Easy Ways To Add Fiber
You’ve heard about it and you’ve read about it. And now your physician is recommending it for you: a high fiber diet. You’re not alone–most Americans would benefit from adding more fiber to their current diet. The good news is, it’s easy to do. What’s more, a high fiber diet can provide long-term benefits for your health.
In this booklet we provide you with the latest information about dietary fiber: what it is, why it’s important, and the best sources for it. Plus, we offer easy and good-tasting ways to add fiber to your diet.
Created with the help of nutritionists and physicians, this booklet is designed to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about fiber and provide you with general guidelines. For specific guidance, follow your physician’s instructions completely.
What Is Fiber?
Fiber is an important part of our diet. It furnishes no nutrients, vitamins, or minerals. It isn’t even absorbed into our bodies. So why do we need fiber? Fiber adds bulk that keeps other foods moving along our digestive tracts, and it holds water which, in turn, softens the stool for easy elimination.
What exactly is fiber? Fiber is the part of a plant that cannot be digested. It comes in two different forms:
- Soluble fiber forms a viscous gel and disperses well in liquid. Examples include oats, beans, and many types of fruit.
- Insoluble fiber does not disperse in water and passes through the digestive system largely intact. some good sources of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, whole-grain cereals, whole-grain breads, and many types of vegetables.
Both types of fiber are essential for proper bowel function. They help to create larger, softer stools which move through the digestive tract more easily. The secret to getting enough soluble and insoluble fiber is to eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of high-fiber foods. (See the Guide to High-Fiber Sources)
Long-Term Benefits of Fiber
Many researches believe that a lack of fiber in the diet is implicated in digestive tract-related diseases. Constipation can result from lack of fiber and fluid in the diet. And straining and pressure resulting from constipation may lead to diverticular disease and hemorrhoids. Fiber helps maintain normal bowel function to prevent constipation and its potential complications. Most high-fiber foods are comparably low in calories and fat. They also create a feeling of satiety since they typically take longer to chew.
Fiber and Your Digestive System
To help understand why a high-fiber diet is important, let’s take a quick tour of your digestive system. Like a long, winding pipe, the digestive system carries food throughout your body, sending nutrients to the bloodstream and waste products through the small and large intestines. Here’s how it works:
- The digestive process begins in your mouth. Your teeth break up the food into small pieces and your saliva mixes with the food, allowing it to pass through the esophagus into the stomach. Using muscular contractions, the esophagus sends food from the mouth to the stomach.
- The stomach breaks down the food into smaller pieces, preparing it to travel on to the lower part of the digestive tract.
- After leaving the stomach, the food passes into the small intestine, where the food’s nutrients are further broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. By the time food passes through all 21 feet of the small intestine and reaches the colon, only water and waste products remain.
- Now the colon begins the process of removing waste from the body. During this time, it absorbs excess water from the waste. Under normal conditions, the colon is amazingly efficient. For every 10 quarts of water entering the colon, approximately 9.9 quarts are reabsorbed before reaching the rectum.
- Sometimes the colon’s natural contractions or rhythms are disturbed and the waste materials move too slowly. Stress, medication, pregnancy, illness, resisting the urge to defecate, lack of exercise, or inadequate fiber or liquid intake are all potential disruptions to the colon’s function. If transit is slowed, waste hardens and is not passed in a timely fashion to the rectum, resulting in constipation.
The High-Fiber Diet
According to many nutrition experts, we should be eating between 20 and 35 grams of fiber daily. If you are like most Americans, however, you’re only averaging 10 to 15 grams a day. This means you may need to double or even triple your fiber intake.
You don’t have to totally rearrange your diet to accommodate more fiber. You can begin by substituting high-fiber foods for low-fiber ones. Switch your bakery habits from white bread and rolls to whole-grain breads. Try brown instead of white rice. Eat “whole grain” cereal. And most easily of all, add fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Your general rule of thumb should be at least one serving of whole grain in every meal. Try this sample menu:
Breakfast – Cereal and/or toast. Banana.
Lunch – Sandwich on whole-grain bread. Carrot sticks.
Snack – Apple or raisins Skip the candy bar, or at least cut back.
Dinner – Broiled chicken and steamed broccoli. Wheat rolls. Salad.
Try to increase your intake of vegetables and fruit. You should be getting three servings of each every day. Try a sliced banana on your cereal, substitute carrot sticks for chips as a lunch side, and crunch on a garden salad for dinner. Wherever possible, eat the peels (you’re off the hook with bananas and oranges).
This web site includes a handy guide to high-fiber foods. You can print it out and refer to it for quick reference at mealtimes and snack times.
Remember, whenever you change your diet, for whatever reason, do it gradually. Let your body adjust. Take in too much fiber too soon and you could suffer from bloating and possible abdominal cramps.
A Fiber Solution: METAMUCIL®
If your physician has recommended increasing your fiber intake in order to treat constipation, he or she may suggest the convenience and effectiveness of Metamucil.
What does METAMUCIL add?
METAMUCIL contains psyllium, a 100%-natural fiber that helps you restore regularity, increase your fiber intake, and maintain regularity when recommended by your physician.
How much fiber can METAMUCIL add?
At 3.4 grams per dose, taken up to three times per day, you can add as much as 10.2 grams of psyllium fiber. That’s about half of the minimum amount of fiber recommended for your daily consumption. And it’s one of the most concentrated sources of soluble fiber. In fact, METAMUCIL’s fiber contains more than eight times the amount of soluble fiber found in oat bran, gram for gram.
When can I take METAMUCIL?
You can take METAMUCIL in the morning, at noon or in the evening, with or without food with at least 8 ounces of liquid (one to three times a day). Laxatives, including bulk fibers, may affect how well other medicines work. If you are taking a prescription medicine by mouth, take this product at least 2 hours before or 2 hours after the prescribed medicine.
|YOUR METAMUCIL OPTIONS|
|Smooth Texture Orange(Sugar free)||1 tsp or 1 PKT||10||Less than 5|
|Smooth Texture Regular(Sugar Free/Sweetener Free)||1 tsp||10||Less than 5|
|Smooth Texture Orange(with Sugar)||1 TBSP or 1 PKT||35||Less than 5|
|Wafers: Apple Crisp orCinnamon Spice||2 WAFERS||100||30|
* Metamucil® is a registered trademark of Proctor & Gamble.
All material was reproduced with permission from Proctor & Gamble.