Could a bowl of chili save your knees?

It just might be the key to rescuing your knees from the pain and damage of arthritis... and you'll find it in a bowl of chili!

All those beans in your chili -- especially if you like the three-bean variety -- are nature's best source of healthy fiber.

You know how important it is for digestion.

Now, the latest research shows how that essential fiber can help in another way, too -- by cutting your risk of arthritis in the knees by more than half.

If you don't have arthritis yet, count yourself lucky. In many ways, some degree of arthritis is almost inevitable with age.

But you can limit the damage or prevent it completely by simply boosting your fiber intake.

The new study finds that older folks who get plenty of fiber are 30 percent less likely to develop osteoarthritis if they don't already have the condition, and they're much less likely to suffer worsening knee pain if they do.

As good as that is, it gets even better.

The same study finds that folks with the highest levels of fiber of all are 61 percent less likely to suffer from arthritis symptoms over nearly 10 years, compared to people with the lowest intake.

Osteoarthritis is one of the nation's top causes of pain and mobility problems -- including outright disability -- in older folks. Even worse, the condition often leads to painkillers and all the risks that come with taking those meds.

But you can avoid the condition -- or slow it down enough so you don't battle serious pain or mobility issues -- just by getting the fiber you need.

The big problem of course is that most folks don't come close.

On average, Americans get about 15 grams per day, well below the levels recommended by guidelines. And in most cases, the fiber they DO get is often from lousy sources.

Grains -- even whole grains -- have some fiber, but can still cause blood sugar to spike (especially processed whole grains such as bread and cereal).

The best sources of fiber instead are beans, like the ones in a bowl of chili. Make it vegetarian... or use turkey or chicken instead of beef to cut back on the saturated fat... and that delicious stew will be healthy, too.

You'll also get fiber from apples, avocados, pears, and more.

Guidelines call for about 23 grams per day for women and 28 for men, but I recommend aiming higher. Between 40 and 50 grams per day can help with your digestion and heart health, speed weight loss, and even improve your sleep.

Not bad for a bowl of three-bean chili!