Dietitian's Dish: Fiber has numerous benefits

Oct. 18, 2011 at 5:18 a.m.

Lisa Hagan

Lisa Hagan

By Lisa Hagan

The benefits of fiber are numerous. Some of the benefits include reducing the risk of certain types of cancers and heart disease.

Fiber is good for managing blood sugar levels for those with diabetes and weight control. Most health care professionals recommend that we should eat 20 to 35 grams a day. Because of the readily available access to processed foods, coupled with poor food choices, it is not surprising that most people only get 10 grams of fiber a day. In most cases, if three meals do not have at least one high fiber food, then the body is not getting enough fiber. Achieving a healthy fiber intake can be done with a little bit of planning. Try these ideas.

Add a good source of fiber to each meal. Breakfast is the easiest meal to get your fiber. There are many high fiber breakfast foods available. Start off the day with oatmeal, whole grain cereal or a breakfast bar. For lunch and dinner add fruits and vegetables. If the skin is edible, then eat it. Eat at least five fruits and vegetables daily. Skip the fruit juice, and eat the fresh fruit instead.

Choose legumes three times a week. Be sure to soak the dry beans overnight. Discard the water once it has finished soaking. Then add fresh water, and cook according to the recipe. Use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker to save time. Some legumes, such as lentils, do not need to be soaked and take less time to cook.

Read the food labels for whole grain and high fiber foods. Look for the words "whole grain" on the ingredient label. If the word "whole" is not one of the first few words on the ingredient label, then look for one that is. Choose at least three servings of whole grain foods every day. A good source of fiber is greater than 3 grams per servings. Use the food labels to guide your choices.

Keep whole grain flour or other whole grains available. Exchange a baking recipe with half whole grain flour or look for whole grain recipes. Add bran or oatmeal to meatloaf, croquettes and casseroles.

Beware that some foods may be perceived as a high fiber food. For example, a bed of lettuce has about 1 gram of fiber per serving. So boost the fiber with other salad topping, such as artichokes or a sprinkle of nuts.

For some individuals, getting enough fiber can be a problem, as it can cause intestinal gas. Adding fiber slowly with plenty of water can ease the discomfort. Also, soaking and cooking foods, such as beans, can help. There are some nonprescription products that can be useful if the symptoms become a nuisance. Discuss with your physician which would be best.

Lisa Hagan is a registered and licensed dietitian. Send questions or comments to



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