Want to give your health a makeover? It’s time to become a fan of high-fiber foods. Many people know that eating a diet filled with fiber is a way to support their digestive system and help keep everything running smoothly.
But fiber comes with a whole list of other health benefits! For example, a diet high in fiber can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to research. The researchers also saw a connection between a high-fiber diet and lower rates of both colon cancer and breast cancer.
Plus, eating fiber is associated with a healthier weight, according to the Mayo Clinic — and something as simple as focusing on adding more fiber to your diet can help you shed pounds, research has found.
Another way it can help with your health goals? “Insoluble fiber adds bulk to food and isn’t digested, so it helps increase feelings of fullness, as well as frequency of bowel movements,” says Kaleigh McMordie, RDN, a registered dietitian and recipe developer based in Lubbock, Texas.
There are two main types, insoluble and soluble, and both come with big benefits, the Mayo Clinic notes. “Soluble fiber slows the rate of digestion, which also slows how quickly glucose enters the bloodstream, thus helping with blood sugar control,” says McMordie. “Soluble fiber also absorbs water in the intestines, bulking up stools, which can help prevent diarrhea.” Meanwhile, insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation.
And there are even more perks connected to fiber. McMordie says research suggests a link between a diet high in soluble fiber — found in foods such as oatmeal, nuts, and pulses — and a reduced risk of breast cancer. (According to North Dakota State University, pulses are in the legume family and include lentils, chickpeas, and beans.) One review and meta-analysis looked at 20 studies, and authors noted that people who consumed the most fiber had an 8 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared with those who consumed the least.
To find fiber, you don’t have to look far. It’s widely available in fruits and veggies and nuts and seeds, according to MedlinePlus.
RELATED: 9 Top Questions About Fiber, Answered
How Much Fiber Do You Need to Reap the Health Benefits?
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines set adequate intake of fiber at 25 grams (g) a day for women ages 31 to 50 and 31 g a day for men of the same age. Most Americans are getting just half that, with the average intake clocking in at 15 g, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Adding fiber to your diet doesn’t have to be hard. Not only can boosting your fiber intake be surprisingly easy, but fiber-rich foods are tasty, too. (Avocado toast, anyone?)
“To get enough fiber, I always suggest making at least half of your grains whole grains and getting the recommended five servings per day of fruits and vegetables as a starting point,” says McMordie. “Snacking on high-fiber foods, such as nuts, high-fiber cereal, or whole-grain crackers is another good way to add fiber in throughout the day,” she suggests.
Here are 11 of the best sources to help you get more fiber in your diet.