by Mike Levinson
A simple high-fiber diet can provide health benefits while being easier to stick with than a diet calling for multiple changes in eating habits. People who only added more fiber to their otherwise normal diet were able to lose weight, lower their blood pressure and reduce blood sugar levels—all key to staving off diabetes and improving overall health.
The amount of fiber you should get from your diet each day depends on your age and sex. Men 50 years of age and younger should consume at least 38 grams of fiber per day, while men older than 50 years of age should aim for at least 30 grams of fiber daily. Women 50 years of age and younger should consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day, while women older than 50 years of age should aim for at least 21 grams of fiber daily.
Try the following ideas to increase the fiber in your diet:
- Eat at least two cups of fruits and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber include:
- Beans such as:
- navy (1/2 cup = 9.5 grams),
- kidney (1/2 cup = 8.2 grams),
- pinto (1/2 cup = 7.7 grams),
- black (1/2 cup = 7.5),
- Sweet potatoes (1 medium sweet potato = 4.8 grams)
- Pears (I small pear = 4.4 grams)
- Green peas (1/2 cup = 4.4 grams)
- Berries such as raspberries (1/2 cup = 4.0 grams) and blackberries (1/2 cup = 3.8 grams)
- Figs and dates (1/4 cup = 3.6 grams)
- Spinach (1/2 cup = 3.5 grams)
- Apples (1 medium apple = 3.3 grams)
- Oranges (I medium orange = 3.1 grams)
- Beans such as:
- Replace refined white bread with whole-grain breads and cereals. Eat brown rice instead of white rice. Eat more of the following foods:
- Bran muffins
- Bran or multiple-grain cereals, cooked or dry
- Brown rice
- 100% whole-wheat bread
When you first add fiber to your diet you may notice bloating, cramping or gas. But you can prevent this by making smaller changes in your diet over a period of time. Start with one of the changes listed above, then wait several days to a week before making another. If one change doesn’t seem to work for you, try a different one.
Be sure to drink more fluids when you increase the amount of fiber you eat. Liquids help your body digest fiber. Try to drink 8 glasses of no or low calorie beverages, such as water, unsweetened tea or diet soda each day.
Mike Levinson, a Calabasas resident, is a former amateur bodybuilding champion and registered dietitian who holds dual degrees in sports nutrition and physical education. He has worked extensively as a nutritionist with the California Angels baseball team and with famous athletes such as Charles Oakley, JT Snow and Sean Rooks. He also worked as a nutritionist for the Chicago Bears and the Oakland Raiders.