It lowers glucose levels. It protects against diabetes and heart disease. It helps lower cholesterol. And it keeps you regular. We’re talking about our best friend fiber, and its list of benefits seems to grow every day. Just last month, new research found a link between higher fiber intake (more than 17.5 grams per day) and a lowered risk of lung disease. And earlier this week, a long-term study of 44,000 women found that those who consumed 28 grams of fiber per day on average had a 24 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer before menopause, compared to women who ate 14 grams a day on average.
If you want to increase your intake, the magic numbers to keep in mind are 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And though we’re often used to hearing the words “fiber” and “whole grains” in the same breath, there are actually plenty of other (often healthier) options for getting more fiber without piling our plates high with bread and rice. Whether you’re just watching your grain intake or eating a strictly low-carb diet, fear not for your bowels—we’ve got you covered with the following high-fiber, grain-free (and some low-carb) fiber sources:
Avocados: Sprinkled with a little sea salt and eaten with a spoon or whipped up into guacamole, avocados are packed with potassium, heart-healthy fat, vitamin K, vitamin E, magnesium and fiber—13 grams of it in the average 200-gram avocado. And with only 17 grams of carbohydrates total, including fiber, it’s a great low-carb food too. Prefer something sweet? Try it in a flour-free chocolate cookie recipe!
Artichokes: One large artichoke (about 162 grams) will up your fiber intake by about 9 grams. And with only 17 grams of carbs total, they’re a great low-carb option, whether they’re part of a salad, in a stew or paired with spinach for a dip.
Berries: As far as fiber-rich fruits go, prunes are up there, with 12 grams of fiber per cup—but they also tend to be packed with sugar. For a lower-sugar, high-fiber fruit, opt for berries like blackberries and raspberries, which contain about 8 grams of fiber per cup and only 5-7 grams of sugar.
Black Beans: Bring on the chili! Throw some ground beef in a slow cooker and make sure you add a few cups of beans. A cup of black beans (about 194 grams) will add 30 grabs of fiber. Lima beans add 13 grams of fiber per cup, and, if you’re watching your carb intake, black soy beans contain 7 grams of fiber and only 8 total grams of carbohydrates.
Chia Seeds: Chia seed pudding has been having a moment, but the mighty seeds are also great in baked goods, green smoothies, sprinkled on grilled veggies and in gravies and stir-fry sauces (check out some of our favorite chia seed recipes here). In addition to being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, just one ounce (or two tablespoons) of chia seeds will add 10 grams of fiber to your day (and only another 2 grams of non-fiber carbs, making them perfect for low-carb eaters).
Cauliflower: Crunch on it raw for a midday snack, grill it up with dinner or cover it in cheese. However you eat it, one small head (about 4 inches in diameter, or 265 grams) will get you 5 grams of fiber. And with only 13 total grams of carbohydrates (including fiber) per small head, it makes a great grain-free, low-carb replacement for rice too—rice it in a food processor and use it in place of regular rice in any dish.
Coconut Flour: You don’t usually see cake on a list of high-fiber foods, but you can get both a sweet fix and a fiber boost when you bake with coconut flour instead of all-purpose flour. Case in point? This gluten-free cinnamon cake with a coconut glaze, made with almond flour, coconut flour, coconut milk, eggs, grated apples and other healthy goodies. Use it in place of traditional breading for grain-free, low-carb fried chicken fingers, too—just two tablespoons contain about 5 grams of fiber.
Flaxseed Meal: Four tablespoons of flaxseed meal will add 8 grams of fiber to your day, along with benefits like stabilizing blood sugar, warding off infections and lowering cholesterol. Sprinkle them into a salad, use them in baking or mix with a morning yogurt or smoothie.
Nuts: Love to snack? Remove your hand from the bag of Cheetos and dip into a can of nuts instead. If you’re counting calories, count carefully—the calories in nuts add up fast when you’re mindlessly snacking. But they’re also a healthy fiber boost if you’re replacing a junk food snack with them. One ounce of almonds will give you 3.5 grams of fiber, while pecans and hazelnuts give you a little under 3.
Psyllium Husks: With 5 grams of fiber per teaspoon, psyllium husks make for an easy, low-carb fiber boost—especially since it dissolves easily in water and comes in capsules. Making a snack out of it? Mix it in with a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter for a sweet but healthy nosh.
Veggie Purees: Okay, so a big bowl of cauliflower, beans and avocados probably won’t make it into your dinner rotation. But whip out a blender and you can get creative with vegetable-based soups and sauces that easily work with your favorite entrees.