We hear a lot about getting more fiber in our diets, but how do we know how much is enough? Here are some ways to recognize your own fiber needs.
First, some basics. Dietary fiber is the non-digestible part of the plants we eat.
Foods with higher ratios of soluble fibers (think banana, applesauce, and oats) are known for their ability to bind cholesterol ultimately excrete it.
Foods higher in insoluble fibers (think leafy greens and raw cauliflower) are better known for their ability to increase fecal mass, which promotes regularity. They pass through the digestive tract relatively unchanged. (Is the image of corn too vivid?)
To promote regularity or reduce cholesterol, you may want to try adding a greater variety of fiber to your diet. When doing so, make sure to also increase fluid intake. This will help prevent constipation by keeping stools soft.
If you feel gassy or bloated after a high fiber meal, that may indicate you’ve had too much fiber. This is how I feel after taking down an entire sweetgreen salad.
On the other hand, if your meals and snacks are looking monochromatic, you are going days without having any fruits, vegetables, or whole grains, and you are feeling constipated, these are signs you may want to increase fiber intake.
Find your own unique balance and use your body signals as clues. Following are some tips and recipe ideas that may help balance out your fiber intake:
- If you are having diarrhea, try foods higher in soluble fiber. This helps bind stool, hopefully decreasing trips to the bathroom. BRATT (bananas, rice, applesauce, tea, toast) is commonly suggested due to the high content of soluble fibers in those foods. Try Ann’s Perfectly Cooked Rice. My kids and I add a dash of soy sauce for extra flavor.
- If you are experiencing constipation, increase bulk by trying foods higher in the insoluble fiber found in vegetables, such as those in Ann’s Garden Skillet with Sausage and Eggs. Along with a glass of water, this could help move things along. Simple exercise, even something as straightforward as walking or stretching, may also stimulate intestinal movements.
- If you are having gas/bloating after meals, chew slowly and thoroughly to better help your stomach breakdown food., Also, consider cooking fibrous foods like raw spinach or cauliflower, for example, making them easier to digest. Ann’s Cauliflower Leek Soup with Bacon and Parmesan is a crowd pleaser and a great way to pack in a smoother insoluble fiber.
Incorporate the fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that you love in your diet. Adjust your intake based on how you are feeling or what you are in the mood for at the time. If you like fruit better, eat more of that. If you like grains better, eat more of that. If you don’t feel like having kale, don’t eat it.
So, what kind of fiber is your body feeling today?
Looking For More Recipes?
Search for more recipes, by your favorite fiber ingredients, right here. And as a reminder, this information does not replace that of your health care team. If any of these symptoms are new onset or prolonged—or for any other medical concerns—visit with your physician.