Root vegetables, squash, and greens are fiber-rich, especially if you know how to cook and serve them.

Up Your Fiber Intake with these Fruits and Veggies

Research shows that a diet rich in fiber helps lower cholesterol, encourages a healthier digestive tract, and reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

But unfortunately, many people are confused by the term fiber when applied to vegetables. In many cases, the fibrous parts of plant foods are those that your body can’t digest or that don’t absorb as easily. Soluble fiber, the type most often found in vegetables, buffers absorption of low-density lipoproteins (“bad” cholesterol) and slows the release of sugars.

Insoluble fiber, typically found in the outer bran layer of grains, helps regulate intestinal health and aids weight control by enhancing the feeling of fullness. Eating both types of fiber aids digestion, prevents disease and can help you maintain a healthy weight. Try these tips for increasing your natural fiber intake from vegetables and fruits.

1. Replace Meat with Legumes and Beans

Lentils, beans, chickpeas, and other legumes are not only high in fiber, they’re great sources of protein and other nutrients, without the saturated fat. In fact, one cup of cooked lentils has a whopping 15 grams of fiber! Try this spicy chickpea and bulgur soup for a high-fiber feast. Navy and white beans are fiber-rich as well and equally good in soups and stews.

2. Put Away the Peeler

The peels and outer layers of carrots, zucchini, beets, apples, peaches, cucumbers, eggplant, and potatoes are packed with fiber, so go ahead, eat the skin. If you’re used to eating one of these old favorites peeled, you can train yourself to like it peel-on by trying new recipes, or eating it lightly cooked rather than raw. It’s worth it for the health benefits.

3. Don’t Toss the Stems

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the most fibrous part of some vegetables, such the stems of broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus, pack a fiber wallop. So instead of throwing out the stems, just cook them a little longer than the florets so they’re easier to chew.

4. Discover These High-Fiber Winners

Some vegetables and fruits are particularly fiber-rich. Artichokes, for example, contain more fiber than any other food – an average of 10 grams of fiber per ‘choke! And one cup of avocado has 10 grams of fiber as well. Pears and persimmons are fiber stars, with 5 grams in one pear and six in one persimmon. Use this handy guide to fiber content from Kaiser Permanente to find more surprising sources of fiber hiding in your produce aisle. A few more fiber stars to try:

Snack on Snap Peas. Actually, not just peas, but green beans, edamame, and pretty much anything in the legume family is a high-fiber food. This time of year you can enjoy many of these favorites fresh from the garden or farmer’s market.

Enjoy the Fiber Bounty of Berries. Thanks to their many tiny seeds, berries like raspberries and blackberries are surprisingly high in fiber; one cup provides the fiber equivalent of four slices of whole wheat bread. Eat them plain or add them to yogurt, cereal, or baked goods like muffins and scones.

Get Healthy with Greens. You may not think of greens as high-fiber foods, but they are – a half cup of spinach, for example, has seven grams of fiber, while Swiss chard and collard greens have four grams per cup.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.