6 Ways to Help Fiber Work Better
Getting enough fiber is really quite simple. If you follow the recommendations of the “Food Guide Wheel” and include the amounts of healthy grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes it suggests, you will automatically get enough fiber in your diet. Here are some additional tips to help fiber work better in your body.
1. Increase the amount of fiber in your diet gradually
Your intestines will be more comfortable with this approach than with a sudden onslaught of high-fiber foods. Too much fiber too soon is likely to catch your intestines off guard, leading to bloating and gas. Each week, increase the amount of fiber in your diet by about 5 grams a day for adults and 1 to 2 grams a day for children until you reach your individual intestines-friendly daily amount. This is usually somewhere between 25 and 35 grams a day for adults, and half that for children. Keep experimenting with the amount and type of fiber that gives you a comfortable “gut feeling” to help fiber work better in your body.
2. It’s important to eat fiber from a variety of sources
By eating many types of high fiber foods, you are more likely to balance out the right amount of soluble and insoluble fibers. The more soluble the fiber, the more it ferments, and therefore the more gas it produces.
The 3 B’s of Fiber
Remember the three B’s of fiber: bran, beans, and berries. One serving of bran plus one serving of beans each day will give you over half your total daily fiber needs. And remember: bran and berries blend well into yogurt smoothies.
3. Spread out your dietary fiber throughout the day
Overdosing on fiber at any one meal is liable to produce bloating and gas.
The 4 A’s of Fiber
Remember the four A’s of fiber: apples, artichokes, apricots, and avocados.
4. Drink a lot of water with your fiber
To help fiber work better in your body, there has to be an adequate amount of water for it to absorb. Otherwise, fiber may actually contribute to constipation rather than prevent it. Or it may soak up water and other nutrients needed elsewhere by the body.
5. Get your fiber from food, not from pills
The fiber in a pill may not work the same way, biologically, as fiber that comes from actual food. To help fiber work better and do it’s job, it needs to be eaten in the company of other foods and with a lot of fluids.
6. Avoid fiber-induced nutritional deficiencies
Overdosing on fiber can interfere with the absorption of valuable nutrients. Fiber can push food through the intestines so fast that some nutrients, such as calcium, zinc, vitamins, and iron don’t have a chance to be fully absorbed. You could avoid eating high-fiber foods at the same time you eat foods containing these nutrients, but this is impractical. If you’re on a diet that includes more than 35 grams of fiber a day, you should consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements.
More tips on fiber from Dr. Sears.
+ Journal of the American Dietetic Association 86 (1986): 732
* The RDA for fiber is 25 grams for adults; for children it is child’s age in years +5
Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his “little patients” call him, has been advising busy parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. As a father of 8 children, he coached Little League sports for 20 years, and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. He serves as a health consultant for magazines, TV, radio and other media, and his AskDrSears.com website is one of the most popular health and parenting sites. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.