August 9, 2007

You Ask, I Answer: Fiber

Can you get too much fiber in a day? I ask because I usually add fibrous brans (both oat and wheat bran) in my food, and some days I end up with 60 or 70 grams of fiber. Is this healthy?
-- Anonymous (per the writer's request)

Fiber is a very important nutrient that, unfortunately, many people in the United States are severely lacking in their diets.

Soluble fiber -- the type found in oatmeal -- is a great cholesterol reducer and satiey contributor, while insoluble fiber -- contained in whole wheat products -- helps eliminate toxins out of our body quicky and softens stools.

Fruits, vegetables, and legumes contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.

The problems associated with diets low in fiber are well documented, but is there such a thing as too much fiber? There can be.

If you're consuming 2,000 calories a day, you should aim for approximately 35 grams of fiber a day. Eating 1,500 calories? 25 grams should be your goal.

There are some things to keep in mind when it comes to fiber consumption.

First of all, if you are experiencing gastrointestinal distress (i.e.: bloating, diarrhea, or stomach pains) when consuming high amounts, your body is indicating you've passed its fiber threshold.

People who normally do not consume a lot of fiber need to increase their intake slowly (and make sure to stay hydrated while doing so), to not suffer from these symptoms. Going from 10 to 30 grams a day over a 24 hour period is not something your stomach will appreciate.

The biggest concern accompanying a high fiber intake (particularly insoluble fiber) is intereference with the absorption of certain vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and minerals (zinc, magnesium, iron and calcium).

Large amounts of insoluble fiber flush vitamins and minerals out of our system before they've truly had a chance to be fully absorbed by the body.

I would try to aim for no more than 50 grams of fiber a day. Although this might seem like a very high figure to some, many vegetarians often have a hard time not surpassing their fiber requirement, especially those who substitute meats with nuts, seeds, and legumes.

If you are consistently eating more than 50 grams a day, I would recommend getting some bloodwork done and seeing if there are any vitamins or mineral deficiencies worth looking into.

For more information on fiber, be sure to check out the first issue of the Small Bites newsletter!

No comments: