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April 27, 2016

Are You Underestimating the Power of Fiber?

How much fiber is in your diet right now? Most people can guess, based on how they feel. A high fiber diet helps work toward a healthy, clean and well-functioning digestive tract. If your diet is low in fiber, or perhaps lacking it entirely from one day to the next, then chances are you can feel it.

A diet low in fiber can make a person prone to unpleasant stomach discomfort, including constipation. Fortunately, adding fiber to your diet and continuing to keep it as a part of your routine is easy. Fiber is actually found in a lot of common food items from the average breakfast through dinner. Snacking with fiber-rich products is also an ideal way to boost your intake without feeling like you’re changing up your lunch routine just for fiber alone.

One thing to keep in mind as you embark on any fiber changes is that fiber intake should be balanced with water intake, meaning that you should also increase the amount of water you drink each day. This is a good general rule, but if you consume more fiber than usual and do not drink enough water to help keep your digestion moving properly, more fiber becomes too much fiber. Too much fiber can lead to gas, bloating, diarrhea, dehydration and even constipation – since fiber technically soaks up water as it moves through the digestive tract.

The key is to drink water and introduce fiber into your diet slowly. Here are a few foods and drinks that are rich in fiber and can be easily substituted in place of your usual meals, sides, snacks and even desserts.

Fiber-rich foods include:

  • Fruit: Raspberries, pears (skin on), apples (skin on), oranges, figs, raisins, strawberries, bananas.
  • Vegetables: Carrots (raw), artichokes, potatoes (skin on and baked), sweet corn (cooked), green peas (cooked),
  • Brussel sprouts (cooked), broccoli (steamed).
  • Grains and pastas: Whole-wheat spaghetti, rye bread, whole-wheat/multi-grain breads, popcorn, bran flakes, oatmeal (cooked), barley (cooked).
  • Nuts: Almonds, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds.
  • Other: Baked beans (canned and cooked), lima/black beans (cooked), lentils (cooked).

As you can see, there is a wide variety of fiber-rich food options available and possibly already on your grocery list. If your diet is currently lacking in fiber and you can tell, then drinking more water and eating more fiber-rich foods can make a gradual difference in your comfort level.

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Written by the physicians of San Francisco Gastroenterology-- Dr. Frank Farrell & Dr. Cathleen Cabansag