Get your fiber without the flatulence

Follow these tips to consume the fiber you need without experiencing the flatulence you do not.

We all know the benefits of eating enough fiber: lowers cholesterol, helps control blood sugar and keeps us regular. So why do we have such a hard time eating enough of it? It may be due to thinking of cardboard-tasting food and flatulence when we think of fiber. Fiber does not deserve its dull reputation.

So what exactly is fiber? Fiber is found in plant foods only. It is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. As a result, it passes through the body undigested.

Most children and adults need at least 20-30 grams of fiber per day. However, most Americans consume only 15 grams a day. Foods that are a good source of fiber include legumes, fruits, vegetables and grains. When you eat a balanced diet that includes all of these foods, you will likely consume the adequate/suggested amount of fiber. You will not need to add a supplement of fiber to your diet.

When you start including more fiber-rich foods in your diet, you may start to notice more flatulence (gas and bloating), which can be very uncomfortable, to say the least.

Certain foods can cause excessive gas for various reasons (the type of carbohydrate, digestive issues, etc.). However, there are a few steps you can take to reduce flatulence when you consume fiber-rich foods:

  1. Add fiber-rich foods to your diet gradually. For example, if you consume white bread on a regular basis, try switching to at least one serving of whole-grain bread a day for the first week, two servings a day the second week, etc. until all your bread is whole grain.
  2. Stay hydrated by drinking water. Doctors recommend that when you increase your fiber intake, you also increase your water intake. This allows the fiber to bind and prevents it hardening. It is also important to avoid carbonated drinks as they can cause excessive gas.
  3. Avoid certain behaviors that can cause you to swallow extra air. When we eat, we naturally tend to swallow air as we’re chewing. Chewing slowly, avoiding chewing gum, and avoiding smoking can help with swallowing less air.
  4. Prepare dried beans by soaking them overnight to make them more digestible. Discard the water the next day and cook the beans in fresh water. This will help get rid of some oligosaccharides (the sugars that exist in beans that cause flatulence). Rinsing canned beans can also help get rid of some of the oligosaccharides.

For more information on eating healthy, please contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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