Your doctor recommended that you increase your fiber intake, but you don't have to eat cardboard and wooly sweaters to comply. Although it would be nice to put grandma's hand-knit cardigan to good use, there are much tastier ways to meet your recommended daily dietary fiber goal. A diet rich in whole-grains, produce, beans, nuts and legumes is high in fiber and other important vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Drink plenty of water since fiber reacts with fluids to move through your bowels.
Fiber is the stuff that makes celery and lettuce stringy. It is a substance found in all edible plants which humans can't digest. How can something indigestible be so important? Fiber acts as a cleaning agent for your gastrointestinal tract. It moves waste through to prevent constipation. Additionally, a high-fiber diet may lower your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, diverticulitis and diabetes.
The amount of fiber you should consume in a day depends on your age, gender and average calorie intake. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, adult women need at least 25 grams of fiber per day based on a 1,600- to 1,800-calorie diet. That number increases if you are breastfeeding, pregnant or highly active. The Institute of Medicine suggests that adults eat 14 grams of fiber per every 1,000 calories.
Fitting It In
Numbers are a little abstract. What does 25 grams of fiber actually look like? If you begin your day with a bowl of oatmeal topped with half a cup of fresh berries and a handful of nuts, you will have consumed roughly 8 grams of fiber. Snack on an apple at work, and you add another 5 grams of fiber. Make a sandwich on whole-grain bread with a side salad topped with chickpeas and avocado for lunch to bring your total to 22 grams of fiber. Whole-wheat spaghetti for dinner and fresh fruit for dessert bring you over the 25 gram recommendation. Working fiber into your diet isn't difficult. Eat lots of fresh produce, choose whole grains and incorporate fiber-rich nuts, legumes and beans into your meals.
You can have too much of a good thing, including fiber. A sudden increase in fiber consumption may cause you gastrointestinal distress including bloating, gas and cramping. The healthy bacteria living in your gut need time to adapt to dietary changes, so increase your fiber intake slowly over a few weeks. Don't take a fiber supplement without your physician's approval. Although supplements are necessary to treat some gastrointestinal problems, they don't have the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients a healthy, naturally fiber-rich diet will provide for you.
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images