Why dietary fiber reduces the risk of disease

Why dietary fiber reduces the risk of disease

By Melinda Hawkins, MD
Colorectal Surgeon

Over the last couple of years, there has become more awareness surrounding the importance of dietary fiber and the prevention of disease. 

Why should I eat more fiber?

Dietary fiber can reduce the risk of certain diseases such as colon cancer, diverticular disease, and can also help lower cholesterol and improve symptoms from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Additionally, fiber can also be beneficial in helping to manage common bowel problems.

If you have been experiencing bowel or hemorrhoidal problems, fiber along with other dietary modifications can often help improve conditions such as constipation, diarrhea, incontinence, hemorrhoids or anal fissures.

How much fiber should I eat?

Current dietary guidelines suggest that we should consume at least 25-30 grams of fiber daily.  Only 5% of Americans routinely meet these guidelines.  The list below provides a sample of some of the foods that are nutritious and good sources of fiber. 

Product Fiber - Content - Serving Size
Fiber One Cereal - 13 grams - ½ cup
All Bran Cereal - 10 grams - 1/3 cup
Prunes -10 grams - ½ cup
Corn (on the cob) - 6 grams - 1
Spinach (cooked) - 4 grams - 1 cup
Apples/Pears/Bananas - 3 grams - 1
Baked Potato with skin - 3 grams - 1
Nuts - 3 grams - 1/3 cup
Cantaloupe/Oranges - 2 grams - ¼
Carrots - 2 grams - 1
Peanut Butter - 2 grams - 2 tbsp.
Tomatoes - 2 grams - 1
Whole wheat bread - 2 grams -1 slice
Oatmeal - 2 grams - ¾ cup
Raspberries - 2 grams - 1/3 cup
Strawberries - 2 grams - ½ cup      

Fiber supplements such as Konsyl or Metamucil are good alternatives, but must be used regularly for them to be effective.  One tablespoon of Metamucil is equivalent to six grams of fiber.  Taking supplemental fiber can sometimes cause bloating and increased gas but these are frequently temporary symptoms so don’t give up on the fiber too quickly!

Talk to your healthcare provider before making changes to your diet, and if you would like more information or to schedule an appointment with us, please call (206) 386-6600.

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