Is a Fiber Supplement Necessary?

by | June 4, 2016

One of my friends named Jamie wanted to know if I know any fiber supplements that I like. He prefers a powder form that can quickly absorb in water. When his wife asked me on his behalf last weekend, I didn’t have a straight answer, because I only used a fiber supplement once when I was pregnant with my first child (which was over 14 years ago!). I was suffering from a common problem of being pregnant -constipation. So, a friend gave me Metamucil in a re-sealable bag. It was the first and only time I tried a fiber supplement. My friend insisted that it was safe for pregnant women (and maybe so), but I felt kind of guilty relying on powder to solve a symptom rather than adjusting my lifestyle or eating habits.

I don’t know why Jamie thinks he needs to take fiber supplements. It may be because of his work schedule, he might be a bit of a picky eater, or he may think it is difficult to eat enough vegetables and fruits to fulfill fiber intake recommendations.

Regardless, it is wise to know how much fiber is recommended and how we can achieve it by eating whole foods. Are we getting enough fiber from food? or do we need to add fiber supplements to compensate?

Generally, for men aged 19-50, 38g of fiber per day is recommended, for women in the same age group 25g/day is recommended. How much do we need to eat to meet the recommendation? Here are some measurements of dietary fiber contents in selected foods (“Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements” by Michael T. Murray):




Fruits

  • 1 Apple (with skin) – 3.5g
  • 1 cup Strawberries – 3.0g
  • 1 Banana – 2.4g
  • 10 Cherries – 1.2g
  • ¼ Cantaloupe – 1.0g

Vegetables (Raw)

  • 1 Tomato – 1.5g
  • ½ cup Mushrooms – 1.5g
  • ½ cup Celery, diced – 1.1g
  • 1 cup Lettuce – 0.9g
  • ½ cup Cucumber – 0.4g

Vegetables (Cooked)

  • 1 cup Parsnip – 5.4g
  • 1 cup Carrots – 4.6g
  • 1 cup Broccoli – 4.2g
  • 1 cup Spinach – 4.2g
  • 1 cup Zucchini – 3.6g

Legumes (Cooked)

  • ½ cup Kidney beans – 7.3g
  • ½ cup Peas – 4.7g
  • ½ cup Lentils – 3.7g

Rice, Bread, Pasta

  • ½ cup Brown rice – 1.0g
  • ½ cup White rice – 0.2g
  • 1 slice Whole wheat bread – 1.4g
  • 1 slice White bread – 0.4g
  • ½ cup Whole wheat pasta – 3.9g
  • ½ cup White pasta – 1.1g

Nuts

  • 10 Almonds – 1.1g
  • 10 Peanuts – 1.4g

How much dietary fiber do you think you are getting on a typical day?

Here is my typical day: 2 slices of whole wheat or multi-grain bread (2.8g) and ½ banana (1.2g) for breakfast. 1 apple (3.5g) as a snack. Tomato and lettuce in turkey sandwich (5.2g). 10 almonds (1.1g) as snack. Brown rice (1.0g), stir fry vegetables (7.0g), and salad (2.0g). Total dietary fiber intake is approximately 23.8g, which is pretty close to recommended fiber intake (25g) for women under 50. Still there is room for improvement.

It can be difficult to achieve the recommendation. I try to eat 5 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits a day, and always choose whole wheat (or multi-grain) bread rather than white, same with rice and pasta. However, my typical day example didn’t meet the recommendation of dietary fiber intake. I should definitely try to add more vegetables and fruits in my diet, because it is best to obtain fiber from whole foods. The fiber-rich foods can not only provide vitamins and minerals but also other nutrients that are beneficial to us. Fiber supplements, on the other hand, can only contribute to the recommended daily intake of fiber.

Fiber plays a great part in optimal intestinal health. If you think you need to increase fiber intake and plan to take fiber supplements, start with small amounts to minimize discomfort. Also be sure to drink plenty of water throughout a day.

 

All is well and all the best!




 

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