Last time we talked about what fiber is and the health benefits of boosting fiber intake. Now let’s see how you can increase it in your daily diet.
Here are some great tips for boosting your dietary fiber intake if you aren’t getting enough:
- Whole grain products
- Beans, peas and other legumes
- Nuts and seeds
Breakfast of champions: For breakfast choose a high-fiber breakfast cereal – 5 or more grams of fiber per serving. Read the label or opt for cereals with “whole grain,” “bran” or “fiber” in the name. Or add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal. Choose 100% whole grain breads for toast or bagels.
Switch to whole grains: Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Look for breads that list whole wheat, whole wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label. Look for a brand with at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Try including brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur.
Bulk up your baked goods. Substitute whole grain flour for half or all of the white flour when baking. Whole-grain flour is heavier than white flour. In yeast breads, use a bit more yeast or let the dough rise longer. When using When using baking powder, increase it by 1 teapoon for every 3 cups of whole-grain flour. Try adding crushed bran cereal, unprocessed wheat bran or uncooked oatmeal to muffins, cakes and cookies.
Fiber Additions: Add pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces. For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews.
Include Legumes: Beans, peas, and lentils are excellent sources of fiber. Add black beans to canned soup or a green salad. Or make nachos with refried beans.
Eat fruit at every meal: Apples, berries, oranges, pears, bananas are good sources of fiber.
Make snacks count: Fresh fruits, raw vegetables, low-fat popcorn and whole-grain crackers are all good choices. An occasional handful of nuts or dried fruits also is a healthy, high-fiber snack.
High fiber foods are good for your health. But adding too much fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Increase fiber in your diet gradually over a period of a few weeks. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.
Here are the USDA dietary guidelines on daily fiber intake for adults:
|Age 50 or younger||Age 51 or older|
|Men||38 grams||30 grams|
|Women||25 grams||21 grams|
Here is a list of the fiber content of specific foods from Mount Sinai Health System’s nutrition department.
Remember to drink plenty of water. Fiber works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky.
Low fiber foods include refined or processed foods – such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads, pastas, and rice, and non-whole grain cereals. The grain refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content. Similarly, removing the skin from fruits and vegetables decreases their fiber content.
Whole foods rather than fiber supplements are generally better. Fiber supplements – such as Metamucil, Citrucel and FiberCon –don’t provide the variety of fibers, vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients that foods do.
However, some people may still need a fiber supplement if dietary changes aren’t sufficient or if they have certain medical conditions, such as constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome. Always check with your doctor if you feel you need to take fiber supplements.
Fiber is also added to some foods. However, it’s not yet clear if added fiber provides the same health benefits as naturally occurring sources.
It’s easy to include more fiber in your daily diet and reap the health benefits with great tasting meals and snacks.