One of the easiest and most effective changes you can make to your diet is to eat more foods rich in fiber, and fewer foods rich in fat.
There are many reasons to boost the intake of fiber while controlling fat, including increased fitness, decreased weight and better overall health.
It is a fact that most people consume too much of what they should not – things like sugar, salt and fat, and not enough of what they should – like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
That means that many people are not getting sufficient fiber in their diets, and they may suffer a variety of heath effects as a result.
Of course before you can eat more fiber you need to know where that fiber comes from.
Gauging the amount of fiber in your diet is yet another reason to read nutritional labels carefully.
All packaged and processed foods in the grocery store must carry these labels, and they detail such things as fat, fiber, calories and nutrient values.
Getting familiar with these nutritional labels is a necessary first step to improving any diet.
One important note about increasing the level of fiber in your diet.
While increasing fiber and decreasing fat is certainly a worthy goal, it is best to take things gradually until your body adjusts to the change.
Those accustomed to low levels of fiber often experience bloating, cramps, gas and abdominal pain when suddenly boosting the amount of fiber in their diet.
Increasing the level of fiber gradually helps to avoid these unpleasant side effects.
Most plant based foods contain at least some fiber, but some types of foods contain more than others.
The only foods that do not contain fiber are animal based products.
That means that meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk and dairy products do not contain any fiber.
It is important to keep that fact in mind when planning healthy meals.
The foods highest in fiber, containing more than 6 grams per serving, include such healthy staples as dried beans, legumes, dried peas, dried fruits, nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and many types of berries.
These foods are excellent sources of fiber.
Not as high in fiber as those above, but still great sources of fiber are apples, pears, barley, bran muffins, lima beans, brown rice, snow peas, green peas and sweet potatoes. Baked potatoes are also good sources of fiber, as long as the skin is consumed along with the flesh of the potato.
All these foods contain from 4 to 6 grams of fiber per serving.
Many vegetables and fruits also contain fiber, as does rye bread, wheat bead and melons.
Most of these foods contain from 2 to 4 grams of fiber, so you will need to add more of them to get the most out of their fiber content.
It is important to take fiber content into account as you do your weekly grocery shopping.
Getting into the habit of reading labels and choosing high fiber foods is the best way to make a long term commitment to healthier eating.
It is important to choose foods high in fiber during every trip to the grocery store.
When choosing bread, crackers and other baked goods, for instance, you should strive to find whole grain varieties that are rich in fiber.
Wheat and rye bread are good sources of fiber, as are bran muffins and many kinds of cereal.
Choosing cereals that are rich in fiber is a great way to increase the level of fiber intake while enjoying a delicious breakfast every morning.
Cereals that contain wheat bran and oat bran can be excellent sources of fiber.
The most important thing is to read the nutritional label and not rely simply on the claims made on the box.
Many people are under the assumption that cooking fresh vegetables and other fiber rich foods destroys their fiber content, but luckily this is not the case.
While it is true that overcooking certain vegetables can result in some loss of nutrients, cooking has no effect whatsoever on fiber content.
So feel free to prepare those healthy foods any way you want.
Ultimate High Fiber Foods
HIGH FIBER FOODS: Fruits
Total Dietary Fiber: 10.5 grams per cup (sliced)
Notable Nutrients: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin K, Potassium
The fiber content of avocados varies depending on the type.
There is a difference in fiber content and makeup between the between the bright green, smooth skinned avocados (Florida avocados) and the smaller darker and dimpled variety (California avocados).
Florida avocados have significantly more insoluble fiber than California avocados.
In addition to the fiber, avocados are packed with healthy fats that help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Total Dietary Fiber: 9.9 grams of fiber per medium fruit, skin on.
Notable Nutrients: Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Omega 6 fatty acids, Potassium
Crisp, sweet, and delicious, Asian Pears contain high levels of fiber, but also is rich in Omega-6 fatty acids (149 mg per serving) associated with healthy cells, brain and nerve function.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 5%-10% of food calories come from Omega 6 fatty acid foods.
Raspberry Total Dietary Fiber: 8 grams of fiber per cup
Raspberry Notable Nutrients: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Folate, Total
Blackberry Dietary Fiber: 7.6 grams of fiber per cup
Blackberry Notable Nutrients: Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Omega 6 fatty acids, Potassium, Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese
Blackberries are high in Vitamin K that is associated with boosting of bone density, while the raspberry’s high manganese levels help to support healthy bones, skin, and blood sugar levels.
All of these benefits, in addition to providing a great tasting way to add fiber to your diet.
HIGH FIBER FOODS: Vegetables
Total Dietary Fiber: 10.3 grams of fiber per medium artichoke
Notable Nutrients: Vitamins A, C, E, B, K, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorous
Low in calories, rich in fiber and essential nutrients, artichokes is a great addition to your diet.
Just one medium artichoke accounts for nearly half of the recommend fiber intake for women, and a third for men.
Total Dietary Fiber: 8.6 grams per cooked cup; majority insoluble fiber
Notable Nutrients: Vitamin C, Vitamin K, B6, Thiamin, Manganese, Folate, Vitamin A, Protein
The humble green pea is packed with fiber, and powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties and phytonutrients that support wellness.
Frozen peas are available year round, making them ideal to incorporate into your diet. Lightly steam peas and add to soups, and salads.
They add a gentle sweetness, while providing nearly 100% of your daily-recommended Vitamin C, and over 25% of Thiamin and Folate. (Recommended photo: raw in pod)
Total Dietary Fiber: 8.2 grams per cup
Notable Nutrients: Vitamins A, C, K, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Niacin, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorous, Zinc, Protein
In the southern part of the United States, okra is a staple, and for good reason.
Just one cup provides for nearly a third of recommended daily fiber, and is one of the top calcium rich foods.
It is packed with nutrients and is easily incorporated into soups and stews.
HIGH FIBER FOODS: Beans and Legumes
Total Dietary Fiber: 12.2 grams of fiber per cup
Notable Nutrients: Protein, Thiamin, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Folate
Black beans are nutrient dense, and provide great protein and fiber to your diet.
The high content of flavonoids and antioxidants help to fight free radicals. Reducing your risk of some cancers and inflammatory diseases.
Total Dietary Fiber: 8 grams of fiber per cup
Notable Nutrients: Protein, Copper, Folate, Manganese, Omega-6 fatty acids, Omega-3 fatty acids
Chickpeas have been enjoyed across the globe for thousands of years.
They are rich in essential nutrients, including Manganese. In fact, these small beans provide for 84% of your daily-recommended amount of Manganese.
Total Dietary Fiber: 13.2 grams of fiber per cup (cooked)
Notable Nutrients: Copper, Manganese, Folate, Phosphorous, Protein, B2, B6
In addition to the outstanding fiber per serving, lima beans offers nearly 25% of the daily recommended iron for women.
The manganese helps with energy production, and the antioxidants help to fight free radicals.