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Fiber: Its Importance In Your Diet

How Do I Get More Fiber In My Diet?

Last updated on:
22/03/2012

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

A good diet should contain approximately 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. The average American eats less than half of that.

Getting more fiber in your diet doesn't have to mean a drastic change. In fact, it's best to start slowly, in order to avoid constipation from getting too much fiber all at once. Many fiber-depleted foods in the diet can be replaced by high-fiber alternatives.

Fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber include:

  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Figs
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Peas
  • Prunes

Here are other good sources of fiber:

  • Bran muffins
  • Brown rice
  • Multi-grain cereals
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Whole-wheat bread

Need To Know:

It's important to drink more fluids when you increase the amount of fiber you eat. You should drink at least eight glasses of water a day, especially when increasing your fiber intake.

Most everyday low-fiber foods have a higher-fiber alternative:

Some fiber-depleted foods

Corn flakes, crispy rice cereal

White bread

Croissants

Cheese crackers

Fruit juice

Cakes, biscuits, sweets

Puddings

Jam

Fiber-intact alternatives

Shredded wheat, puffed wheat

Whole-grain bread

Whole-grain muffins

Wheat crackers

Fresh fruit, stewed fruit

Dried fruit, nuts, raw carrots, celery

Fresh-fruit salad

Nut butters (cashew, almond, etc.)

Studies have shown that a high-fiber diet has widespread health benefits. And unlike many other treatments, fiber in the diet has no danger of adverse reactions, toxicity, or dangerous side effects.

How-To Information:

Here's some advice on incorporating more fiber in your diet:

  • It's best to start slowly, especially if you tend to become constipated. Introduce high-fiber foods gradually, over two to four weeks. Don't start a high-fiber diet overnight!
  • Eat a wide variety of plant foods (foods that come from plants, as opposed to meats or dairy products). Different fibers do different jobs in the body.
  • Choose foods whose fiber content has not been depleted through processing.
  • Read food labels to learn how much fiber is contained in the various foods you eat.
  • Drink plenty of water - at least eight glasses a day.
  • Some medical conditions do not benefit from a high-fiber diet. If you are being treated for a health disorder, check with your doctor before adding fiber to your diet.
  • Raw bran increases the excretion into the stools of calcium, iron, and zinc. For most people eating a good balanced diet, this is of no consequence. But theoretically, it might lead to depletion of these minerals in pregnant and breast-feeding women, and in people with small appetites. Such people should take calcium supplements or extra milk or cheese if they are taking bran regularly.

 

 
 

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.