Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(4):930

Why should I eat more fiber?

Eating foods that are high in fiber can help relieve some problems with constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Dietary fiber may help lower your cholesterol levels. It also may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and certain kinds of cancer.

How can I get more fiber in my diet?

You might try the following ideas for increasing fiber in your diet:

  • Replace white bread with whole-grain breads and cereals. Eat brown rice instead of white rice. Eat more of the following foods:

    Bran muffins

    Brown rice

    Multiple-grain cereals, cooked or dry

    Oatmeal

    100 percent whole-wheat bread

    Popcorn

  • Eat bran cereal for breakfast. Check package labels for the amounts of dietary fiber in each brand. Some cereals have less fiber than you might think.

  • Add ¼ cup of wheat bran (also called miller's bran) to foods such as cooked cereal, applesauce, or meat loaf. You can buy this in health food stores and many grocery stores.

  • Eat cooked beans each week.

  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber include:

    Apples

    Beans

    Berries

    Broccoli

    Brussel sprouts

    Carrots

    Cauliflower

    Figs

    Green peas

    Oranges

    Pears

    Prunes

Start slowly

Many people notice bloating, cramping, or gas when they start to add fiber to their diet. Making small changes in your diet over a period of time can help prevent this. Start with one of the changes listed above, then wait several days to a week before making another change. If one change does not seem to work for you, try a different one.

It is important to drink more fluids when you increase the amount of fiber you eat. If you do not already drink more than six glasses of liquid a day, drink at least two more glasses of water a day when you increase your fiber intake.

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