Fiber and Your Diet

An easy guide to a high-fiber diet

(RxWiki News) Written By Anyssa Garza, PharmD, BCMAS

Fiber keeps your bowel movements regular, but it can do a lot more than that.

Including fiber in your diet can help control blood sugar and even lower cholesterol levels.

"There is evidence that high dietary fiber consumption lowers 'bad' cholesterol concentrations in the blood and reduces the risk for developing coronary artery disease, stroke and high blood pressure," said Dr. Somdat Mahabir, a nutrition and disease expert with the National Cancer Institute, in an interview with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

And fiber may help with weight loss. That's because high-fiber foods make you feel fuller for longer periods of time and are typically lower in calories.

If you are looking to increase the amount of fiber in your diet, here's what you need to know:

1) How Much Fiber You Need

In general, the recommended amount of dietary fiber is 20 to 35 grams per day. However, according to the NIH, most Americans do not get enough fiber. In fact, most Americans get less than half (an estimated 14 grams) the recommended amount of fiber each day.

For adults 51 years old and older, this is how much fiber you should aim for:

  • Men: 30 grams
  • Women: 21 grams

For adults 50 years old and younger:

  • Men: 38 grams
  • Women: 25 grams

2) Which Foods Are High in Fiber

Some foods are higher in fiber than others. For high-fiber foods, think fruits, whole grains, beans and vegetables.

If you are not a big fan of fruits, beans or vegetables, try wheat bran. One tablespoon of wheat bran has 1.6 grams of fiber, and it can be mixed in with your food. Breakfast cereals can also be a good source of fiber.

Remember that you can always find the number of grams of dietary fiber per serving on the food label (nutrition facts).

3) How to Incorporate Fiber into Your Diet

Fiber may cause stomach bloating and gas. To help avoid gas, bloating and stomach cramps, increase your fiber slowly. This gives your body time to get used to the extra fiber.

4) The Facts About Fiber Supplements

If you need extra fiber, there are a number of fiber supplements available. These include psyllium, methylcellulose, wheat dextrin and calcium polycarbophil. Ask your health care provider which is the best option for you. Just like adding fiber from food to your diet, these fiber supplements have to be added and increased slowly to prevent gas and stomach cramps.

Ask your health care provider any questions you have about fiber intake.