Health Watch -- High-fiber Woes

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

A high-fiber diet has many health benefits, but may also have unpleasant side effects.

You've heard it many times - fiber in your diet is good for you. A high-fiber diet helps prevent diabetes, helps manage diabetes and helps prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer. Unfortunately, a high-fiber diet isn't always easy on the digestive system and can cause some uncomfortable and embarrassing side effects. Beans, a particularly good source of fiber, are especially notorious.

Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say one way to prevent some of the unpleasant effects of a high-fiber diet is to make the transition gradually. Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian who teaches nutrition at UT Southwestern, suggests adding one to two servings of fruits or cooked vegetables to your daily diet. Increase gradually until you're getting about nine total servings of fruits and vegetables a day, with about 20 to 30 grams of fiber.

Good sources of dietary fiber include fruits and vegetables such as berries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, figs, oranges, apples and pears. You'll also find fiber in grain products like bran muffins, brown rice, multigrain cereal and oatmeal. You can prevent some of the problems beans cause by rinsing them thoroughly in running water.

While eating some high-fiber foods may initially seem to cause some discomfort, a high-fiber diet actually improves the way your gastrointestinal system works. It can also help lower your cholesterol and help you lose weight.


March 2004