The average American diet does not include enough fiber. Many people shy away from fiber rich food because they are afraid of the side effects. Eating a high-fiber diet may increase gas and bloating. This is especially true if you are introducing fiber rich foods to your system too quickly or for the first time.
Your gut produces the bacteria that ferments high-fiber foods in order to break them down which in turn produces gas. Introducing high-fiber foods gradually in a step-by-step process will allow your gastrointestinal tract to adjust to the change. Over time more healthful bacteria can flourish and gas production will decrease.
As you begin to adjust your diet to include more high-fiber foods you will also need to drink plenty of water. Fiber absorbs water in the GI tract if it doesn’t have enough water it can cause constipation and… more gas. Cooking the high gas producers can make them easier to digest so if you find eating raw vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower produces gas try steaming or stir frying them which should make them easier to digest.
Some high-fiber foods are known gas producers for all of us! Beans and Legumes are a prime example. Although some people are less affected than others, if you find eating beans and legumes causes you to have excess gas it does not mean that you are “Bean Intolerant”, it simply means you do not have enough of the right type of digestive enzymes to break down the starch in the beans. Try taking an over the counter enzyme product such as Beano, or Gasex, to provide your GI tract with additional enzymes to break down this starch.
Another counter measure often overlooked is exercise. Something as simple as a twenty minute walk can encourage optimal GI function by toning the intestines. Activity also provides gentle pressure to help move the gas through the intestine and out more quickly.
Once you know what to expect when you begin introducing high-fiber foods to your diet you can gradually reach a goal of five, seven, or ten a day.
This is best achieved by eating a variety high-fiber foods including:
- Whole Grain Products
- Beans and Legumes
- Nuts, Seeds, and Peanuts
Forgo peeling your fruit and vegetables whenever possible there is often more fiber in the skin than the flesh. While salad is good, whole raw vegetables and fruit are better. Some foods such as salad greens, cucumbers, and even tomatoes are mostly water which does not add any fiber.
Examples of High-Fiber Vegetables and Fruits:
- Green Peas
- Pumpkin Cooked Fresh or Canned
- Potato 1-medium baked (eaten with skin on)
- Green Beans-cooked
- Avocado, Cubed
- Apple, Large (Peel On)
Here is a guide to help you track the number of high-fiber servings you are getting each day:
- Vegetables: ½ cup cooked or 2 cups raw leafy greens
- Fruit: 1 piece of whole fruit or 1 cup berries or cubed melon
- Whole grain Breads: ½ bagel or 1 slice bread
- Whole grain pasta, rice, and other cooked grains: ½ cup
- Beans and Legumes: ½ cup
- Whole nuts and seeds: ¼ cup
- Peanut or other Nut Butter: 2 Tablespoons
As I stated in the beginning, start slowly and increase your intake of high-fiber foods gradually. Begin with a few simple swaps. Try whole grain toast or a bran muffin with no sugar added fruit spread and nut butter instead of white bread toast or frozen pancakes with syrup for breakfast. Try eating an apple instead of handful of potato chips with your lunch sandwich. For dinner switch it up with whole grain pasta and white beans, turkey sausage, and sautéed peppers instead of white pasta with bottled, high fat Alfredo sauce.
Adding fiber to your diet can improve your overall digestion, decrease high blood pressure, help maintain a low glucose level, and you could even loose a few pounds.