I love fiber. Probably more than any normal person should. In order for more people to love fiber as I do, I would like to share some facts about fiber and how you can increase your fiber intake easily and comfortably.
Fiber is an intact and basic plant material that is not digestible by the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract enzymes. Not all fiber is the same; it may be soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber partially dissolves in water, making you feel fuller longer, which in turn has the potential of assisting in weight loss. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, so it speeds up the passage of material through the digestive tract. Besides these mechanical properties, dietary fiber has the potential to do so much more. Studies have shown that it decreases the risk of tumor formation, and decreases total cholesterol1.
Now, you’re probably wondering: “Where do I start?” Keep in mind that suddenly adding a substantial amount of fiber to your diet right off the bat may not be the best approach. It is suggested that you gradually increase your desired fiber intake over the span of one month. Your digestive system will need time to adjust. Some side effects of adding more fiber to your diet may include constipation, cramps or abdominal bloating, increased gas, intestinal rumbling and possible diarrhea. Being patient and giving your body the time it needs to adjust will minimize discomfort of the side effects. Some of these GI disturbances may result even if you do initiate a gradual introduction of fiber to your daily routine, but can be expected to subside within a week’s time. However, with a high fiber diet, regular gas is normal as well. Another important thing to remember is to get enough water. Generally, people should aim at drinking about 2 liters of water each day. Water is needed to facilitate the effectiveness of fiber intake and decrease constipation.
Some easy ways to increase your fiber intake on a daily basis:
- Start your day with a bowl of high-fiber cereal (aim for 5g or more per serving). Bran or shredded wheat cereals are great choices.
- Adding fruits or berries to your morning cereal is a quick way of adding more fiber.
- Snack on raw vegetables throughout the day such as broccoli or cucumbers.
- Consider trading in traditional pasta for whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta comes in every shape from spaghetti to bow tie!
- If you typically cook with white rice, consider trying brown rice.
- Meat and potatoes? Be sure to keep the skins on the potato for more fiber.
- Need to satisfy that sweet tooth? Try munching on a whole apple-the peel is where the fiber is.
- If you enjoy baking or even occasionally make pancakes, consider mixing wheat flour in with your typical white flour. Substituting the flour completely may change the taste of the food more than your prefer, but even substituting a small amount will add some needed fiber.
- Have a salt craving? Popcorn is a great alternative to reaching for chips or pretzels and adds a substantial amount of fiber and fullness to your diet.
- Adding fruits to your night-time snack is a fiber friendly alternative.
It is recommended that adults consume anywhere from 25-38g of dietary fiber each day. The amount that you consume does partly depend on your daily calorie intake. The more calories you are taking in, the more fiber is required. Additional good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, legumes and beans, lentils and a number of fruits. As for insoluble fiber, aim to include whole wheat grains, brown rice, wheat bran and a number of vegetables, just to name a few.
Stay tuned next week for my review on the Louisiana Dietetic Association Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo!!