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Do you just love baked beans on toast? Here's a good excuse to eat them as often as you like, especially if the toast is whole-wheat: fiber.

Fiber is the magic ingredient that helps keep your digestion in tiptop shape. With a healthy digestion, you'll be slimmer and healthier, with less risk of getting many of our modern diseases such as bowel cancer, diverticular disease and even diabetes.

In itself, fiber is indigestible. But it helps food move through your digestive tract faster. This is important, because food putrefying in the digestive tract contributes to many of our modern diseases.

By moving through faster, your food gets digested sooner, and the indigestible bits, including the fiber, are moved out faster.

Fiber also absorbs water to become lighter, bulkier and easier to move along. This is why it helps prevent constipation. When it absorbs water in your stomach, you feel full sooner, and therefore eat less. It's a great way to lose weight.

What we call a high-fiber diet is, in fact, a diet which helps ensure that we eat enough of this important food. We each need about 35 grams of fiber a day. In reality, we usually eat 12 grams or less, because our refined Western diet has all the fiber taken out of it! Foods that look fibrous, like celery and lettuce, are not the answer. Fiber comes in some surprising forms.

So how you can add more fiber to your diet quickly and easily?

A breakfast or supper of baked beans on toast is an excellent way to start. Half a cup of baked beans will give you nearly 10 grams of fiber by itself. Dried beans, peas, lentils and garbanzos are all excellent sources of fiber.

Whole-wheat bread has more fiber than white: nearly 3 grams per slice compared with 0.6 gram for white.

That means half a cup of baked beans on a slice of whole-wheat toast will give you one third of the fiber you need in a day!

What do you do if you don't like baked beans? There are many other foods to choose from. Half a cup of All-Bran will give about 10 grams of fiber. One cup of cooked oatmeal will give you about 4. Slice an apple over that to add almost 4 grams more. (And tuck another apple in your lunch box while you're at it.)

A cup of stewed prunes with yogurt also makes a nice high-fiber breakfast. There's not much fiber in the yogurt, but the cup of prunes will give you over 11 grams.

For lunch, a whole-wheat roll or sandwich and a carrot salad will help fill in the fiber gap. If you can eat just three fresh carrots a day, you'll be adding another 6 grams of fiber to your diet very easily.

For dinner, try a large stuffed potato for nearly 6 grams of fiber, or a generous helping of boiled new potatoes. Add lots of crunchy fresh vegetables, including at least half a cup of peas.

If you compare these foods with your normal diet and see a big difference, here's another tip: don't rush into a high-fiber diet. You could feel very uncomfortable, and your family could ban the baked beans on the basis of their side-effects! Rather, add fiber into your meals gradually, to give your body time to adjust to this new, healthier way of eating.

And don't forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day, so that the fiber you eat can swell to be as light as possible.

A good high-fiber cookbook will give you many more meal ideas. But for sheer, simple fiber-power, you can't beat those baked beans on toast!