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5 Low-Cost Ways to Get Your Daily Fiber

Sometimes eating healthy is about cost as much as discipline -- high-fiber apples often cost more than high-sugar cookies. See more fruit pictures.
©iStockphoto.com/GomezDavid

When the U.S. Department of Agriculture released new dietary recommendations in 2010, it made clear the fact that Americans were lacking in a few nutritional essentials, and chief among them was dietary fiber. This particular nutrient, a carbohydrate the body doesn't digest, plays a major role in digestive health and may help fend off heart disease and cancer. Most of us are consuming far less than we need.

Women need 20 to 25 grams per day; men need 30 to 35. What most people are actually getting is closer to 10 or 15.

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Food choices have everything to do with health, but picking the high-fiber apple over the high-sugar cookie isn't always about self-discipline. It can also be a financial consideration: In most cases, the apple costs more.

Nutrients tend to cost more than empty calories, but fiber, for one, can be gotten on the cheap if you know where to look. Here, five ways to get the fiber you need without spending more than you've got, beginning with a food you may eat plenty of already without realizing it's a good fiber source ...

Potatoes are inexpensive, full of fiber, and, best of all, endlessly adaptable.
Potatoes are inexpensive, full of fiber, and, best of all, endlessly adaptable.
©iStockphoto.com/MaytalsMaytals

Serving size: 1 medium-sized potato (about 1/3-1/2 pounds)

Approximate cost per serving (U.S.)*: 15-30 cents

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Approximate fiber per serving: 3-4 grams

*Food prices vary widely; this is only an estimate based on recent U.S. averages.

As far as veggies go, potatoes are one of the most popular, even with kids. They're tasty in pretty much any preparation (fried, baked, mashed), and they're one of the cheaper fiber sources in the produce aisle.

Of course, we're not talking fast-food fries here. We're talking about potatoes prepared in a healthy method, like frying in a small amount of olive oil, baking whole or mashing with some low-fat milk.

One medium-sized white potato provides about 2.9 grams of dietary fiber, and one medium sweet potato has almost 4 grams. Either way, you're getting about 10 to 15 percent of the average recommended daily fiber intake for a few dimes or less.

Another potato benefit? Extra nutritional bang for those dimes: Potatoes also offer a nice supply of potassium, another essential nutrient you may not be getting enough of.

Next, a family-dinner staple ...

4. Whole Grain Pasta

Serving size: 2 ounces (about 1 cup)

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Approximate cost per serving (U.S.)*: 15-25 cents

Approximate fiber per serving: 6 grams

*Food prices vary widely; this is only an estimate based on recent U.S. averages.

This high-fiber food can go casual, fancy, hot, cold or casseroled, and it's another healthy choice the whole family can enjoy. Check the package before you buy, though: It's important to choose the whole-grain (usually whole-wheat) kind, because that's where the real fiber is.

The fiber count will vary depending on which pasta you choose, especially because you can now find pasta products that have been enriched with extra fiber. On average, though, you're looking at about 6 grams of fiber in a 2-ounce serving of whole-grain noodles. At a cost of anywhere from $1.50 to $2 per pound, you can pay less than 25 cents for up to a fourth of your recommended daily intake.

To get the most from your pasta, though, cover it in a healthy sauce, such as one made of fresh or canned tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. A heavy cream sauce won't do much for your health, no matter how much fiber it's coating.

Next, a morning fiber boost ...

3. Oatmeal

Serving size: 1 cup

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Approximate cost per serving (U.S.)*: 10 cents

Approximate fiber per serving: 4 grams

*Food prices vary widely; this is only an estimate based on recent U.S. averages.

While muffin-makers might have you believe otherwise, you don't need to buy an overpriced baked good to get your morning dose of fiber. Two popular breakfast foods, bran cereal and oatmeal, offer large amounts of fiber for a lot less.

