Roughage, also known as fiber, is the part of natural plant foods that your body can't digest. It travels through your system, helping to move food waste materials out of your body, thus preventing constipation. Fiber also lowers your risk of diabetes and heart disease. The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily fiber intake of 38 grams for men age 50 or younger, 30 grams for men over 50, 25 grams for women 50 or younger and 21 grams for women over 50.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are not only full of fiber, but also are packed with powerful nutrients like vitamin A, which is essential for healthy skin and tissues, and vitamin C, which helps make your body's connective tissue and heals wounds. According to Harvard University School of Public Health, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables also helps lower blood pressure, reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers and lowers the risk of eye and digestive problems. Eat at least 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables daily and include a rainbow of colors.
Whole grains -- those that haven't gone through a milling process -- contain their natural fiber and nutrient content. The United States Department of Agriculture states that refined-grain products, however, go through a milling process that removes dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins. Although many refined grains are enriched, meaning some B vitamins and iron are added back in after processing, fiber isn't added back. The B vitamin family is crucial in converting food to energy, and it's essential for healthy skin and blood cells, and for proper brain and nervous system functions. Whenever possible, choose whole-grain products that are natural sources of roughage and B vitamins.
Legumes, including beans, peas, lentils and peanuts, are excellent sources of natural roughage. While peanuts contain more natural fat than other legumes, and peas contain more starch, all legumes are packed with fiber. According to the University of Michigan Health System, legumes are protein rich, low in fat and packed with antioxidants that help protect your body from free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules that can damage cells. Add a variety of fiber-rich legumes, such as chickpeas, lima beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, yellow peas and mung beans, to your diet.
Eat nuts to boost your roughage intake. University of Massachusetts Medical School states that consuming 1/4 cup of fiber-rich nuts a day promotes health, improves glycemic control, lowers risk of heart disease and helps prevent heart attacks. Although nuts contain monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats -- good fats -- and don't contain cholesterol, they are high in calories. The key is to eat them in moderation. Add a variety of nuts, including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts and pistachios to your daily diet.
- MayoClinic.com: Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet
- MayoClinic.com: Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Chart of High-Fiber Foods
- Harvard University: Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publications: Listing of Vitamins
- University of Michigan Health System: University of Michigan Integrative Medicine: Healing Foods Pyramid ™: Legumes
- University of Massachusetts Medical School: Healthy Heart: Nuts!
- USDA: ChooseMyPlate.gov: Grains: What Foods Are in the Grains Group?
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images