Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Increase slowly: The best way to begin is to figure out how much fiber you are currently eating each day. Once you know your number, you can begin to slowly increase how much you are eating until you reach your recommended amount. Increasing too quickly can lead to gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea.
Add the fluids: If you do not have enough fluids (preferably water) with your high-fiber diet, you may end with the problem that you are trying to avoid: constipation. Get into the habit of drinking a minimum of 2 cups of a calorie-free beverage between each meal and you will avoid any unwanted problems.
Don't go overboard: More is not always better, so try not to eat more fiber than your body can comfortably handle. There is no Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) set for fiber, which means that there is no cap on how high you can go before it causes any damage. Pay attention to how your bowel movements are responding to your fiber intake, and speak with your physician if you have any questions.
Little here, little there: You don't need to get all of your fiber in one meal. Be creative, and have sources of fiber throughout the day. Here are some ways to do this:
Add flaxseeds, seeds, or nuts to your salad, soup, cereal, or yogurt.
Keep frozen blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries in your freezer to add to cereal, dessert, shakes, or yogurt.
Have cut-up veggies in small baggies available to take with you. Use them with a meal or as a snack.
Choose cereal with a minimum of 4 grams of fiber in each serving; you can have it as a meal, alone as a snack, or with some yogurt.
Beans and peas go with everything; put them in your salad, soup, or have them with your meals or snacks.
Go for products with whole wheat flour. It may take a little while to get used to the taste, so be prepared to experiment with different products until you find the one that you like.
Have veggies with your meals whenever possible. Anything that you add will count. The more variety, the more we eat, so have as many different veggies at one meal as you can.
Use fruit with, or in between, your meals. Set a minimum number of servings to have each day and be sure to reach it. Always go for the fruit with the skin and/or seeds for the fiber.
Be no gas: If you tend to get bloated or gassy from raw veggies and/or beans, take Beano with your meal. It will greatly reduce these side effects and make eating much more pleasurable. Be sure to check the ingredients to see if it's okay for you to take.
There is nothing easy about developing new eating habits. It will take time and practice, so be patient as you learn to incorporate these suggestions into your diet. Use the information in this article to remind you of why these changes are worth the effort. If we are what we eat, it's time we become high-fiber people.
Medically reviewed by Rambod Rouhbakhsh, MD, MBA, FAAFP; American Board of Family Medicine
Anderson, J. Am J Clin Nutr, Nov 1992; vol 56(5): pp 887-894.
Bergmann, J. Gut, Aug 1992; vol 33(8): pp 1042-1043.
Birkett, A. Eur J Clin Nutr, Sep 1997; vol 51(9): pp 625-632.
Burkitt, D. Cancer, July 1971; vol 28: pp 3-13.
Burkitt, D. Lancet, Dec 1970; vol 2(7685): pp 1237-1240.
Cummings, J. Gastroenterology, Dec 1992; vol 103(6): pp 1783-1789.
Cummings, J. Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Churchill Livingston, 2000.
Eglash, A. J Fam Pract, Sep 2006; vol 55(9): pp 813-815.
Fraser, G. Arch Intern Med, Jul 1992; vol 152(7): pp 1416-1424.
Harvard Health Publications
Howarth, N. J Am Diet Assoc, Sept 2005; vol 105(9): pp 1265-72.
Jacobs, D. Am J Clin Nutr, Aug 1998; vol 68(2): pp 248-257.
Kritchevsky, D. Eur J Cancer Prev, May 1998; vol 7(Suppl 2): pp s33-39.
Linde, J. I Phys Act; Nov 2006; vol 3: p 42.
Low A. Nutr Res Rev, Nov 1990; vol 3: pp 229-252.
Maki, K. Diabetes Care, Jan 2007; [Epub ahead of print]
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health
National Park Service
Painter, N. J R Soc Med, April 1978; vol 71(4): pp 305-306.
Rigaud, D. Eur J Clin Nutr, Apr 1998; vol 52(4): pp 239-245.
Ritz P. Am J Clin Nutr, Nov 1991; vol 54(5): pp 855-859.
Roberfroid, M. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 1993; 33(2): pp 103-148.
Sepple, C. Appetite, Dec 1989; vol 13(3): pp 183-191.
Stevens, J. Am J Clin Nutr, Nov 1987; vol 46(5): pp 812-817.
The Weston A. Price Foundation Time Magazine
Wolever, T. CRC Handbook of Dietary Fiber in Human Nutrition, CRC Press, 1993.