Most of us don't eat nearly enough fiber, a lack of which can lead to some serious health risks.
Fiber is not glamorous. It doesn't have sexy colors, it's not associated with dazzling flavors. Fiber is more Great Aunt Millie's prunes and bran cereal, less Instagram enthusiasm – I mean, when was the last time you saw a food photo on social media breathlessly hashtagged with #fiber?
But have no fear, because I am here to rave about fiber! I always love the underdog, especially when the underdog in question here, dietary fiber, is so crucial – and so sadly lacking in the standard American diet.The U.S. FDA says that most Americans do not get the recommended amount of dietary fiber, calling it a "nutrient of public health concern" because low intakes are associated with so many potential health risks. As far as I'm concerned, anytime we can address expensive and resource-intensive health issues with lifestyle/diet changes, it's worthy of attention.
A major analyses recently found that 25 to 29 grams of fiber a day can add years to your life, and the benefits are even higher when you consume 30 grams or more. (You can read about the study here: 8 remarkable things that happen when you eat enough fiber. It's eye-opening, to say the least.)
Current U.S. guidelines for fiber are 25.2 grams for females ages 31 to 50 and 30.8 grams for males 31 to 50 (to see other ages, go to page 43).
Processing foods removes a lot of fiber (and other nutrients), so simply eating more whole foods and less junky ones can make a big difference. But I wanted to come up with some specific swaps to make it even easier – I think these are easy and delicious and completely reasonable. Most of this data comes from the USDA nutrient database, and are for total dietary fiber. I intentionally left our foods that have added inulin or cellulose used to boost the nutrition panel.
1. Raspberries instead of grapesFor 5 ounces (around 1 cup):
Green grapes – 1.3 grams fiber (100 calories)
Raspberries – 9 grams fiber (70 calories)
2. Split peas instead of chicken noodle soupFor one cup:
Chicken noodle soup – 2 grams fiber (120 calories)
Split peas, cooked – 16.3 grams fiber (227 calories)
3. Chickpea pasta instead of white pastaFor two ounces dry:
White flour penne – 2 grams fiber (200 calories)
Banza chick pea penne – 8 grams fiber (190 calories)
4. Whole wheat bread instead of white breadFor two slices:
White bread – 2 grams fiber
100% whole wheat bread – 6 grams fiber
5. Baked potato instead of french friesMcDonald's french fries, small – 2.8 grams fiber (229 calories)
Russet baked potato with skin – 6.9 grams fiber (284 calories)
6. Fresh green peas instead of canned green beansFor one cup cooked:
Canned green beans – 3.4 grams fiber
Fresh green peas – 9 grams fiber
7. Quinoa instead of riceFor one cup, cooked:
White rice – .06 grams fiber (206 calories)
Brown rice – 3.6 fiber (216 calories)
Quinoa – 5.2 grams fiber (222 calories)
8. Green smoothie instead of green juiceFrom a popular juice chain:
Green juice, 12 ounces – 0 grams fiber (60 calories)
Green smoothie, 20 ounces - 10 grams fiber (220 calories)
9. Apple instead of apple juiceApple juice, 12 ounces – 0 grams of fiber (175 calories)
Apple, 2 small – 7.2 grams fiber (156 calories)
10. Chia seeds instead of granola (as a topping)For one ounce:
Granola – 1.5 grams fiber (132 calories)
Chia seeds – 9.8 grams fiber (138 calories)
Notes: These are just some examples to show you how much fiber you can be getting. Fiber content varies by brand and variety, so check the nutrition panels and the USDA database if you are curious to further boost your fiber intake. And the quickest tip is this: Aim to eat plants that most closely resemble their natural self, like whole fruits and vegetables instead of juices, and whole grains instead of stripped, refined ones. For more, see related stories below.