It is important to increase fiber slowly.

Dear Dietitian,

I have a problem with constipation for the last year, and I am tired of taking laxatives. Recently, I read that I should be eating 35 grams of fiber per day! That seems impossible!

Signed,

Sarah

Dear Sarah,

Fiber is a general term referring to cellulose, lignin, and other structures in plant foods that pass through the digestive tract essentially unchanged. There are two types of fiber: soluble which simply means it dissolves in water and insoluble, which does not absorb water. The Daily Reference Intake (DRI) for fiber is 20-35 grams per day, but most Americans get about half that amount.

The health benefits of fiber include: regular bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels, helps stabilize blood sugar levels, and helps achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Increasing fiber in your diet is as easy as 1-2- 3. 1) eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. 2) Choose whole grains - bran cereals, whole wheat bread. When eating pasta, follow the 50/50 rule: 50% white pasta, 50% whole wheat pasta. 3) Make beans or legumes a staple in your diet; eat at least two servings per week.

It is important to increase fiber slowly. Start with a goal of 10 grams per day, then gradually work up to 20 grams per day. Finally, increase your fiber intake to 25-35 grams per day. Too much fiber too soon may create gas and discomfort. You should also drink plenty of water or decaffeinated beverages each day.

Sincerely,

Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian, and Certified Nutrition

Support Clinician from St. Louis, Mo.