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Getting Enough Fiber


Topic Overview

Why is fiber important?

Eating a high-fiber diet is thought to help prevent development of pouches (diverticula) in the colon. It may lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and help control blood sugar levels. And it may help with reaching and staying at a healthy weight.

What is the recommended daily amount of fiber?

The daily adequate intake amount for fiber has been calculated by the Institute of Medicine. Men 19 and older should strive for 38 grams a day and women 19 and older should aim for 25 grams a day.

Goal for daily fiber intake1
Age (years)Women (grams per day) Men (grams per day)
1–31919
4–81925
9–132631
14–182638
19–502538
51 and older2130
Pregnant, age 19 and older28
Breast-feeding, age 19 and older29

How can you get more fiber?

Fiber is in many foods, including beans, peas, other vegetables, fruits, and whole grain products. You can figure out how much fiber is in a food by looking at the nutrition facts labelClick here to see an illustration.. If a food has fiber, it will be listed under the total carbohydrate on the label. The food label assumes the daily value (DV) of fiber is 25 grams a day (g/day) for a 2,000 calorie diet.

Grams of fiber (estimates) in certain foods2
Food Serving size Dietary fiber (grams)
Beans (navy, pinto, black, kidney, lima, white, great northern), cooked½ cup6.2–9.6
100% bran cereal½ cup8.8
Split peas, lentils, chickpeas, or cowpeas, cooked½ cup5.6–8.1
Pear1 medium5.1
Bulgur, cooked½ cup4.1
Berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)½ cup1.75–4.0
Almonds1 ounce3.5
Apple with skin1 small3.3
Whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked½ cup3.1
Brown rice, cooked½ cup1.5

Be sure to increase the amount of fiber in your diet slowly so that your stomach can adjust to the change. Adding too much fiber too quickly may cause stomach upset and gas.

Some doctors recommend adding bran to your diet to help boost the fiber content. If you do this, start slowly with 1 teaspoon a day. Gradually increase the amount to several teaspoons a day.

Are there any risks from fiber?

Some people who have diverticulitis avoid nuts, seeds, berries, and popcorn (because of the hulls). They believe that the seeds and nuts may get trapped in the diverticula and cause pain. But there is no evidence that seeds, nuts, and berries cause diverticulitis or make it worse.3

Does fiber help digestion?

If your diet is high enough in fiber, your stools should become softer, larger, and easier to pass.

  • Changing your diet may relieve constipation, but it may not help relieve abdominal pain.
  • If you don't have any improvement within a week or two, talk to your doctor about your diet.
  • Talk to your doctor if constipation continues or gets worse. Another medical problem or a medicine may be causing constipation.

Drink lots of fluids every day to help keep your stool soft. High-fiber diets need lots of fluid in the body to work properly.

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