We all know fiber is good for us. Not only can dietary fiber lower cholesterol, it also helps keep us trim and feeling full.

Our recommended total dietary fiber intake per day should be about 25-30 grams a day; currently, most Americans only consume an average of about 15 grams a day.

With that in mind, the challenge is how to increase fiber painlessly into your daily diet.

It is important to know how much fiber you currently consume; keep a tally of how much fiber you eat in one day and devise a plan to increase your intake if needed.

When adding fiber to your diet, increase water intake as well and add fiber gradually to allow the gastrointestinal tract time to adapt.

When adding fiber, choose whole grains. Look at the ingredient list on the nutrition label to make sure “whole grain” is the first or second ingredient; products that say “100 percent wheat” or “multigrain” are not usually whole grain.

Examples include 2 slices of whole-wheat bread (4 grams of fiber), 1 cup of cooked brown rice (4 grams of fiber), ½ cup Fiber One Cereal (14 grams of fiber), 1 cup Raisin Bran (7.5 grams of fiber) and 3/4 cup cooked oatmeal (3 grams of fiber).

Eat beans! Beans offer more fiber than most plant foods, plus they are loaded with healthy plant protein and complex carbohydrates. One cup of minestrone soup has about 5 grams of fiber, 1/2 cup fat-free refried beans have about 6 grams of fiber and ¼ cup of kidney beans contain 3 grams of fiber.

Not only is fruit an excellent source of vitamins and complex carbohydrates, fruit contains an ample amount of fiber.

Have fruit several times a day with your morning meal, as a snack or for dessert!

One large apple has 4 grams of fiber, one banana has 3 grams and 1 cup of strawberries contains 4 grams of fiber.

Enjoy your vegetables!

Vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber.

Sneak in vegetables at lunch, in soups, as appetizers and with dinner to increase fiber intake.

Examples include 1 cup cooked broccoli (4.5 grams of fiber), 1 cup raw carrots (4 grams of fiber), 1 medium sweet potato (4 grams of fiber) and 2 cups raw spinach (3 grams of fiber).

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at carey.stites@smchh.org.

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