Dietician’s prescription: add fiber to your diet to keep things moving

This week we will explore a wonderful substance known for “keeping us regular!”

Yes, I am referring to fiber! In many health circles, fiber has come to the forefront of nutrition topics.

Cereals and granola bars are now heavily marketed as being “high fiber,” but do we as consumers really know what this means?  And are we able to make smart choices as to where we should get our daily dose of fiber?

What is fiber and what does it do?

Fiber comes from plant sources and is a miracle worker for keeping our digestive tract healthy.  There are two main types of fiber that we eat as humans, insoluble and soluble.  Insoluble fiber is the type the body does not completely digest. It works in the intestines to slough off build-up of potentially toxic waste material and chemicals from the food we consume.

Soluble fiber will often pick up other molecules such as fat and allow them to be transported out of the body.  Both soluble and insoluble fiber also creates bulk, which is the main reason fiber “keeps things moving.”

How much do I need?

An ideal fiber consumption for an adult would be about 25-35 grams daily as stated in “Understanding Nutrition,” a textbook by Ellie Whitney and Sharon Rady Rolfes.

The average American usually gets about 15 grams a day though, which is too low for most.  They key to increasing your fiber consumption is to do so gradually.

Too much too soon can lead to stomach pain and gastrointestinal discomfort. Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day, as this will help the fiber in your food do its many jobs to the best of its ability.


What if I don’t get enough or get too much?

If a person isn’t getting adequate amounts of fiber in their diet, they are at a higher risk for colon cancer, other digestive tract problems, constipation and cardiac issues that can develop over a person’s lifetime.

For those who struggle to get enough nutrients in their diets or have trouble keeping weight on, excess fiber may also be detrimental. It can move a lot of good vitamins, minerals and macromolecules with it on its way out of the digestive system.

Where can I get it?

Fiber is a major component of several carbohydrate foods including not only 100% whole grains, but also those tasty fruits and vegetables everyone is always bugging you to eat!

When looking at breads, crackers, pastas, and the like, check the ingredients for whole grains!  It should say something like “whole grain wheat” or “whole grain rice within the first few listed ingredients.

Also, if you enjoy drinking 100% fruit or vegetable juice, try opting for whole fruits and veggies more often instead, as they contain much more fiber when eaten whole.

Any good recipes?

Easily add fiber to you meal by subbing whole grain flour for white, or adding extra veggies to the dish.  Whole grain muffins can even be a fun and fairly easy way to get a little extra fiber in your diet when enjoyed as a light snack on occasion.  Try this recipe and let us know what you think!