums)"
- Nutrients: "Dried Plums, Prunes and Bone Health: A Comprehensive Review"
- MyFoodData: "Snacks Popcorn Air-Popped"
- MyFoodData: "Almonds"
- California Almond Board: "Shelf Stability and Shelf Life"
- American Heart Association: "Go Nuts (But Just a Little!)"
- MyFoodData: "Avocados"
- MyFoodDatat: "Potatoes"
- MyFoodData: "Banana"
- MyFoodData: "Raspberries"
- Food & Nutrition Research.: "Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: Colored Pigments as Food, Pharmaceutical Ingredients, and the Potential Health Benefits"
- American Heart Association: "How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure"
- MyFoodData: "Edamame"
- MyFoodData: "Grape Nuts Cereal"
- Kellogg's: "Kellogg's All-Bran Buds Cereal"