Adding Fiber to Your Diet

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can slow down the passage of food from the stomach to the intestine. Soluble fiber is found in dried beans, oats, barley, bananas, potatoes and the meaty part of apples and pears.

Insoluble fiber, which is often referred to as “roughage”, holds onto water and helps regulate bowel movements by promoting softer, bulkier stools. Examples of insoluble fiber are whole bran, whole grains, corn, carrots, nuts, grapes, berries, and apple and pear skins.

By pulling water into the colon, fiber helps to relieve and prevent constipation. By decreasing the time it takes for food to move through the intestinal tract, fiber also reduces the chance for harmful substances to build up and may prevent intestinal and colon cancer.

Fiber can also help you lower your cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, and control your weight by keeping you full longer.

Daily Fiber Recommendation

We should consume about 20-35 grams of total fiber per day, with a little more emphasis on insoluble fiber. Increase fiber in your diet gradually. Too much at one time may cause what you’re trying to prevent—cramping, bloating and constipation. It’s also very important to increase your fluid intake at the same time to at least 64 ounces per day.

Today, there are many ways to add fiber to your diet. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start your day with a bowl of bran cereal (one of the richest sources of fiber).
  • Try whole wheat and whole grain breads, pastas, rice and crackers. (Whole wheat flour or whole grains should be listed as the first ingredient.)
  • Eat raw fruits and vegetables, including the skin, instead of drinking juice.
  • Add dried fruit to yogurt, cereal, muffins and rice.
  • Use dried peas, beans, and legumes in main dishes, salads, or side dishes such as rice or pasta.
  • Snack on un-buttered popcorn, fiber breakfast bars and granola bars.
  • Sprinkle bran in soups, cereals, baked products, spaghetti sauce, ground meat, and casseroles. Bran also mixes well with orange juice.

Fiber Supplements

Getting fiber from the foods you eat is preferable, but may not always be feasible. If you can’t meet the recommendations through diet, fiber supplements may be an option. There are several options available. Be sure to read the labels carefully and drink at least 8 ounces of liquid with your supplement.

*High-fiber intake may interfere with the absorption and effectiveness of some medications. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about your medications prior to changing your diet or taking a fiber supplement.

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