Why do I need fiber?Victority/Shutterstock
Virtually every weight-loss program welcomes "good carbs" as part of a healthy, lean, long-term diet. "Good carbs" refers to complex carbohydrates, foods like whole grains, nuts, beans, and seeds that are composed largely of complex sugar molecules, requiring lots of time and energy to digest into the simple sugars your body needs for fuel.
One of the biggest benefits of foods rich in complex carbs is that they also contain large amounts of fiber. Fiber, in basic terms, is the indigestible parts of plant foods. It is the husk on the grain of wheat, the thin strands in celery, the crunch in the apple, the casings on edible seeds. Fiber protects you from heart disease
, cancer, and digestive problems. Depending on the type of fiber (there is more than one!), it lowers cholesterol, helps with weight control, and regulates blood sugar.
Bottom line: This is one nutrient you don't want to miss. Yet the average American gets just 12-15 grams of fiber a day—far below the recommended 25-30 grams. And that was before so many people started cutting carbs for weight loss
, without realizing they were also cutting out healthy dietary fiber. Here's how to sneak "good carbs" and extra fiber into your daily diet with a minimum of effort.
Eat cereal every day for breakfastesolla/Shutterstock
Ideally, aim for a whole grain, unsweetened cereal with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving. Just eating any cereal might be enough, however. A University of California study found that cereal eaters tend to eat more fiber and less fat than non-cereal eaters. Healthy, high-fiber cereals you might want to consider include Kellogg's All-Bran Original, Kashi GOLEAN, and Kellogg's Raisin Bran.
Eat two apples every dayGlayan/Shutterstock
Not just to keep the doctor away, but because apples are a good source of pectin, a soluble fiber that contributes to a feeling of fullness and digests slowly. One study found that 5 grams of pectin was enough to leave people feeling satisfied for up to four hours.
Make a yogurt mix every Wednesday for breakfastvictoriasky1/Shutterstock
Take one small container of yogurt and mix in 1/3 cup All-Bran cereal, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds, and 5 large, diced strawberries for a whopping 12.2 grams of fiber—nearly half your daily allowance! (Did you know yogurt has been linked to treating depression
Eat baby carrots and broccoli florets dipped into low-fat ranch dressingAtiwan Janprom/Shutterstock
You'll fill up the empty space in your tummy while getting about 5 grams of fiber in each cup of veggies. Eat this as your afternoon snack three days a week.
Keep a container of trail mix in your car and office for the munchiesMark Herreid/Shutterstock
Mix together peanuts, raisins, a high-fiber cereal, and some chocolate-covered soy nuts. Allow yourself one handful for a sweet, yet high-fiber, snack.
Switch to whole-grain crackersDon Pablo/Shutterstock
You'd never think a tiny cracker can make a difference, but one regular whole wheat cracker has 1/2 gram of fiber. Ten crackers give you 5 grams of fiber. So next time, spread your peanut butter on whole-grain crackers (look for brands that proclaim they're trans-fat-free) instead of bread.
Mix your regular cereal with the high-test stuffPaul Reid/Shutterstock
Okay, we'll be honest. We wouldn't want to face an entire bowl of All-Bran either. But just 1/3 cup packs a walloping 8.5 grams of fiber. Mix it with an equal amount of, say, Apple Cinnamon Cheerios and you'll barely know it's there (but you will be one-third of the way to your daily fiber intake). Check out the Nature's Path brands, which offer several truly delicious, high-fiber choices.
Add kidney beans or chickpeas to your next saladjulie deshaies/Shutterstock
A quarter cup adds an additional 5 grams of dietary fiber, notes Lisa Andrews, RD, a nutritionist at the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati.
Make sure that the first ingredient in whole-grain products has the word "whole" in itA Lein/Shutterstock
Examples of this, "whole wheat," or "whole grain." If it says multi-grain, seven-grain, nutra-grain, cracked wheat, stone-ground wheat, unbromated wheat or enriched wheat, it's not whole wheat, and thus is lacking some of the vitamins and minerals, not to mention fiber, of whole grains.