Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate your body can't digest or absorb, so it passes through your digestive tract without adding calories or nutrients to your diet. Eating enough fiber pays big benefits by keeping your system regular and helping protect against heart disease and some cancers. The National Cancer Institute recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day, but most people average only about 11 grams. Fiber is plentiful in whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Here are some top choices for boosting your fiber intake.

 Serving SizeFiber (grams)
All-Bran cereal1/2 cup10
Spaghetti, whole wheat,cooked1 cup6
Bran flakes cereal3/4 cup5
Potato, baked with skin1 medium5
Figs, dried24
Lentils, cooked1/2 cup4
Oatmeal, cooked3/4 cup3
Broccoli, cooked1/2 cup3
Peas, green1/2 cup3
Spinach, cooked1/2 cup3
Apple, with skinmedium3
Orange1 medium3
Strawberries1 cup3
Bread, whole wheat1 slice2
Brown rice, cooked1/2 cup2

There are two types of fiber soluble and insoluble.

  • Soluble fiber may help lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of heart attack.
  • Although not yet proven, insoluble fiber may reduce your risk of heart disease. In addition, it holds onto water, which helps prevent constipation and subsequently reduces your risk of hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.
  • Foods high in soluble fiber: Oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apple pulp.
  • Foods high in insoluble fiber: Whole-wheat breads, wheat cereals, wheat bran, cabbage, beets, carrots, brussel sprouts, turnips, cauliflower, apple skin. And grains such as rye, rice, and barley;

Many commercial oat bran and wheat bran products (muffins, chips, waffles) actually contain very little bran. They may also be high in sodium, total fat and saturated fat. We recommend reading the labels on all packaged foods. In addition to soluble fibers, which are found naturally in several foods, some manmade foods can lower cholesterol.

For example, Benecol and Take Control are sterol-enriched margarines intended for use by people who have high cholesterol. They work by competing with cholesterol for absorption into the body. Two tablespoons per day can reduce cholesterol by about 14 percent.

When eaten as part of a low-fat diet, fiber can help lower your blood cholesterol. Dietary fiber is the part of a plant that your body can't digest. Most dietary fiber passes through your body unchanged. As it passes through your body, however, fiber affects the way your body digests food and absorbs nutrients. Your stomach accepts almost anything you send its way. However, certain foods that are high in fiber tend to pass more easily and quickly through your digestive tract and can help it function properly.