Fiber: It May Not Be Sexy, But It's Essential

While it's best known for its, uh, reputation in the bathroom, fiber has a lot more going for it.

It doesn't get the glamour points of lean protein or the seasonal appeal of farmer's market veggies, but fiber has a ton of health benefits. While it's best known for its, uh, reputation in the bathroom, fiber has a lot more going for it.

Filling up on fiber slows the rate of sugar that is absorbed into the bloodstream, which keeps glucose levels from rising and falling like a roller coaster at Six Flags. That means you won't be starving immediately after eating.

Fiber fills you up but not out. High fiber foods keep you fuller longer, and they do a bit of magic: They reduce the number of calories you absorb from other foods you eat.

"Fiber binds with fat and sugar molecules as they travel through your digestive tract, which reduces the number of calories you actually get," Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., author of The F-Factor Diet, told Eating Well.

And something as simple as focusing on fiber could help you lose weight. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that dieters who were told to eat 30 grams of fiber a day but given no other dietary guidelines, lost a significant amount of weight.

If you feel like what you need is a reset, skip the juice cleanse and try a high-fiber diet, which is essentially a healthy and natural detox. Fiber is like a scrub brush for your insides. "Soluble fiber soaks up potentially harmful compounds, such as excess estrogen and unhealthy fats, before they can be absorbed by the body," Zuckerbrot said.

So what should you eat? Besides the usual suspects — beans, beans, the magical fruit — you might be surprised to find a few items on the list you wouldn't have expected to be so fiber-rich.

"Sometimes people don't think outside of the foods they are familiar with," said Elisabeth Moore, a dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

According to the Institute of Medicine, women need about 25 grams of fiber a day. Here are the ones that should be regularly in your diet.

Navy beans

Fiber: 19 grams per cup

Split Peas

Fiber: 16 grams per cup

Dried figs

Fiber: 15 grams per cup

Lentils

Fiber: 15.6 grams per cup

Black Beans

Fiber: 15 grams per cup

Chickpeas

Fiber: 11 grams per cup

Artichokes

Fiber: 10.3 grams per medium vegetable

Chia seeds

Fiber: 10 grams per two tablespoons

Peas

Fiber: 9 grams per cup

Put this spring veggie in whole wheat pasta, soups, or puree into a spread.

Raspberries

Fiber: 8 grams per cup

It's all those seeds!

Blackberries

Fiber: 8 grams per cup

Oatmeal

Fiber: 8 grams per cup

Edamame

Fiber: 8 grams per cup

Avocado

Fiber: 7 grams per half

Kamut

Fiber: 7 grams per cup

Teff

Fiber: 7 grams per cup

Whole wheat spaghetti

Fiber: 6 grams per cup

Corn

Fiber: 6 grams per half-cup

Pearled Barley

Fiber: 6 grams per cup

Prunes

Fiber: 6 grams per half-cup

Pear

Fiber: 6 grams per medium fruit

Bran flakes

Fiber: 5.5 grams per 3/4 cup

Potato

Fiber: 5 grams per one medium

Quinoa

Fiber: 5 grams per cup

Almonds

Fiber: 3.5 grams per 1 ounce

Banana

Fiber: 3 grams

Dark chocolate

Fiber: 3 grams per 1-ounce serving

Popcorn

Fiber: 1.2 grams per cup

Help me put it together

So what does that look like in a day? Here's an idea:

Breakfast

  • Bran flakes with oatmilk, raspberries or blackberries, sprinkled with chia or flax seeds
  • Oatmeal with banana and peanut butter, sprinkled with chia or flax seeds
  • Barley with soft boiled egg and avocado, (or try with kimchee and jammy eggs)

Lunch

Snack

  • Prunes and dark chocolate
  • Popcorn and an orange
  • Almonds and a banana

Dinner