Now, cereal isn't always inexpensive, but here's a secret: The store-brand bran flakes have the exact same dietary fiber as the more-expensive stuff. Still, another way to get a lot of fiber in the morning can sometimes be even cheaper: oatmeal.

One cup of oatmeal, if you buy the quick-cooking oats you prepare yourself rather than the instant, can run as little as 10 cents and offers 4 grams of fiber. That constitutes up to a fifth of your daily needs for just pennies. Add in some yummy flavorings, and you're still paying less than a quarter for a meal that puts a big dent in your fiber requirement.

Next, a food you can add to that oatmeal to boost the fiber content to even greater heights ...

Serving size: 1 medium

Approximate cost per serving (U.S.)*: 25 cents

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Approximate fiber per serving: 3.1 grams

*Food prices vary widely; this is only an estimate based on recent U.S. averages.

They're portable, sweet and go great in cereal and oatmeal: Bananas are a fiber source you can eat any time of day, and a single one has more than 3 grams of dietary fiber.

While fruit is never cheap, bananas run on the lower-cost side, about a quarter per fruit. And since overripe bananas are perfect for turning into sweet, dessert-worthy banana bread, you'll seldom have to throw one out if you don't eat it at the peak of ripeness.

To up your morning fiber, cut a banana in two and slice half of it into your oatmeal. Now you're looking at up to 25 percent of your daily fiber for less than 50 cents.

And finally, the food that may just be the cheapest source of fiber on the market ...

Beans may be your best bet for inexpensive fiber.
Beans may be your best bet for inexpensive fiber.
©iStockphoto.com/LauriPatterson

Serving size: 1 cup

Approximate cost per serving (U.S.)*: 25 cents

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Approximate fiber per serving: 13 grams

*Food prices vary widely; this is only an estimate based on recent U.S. averages.

For low-cost fiber, look no further than beans. Black beans, lima beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans -- they cost less than fruits and vegetables and pack far more fiber per serving. Depending on bean type, you can get from about 10 to more than 16 grams per serving.

And the price? The cheaper product is dried beans, rather than canned ones. For a 1-pound bag of dry beans, you'll probably pay less than $2. That bag will make approximately eight servings of beans, breaking down to about 25 cents per serving. If that serving holds black beans, you're paying a quarter to get about half of your daily dietary fiber.

While a healthy diet will probably never be the least expensive option, it doesn't have to be out of reach. To make your daily fiber requirement, look for the least-expensive food with the highest fiber content -- in most cases, this will be beans. Make chili, stew, cold salads, soups, baked beans or Mexican refried.

And remember: You don't need to go the organic route to be healthy. The less-expensive conventional stuff is full of the nutrients you need, too.

For more information on fiber, nutrition, and health, look over the links on the next page.

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More Great Links

Sources

  • Feldman, Donna. "What's the Best Source Of Fiber: Pills or Food?" The Diet Channel. (Oct. 17, 2011) http://www.thedietchannel.com/Whats-The-Best-Source-of-Fiber-Pills-or-Food.htm
  • Fiber: The Bottom Line. The Nutrition Source. Harvard School of Public Health. (Oct. 17, 2011) http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fiber/
  • The high cost of healthy eating out of reach for many. USA Today. Aug. 2011. (Oct. 17, 2011) http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/diet-nutrition/story/2011/08/The-high-cost-of-healthy-eating-out-of-reach-for-many/49805612/1
  • Melnick, Meredith. "How to Make a Healthy Diet More Affordable." TIME. Aug. 4, 2011. (Oct. 17, 2011) http://healthland.time.com/2011/08/04/how-to-make-a-healthy-diet-more-affordable/
  • Nutrition and healthy eating: High-fiber foods. Mayo Clinic. (Oct. 17, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-fiber-foods/NU00582
  • Picco, Michael F. "Fiber supplements: are they safe to take every day?" Mayo Clinic. (Oct. 17, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fiber-supplements/AN00130
  • TLC Cooking: Recipes. (Oct. 17, 2011) https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/recipes-channel.htm

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