How to Get More Fiber in Your Diet

Are You Getting Enough Fiber? Why It’s More Important Now Than Ever

The Importance of a Fiber-Rich Diet for Senior Adults

One little-known side effect of aging is a changing gastrointestinal tract, making it more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients and for the stomach to function as well as it once did (a term called, “intestinal motility”). These factors can unfortunately result in nutritional deficiency and constipation – or the more serious diverticulosis – in seniors of both genders, making it more important than ever to ensure you’re getting enough fiber in your diet as you age.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends that total fiber intake for adults 50+ should be at least 30 grams per day for men and 21 grams for women. An easy way to combat intestinal motility is to increase your fiber intake through healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes. There is also evidence that increasing dietary fiber can help lower cholesterol levels, regulate blood glucose levels, and keep you feeling fuller longer, helping with weight loss or maintenance.

One of the top purposes of fiber is to move waste out of the body. There are two types of fiber, and both are beneficial. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and becomes gel-like, allowing it to stick to bile, toxins, and other debris and drag them from your body. Insoluble fiber absorbs water, cleans out intestines, and stimulates regularity, helping battle constipation but also requiring an increased consumption of water (make sure to get 8-10 glasses a day).

The good news is that sources of fiber are all around you at your local grocery store, including:

  • Multi-grain bread like 7-grain, dark rye, cracked wheat, pumpernickel, wheat germ, brown rice, and cereal (look for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving)

  • Carrots, beets, broccoli, collard greens, swiss chard, spinach, artichokes, potatoes (russet, red, and sweet); generally, the darker the color, the higher the fiber content

  • Bananas, oranges, apples, pears, mangoes, strawberries, and raspberries

  • Chickpeas, lentils, peas, and beans like navy, white, garbanzo, and kidney

  • Nuts like almonds, pistachios, or pumpkin, and sunflower seeds

  • Psyllium, a high-fiber compound you can mix into water or fruit juice

You can increase your fiber intake today by looking for simple ways to incorporate fiber into every meal, like sprinkling sunflower seeds into your salad, adding legumes to your favorite stew or chili, or making higher-fiber choices for your staples like cereal, oatmeal, or rice. By increasing your fiber and maintaining a healthy hydration level, you’ll see immediate health benefits including a healthier, more confortable digestive system.

Megan Hammons lives in the Central Texas countryside just outside of Austin, pursuing her love for copywriting after a career in high-tech marketing. She is part of a large, diverse family and enjoys spending time with the multiple generations living in her community.

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