Why find fiber? Research has shown that eating more foods containing fiber can lower your risk of two fairly common, potentially fatal cancers: colon cancer and prostate cancer.

Because foods with fiber are naturally low in fat, they may also protect you against other types of cancer to which a high-fat diet may contribute.

Fiber also lowers cholesterol, prevents constipation, and reduces your chance of having various digestive disorders.

That’s a whole lot of health benefits for what is essentially the undigestible part of a plant.

What is Fiber?

Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate. Even though it’s undigestible, fiber is a necessary part of any healthy diet. By remaining intact, fiber helps to mover waste through the digestive system smoothly and quickly.

You’ll find fiber in plant foods-fruits, vegetables and grains. There is no fiber in any type of animal products-not in meat, fish, milk or eggs.

Forms of Fiber

Don’t be confused by the term “dietary fiber.” The phrase is used by doctors and nutritionists to distinguish between the kind of fiber you eat and the kind of fiber you wear (for example silk or cotton fibers).

You may also have heard of “soluble” and “insoluble” fiber. Most fiber you’ll eat has both kinds-soluble fiber (such as oat bran) dissolves in water, insoluble fiber (such as wheat bran) does not. Don’t worry about which kind is better for you-both are good!

Another type of soluble fiber is pectin, found in fruits.

Fiber Facts

The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 11.5 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat. So if you eat around 2,500 calories daily, you’d need about 29 grams of fiber.

Unfortunately, many people do not get anywhere near the right amount of fiber.

Where Can You Find Fiber?

To get more fiber, simply eat more plant foods-fruits, vegetables and grains. A good general goal is to eat from six to 11 servings a day of whole grain, three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruits.

Tips: Increase your fiber gradually, so that you’re not plagued by problems with gas. Make sure you drink eight glasses of water a day to keep all that extra fiber moving comfortably along.

Where to Find Fiber

Here are some of your best bets for increasing your fiber. In each category, the foods with the highest amounts of fiber are listed first.

Any food listed here has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. This is enough to rate it as a “good” source by government standards. Some, especially the vegetables, have even more. Check nutrition labels for specifics.