Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body is not able to digest or absorb. Following a high-fiber diet has many health benefits that may include:
- Softening and normalizing bowel movements by increasing stool weight and size.
- Helping to maintain bowel health by preventing pockets from forming in the colon (diverticular disease).
- Aiding in weight loss. High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you are no longer hungry; therefore you are less likely to overeat.
- Helping to control blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
Current fiber recommendations for adults are as follows:
- Men age 18-50 should get 38 grams of fiber daily.
- Men age 51 and above should get 30 grams of fiber daily.
- Women age 18-50 should get 25 grams of fiber daily.
- Women age 51 and above should get 21 grams of fiber daily
Fiber is commonly classified into two categories: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber has the ability to dissolve in water to form a gel-like material. Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that does not dissolve in water.
Foods high in fiber include: fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds. Foods labeled “high in fiber” must contain at least five grams of fiber per serving. Cooked vegetables change in texture, but do not lose their fiber content. Eating a diet high in fiber can help with the sense of fullness for a longer period of time, potentially leading to a decreased overall intake of total calories throughout the day.
Increase your fiber intake with these tips:
- Add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your food.
- Eat whole grain breads and cereals. Look for choices with 100% whole wheat, rye, oats or bran as the first or second ingredient.
- Try brown rice, wild rice, barley and whole wheat pasta instead of the white alternatives.
- When baking, replace half of the white flour with whole wheat flour.
- Add fresh or frozen vegetables, beans, peas and lentils to soups, sauces, casseroles or salads.
- Eat fruits and vegetables with peels and skins on since a majority of the fiber is located in the skin.
- Choose fresh fruits and vegetables instead of juices.
- Snack on dried fruit, raw vegetables, low-fat popcorn or whole grain crackers.
Be sure to gradually add high-fiber foods to your diet over a period of a few weeks.
Adding too much fiber too quickly may lead to intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping.
Drink plenty of fluids. Set a goal of at least eight cups per day. You may need even more with higher amounts of fiber. Fluid helps your body process fiber without discomfort.
Make the most of every meal by adding more high-fiber foods. Your health, waistline and digestive tract will be thankful you did!