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High Fiber Diet

What Is A High Fiber Diet?

A diet high in fiber may help alleviate constipation and bowel irregularity, lower cholesterol or blood sugar, and assist with weight loss and maintenance. The amount of fiber you need depends on your age and gender:

 

Types of Fiber?

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fibers often referred to as “roughage” because it does not dissolve in water. It holds onto water, which helps produce softer, bulkier stools to help regulate bowel movements.  Sources of insoluble fiber are:

  • whole grain wheat and other whole grains
  • corn bran, including popcorn, unflavored and unsweetened
  • nuts and seeds
  • potatoes and the skins from most fruits from trees such as apples, bananas and avocados
  • many green vegetables such as green beans, zucchini, celery and cauliflower
  • some fruit plants such as tomatoes and kiwi

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fibers dissolve in water to form a gummy gel. It can slow down the passage of food from the stomach to the intestine.  Soluble fiber is present in some degree in most edible plant foods, but the ones with the most soluble fiber include:

  • legumes such as peas and most beans, including soybeans
  • oats, rye and barley
  • many fruits such as berries, plums, apples bananas and pears
  • certain vegetables such as broccoli and carrots
  • most root vegetables
  • psyllium husk supplement products

 

Why Would A High Fiber Diet Be Recommended?

Research has shown that a diet rich in fiber is associated with many health benefits, including the following:

  1. Lowers cholesterol: Soluble fiber has been shown to lower cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
  2. Better regulates blood sugar levels: A high-fiber meal slows down the digestion of food into the intestines, which may help to keep blood sugars from rising rapidly.
  3. Weight control: A high-fiber diet may help keep you fuller longer, which prevents overeating and hunger between meals.
  4. Constipation: Constipation can often be relieved by increasing the fiber or roughage in your diet. Fiber works to help regulate bowel movements by pulling water into the colon to produce softer, bulkier stools. This action helps to promote better regularity.

 

Which Fibers and Which Foods Are Best?

As noted, healthy fiber is only found in plants. The three major categories are whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds.

Whole Grains

Wheat, oats, barley, wild or brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, millet, quinoa, rye, sorghum, teff, and triticals. By far, wheat, oats and wild or brown rice are most common. Always buy whole grain products.

Fruits & Vegetables

Fruits come from trees such as apple and pear or from bushes or vines. You should eat a wide variety of fruits, preferably with every meal. In many cases, the skin of fruit such as an apple will contain much of the insoluble fiber while the pulp contains most of the soluble fiber. To the extent possible, buy organic fruits as these will have little or no pesticides.

Vegetables should be a mainstay of lunch and dinners. Frozen vegetables retain as much nutrition and fiber as a fresh vegetable.  Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower contain certain chemicals such as sulforaphane. This substance has very strong anti-cancer properties and should be eaten frequently. Legumes, Beans, Peas, and Soybeans have plenty of soluble fiber and should be part of the varied vegetable intake. Beans, in particular, contain a certain type of fiber that may lead to harmless gas or bloating.

Nuts and Seeds

These are rich sources of fiber and are a good substitute for sweets such as candies and baked sweet goods. While nuts and seeds are rich in fiber, they also contain vegetable fat and so can and do add calories.

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Meet Jennifer Bonheur, MD

Dr. Jennifer Bonheur is a board-certified gastroenterologist who loves her work and values her relationships with her patients. As a female gastroenterologist, she strives to connect and treat the patient and not simply the illness. Dr. Bonheur offers specialized care in gastroenterology and therapeutic endoscopy. Together with her staff, she is committed to providing the highest quality medical care in a comfortable, professional and personalized environment. Learn More »