Sometimes referred to as “roughage,” fiber is the less-than-glamorous nutrient that’s necessary for a healthy digestive system. But fiber does more than just normalize your bowel movements: It also helps lower cholesterol, maintain healthy blood sugar and keep you feeling fuller, longer.
Find your ideal daily fiber intake amount. The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board recommends that adult males get 38 grams of fiber per day until age 50 and then 30 grams of daily fiber thereafter. For females, the recommended intake of fiber is 25 grams until age 50 and 21 grams thereafter.
Increase your daily dose on a gradual basis. If you’re used to getting just 10 grams of fiber per day, increasing your daily intake to 25 grams all at once will likely leave you with some pain and cramping. Aim to increase your intake by just a few grams per day until you reach your ideal amount.
Substitute whole-grain versions for the processed white varieties of bread, pasta, rice, cereal, crackers and other grains. Check the ingredient list before you buy — whole grains or whole-grain flour should be the first ingredient in the list.
Sneak more fruits and veggies into your day. Make sure they’re present at all your meals and rely on them for between-meal snacks. Add finely diced vegetables to pasta sauce, chili, soup, salad and scrambled eggs. Use fruit to top yogurt and oatmeal or mix into smoothies.
Pack your snacks and meals with beans. Just 1/2 cup of most beans delivers a hefty 7 to 8 grams of fiber. Mix them into soups, casseroles and stews. Mash them and mix with spices for a healthy, fiber-packed dip for veggies or whole-grain crackers.
Sprinkle oat bran or wheat germ on top of cereal, toast, salad, soup or yogurt. You can also mix it into pasta sauce, chili, casseroles and burgers. Its delicate flavor blends easily into any dish, and it provides a healthy boost of extra fiber.
Drink plenty of water while fortifying your diet with fiber. As fiber moves through your digestive system, it pulls water into your intestines to help with waste movement. If you’re not adequately hydrated, the waste products might get stuck and cause constipation. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
Tips & Warnings
- Talk to your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet. Your doctor can help you determine a safe and effective method of fiber supplementation if you can’t get enough fiber in your daily diet.