AICR Health Talk
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: I just read how much fiber is recommended. How can I get enough without taking supplements?
A: It’s not always easy to do, but you can start with focusing on fiber-rich, low-calorie plant foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Make a goal to include these at every meal and the fiber begins to add up. Aim to eat five servings (2 1/2 - 3 cups) of vegetables and fruits plus three servings of whole grains and you’ll be on your way to the recommended amount of fiber – close to 21 grams. Depending on overall calorie needs, most adults should be aiming for 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day.
You get closer to that target with each added step to boost fiber. Include protein and fiber-packed pulses (dried beans and peas) and a few nuts and seeds, and you can add 8-10 grams fiber daily. Work your way up to 7 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits daily, and gradually replace refined grains with whole grains. You can also choose a cereal with 5 or more grams of dietary fiber per serving for breakfast or as a snack. Add dried beans (like kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils) to salads or soups and make a habit of snacking on a handful of nuts instead of low-fiber chips or crackers
Add fiber supplements if necessary to reach the level your doctor recommends, but then try gradually increasing high fiber foods and decreasing fiber supplements. By adding high fiber foods you also get many valuable nutrients and health-protective phytochemicals that a fiber supplement can’t provide. Moreover, research now shows that different types of fiber provide different health-related benefits. By getting fiber from a variety of plant foods, you’ll get a full complement of fiber types.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).