Fiber Is Essential
Many elderly need to increase fiber intake. However, most caretakers grow frustrated in the attempt to increase fiber intake for loved ones.
- Why fiber is important
- How much fiber is needed
- Grams of fiber explained
- Why elderly often do not have enough fiber in their diet
- How you can increase fiber intake for your loved ones, especially if they don’t want change!
What is Fiber? Why is it Important?
Fiber, also known as roughage, constitutes the part of food that our bodies cannot digest. Although we cannot absorb fiber, we require a substantial amount to properly function.
An important part of our food intake, fiber helps keep our systems regular, avoiding constipation and even certain cancers. It also helps regulate cholesterol and aids in preventing heart disease.
Soluble vs Insoluble Fiber
Two forms of fiber exist, soluble and insoluble. Our bodies require both, though they perform different functions.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. As it travels through our digestive tract, it becomes a gel-like substance. Bacteria in the intestinal tract ferment the soluble fiber as it travels.
Binding with fatty acids, soluble fiber slows down the time it takes to empty the stomach. Also, it slows the rate of sugar absorption by the body.
Soluble fiber reduces cholesterol, especially LDL, also known as bad cholesterol. By slowing sugar absorption rate, it helps regulate blood sugars. This is especially helpful for diabetics and pre-diabetics, but useful for all. As it ferments by gut bacteria, soluble fiber helps strengthen the immune system and aids digestive and overall health.
Good sources of soluble fiber include:
- beans such as pinto, kidney, black, etc
- brussel sprouts
- prunes & figs
- whole grains such as whole wheat, barley, and others
Insoluble fiber retains it’s formed as it travels through our digestive tract, although bacteria in the color may ferment it, as well.
It functions to help move food through the digestive tract, speeding elimination from the bowels, and thus preventing constipation. Further, insoluble fiber helps stabilize the pH of the intestine, helping to prevent colorectal cancer.
Many plant products contain insoluble fiber. Consider:
- dark, leafy greens
- root vegetables with skins on
- fruit with skins on
- whole grains
Increase fiber intake: How much is enough?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the recommended daily amount, or RDA, of fiber for women is 25 grams and, for men, it is 38 grams. After the age of 50, the RDA for women is 21 grams and men is 30 grams.
As most high-fiber containing foods usually have insoluble and soluble fiber, it is not necessary to calculate them separately. In other words, focus on total fiber intake, rather than one specific type of fiber.
RDA Grams are Nice, but what does that mean?
Many food labels list the fiber content per serving, making it easy to track those foods. However, your snack of an apple with peanut butter has no such label. Therefore, having an easy-reference fiber chart proves quite useful.
Referencing the fiber chart, we see that an average apple has 4 grams while the tablespoon of peanut butter adds another 1.1 gram. Therefore, your snack contained a healthy amount of 5.1 grams of fiber. That’s a good start toward your daily RDA of fiber.
Why a need to increase fiber intake?
Many people eat less fiber than they need. Often, our elderly loved ones eat far less than they require, causing health problems and complications.
The reasons vary. Many have always eaten a meat and potatoes style diet, eschewing vegetables almost entirely. In addition, as we age, our appetite usually decreases and our tastes for healthy foods may, too.
To counter the lack of fiber, many doctors suggest using fiber supplements such as Miralax powder or a psyllium-based product such as Metamucil. Unfortunately, these contain unhealthy ingredients and the psyllium products have a grainy texture.
Garden of Life Powder is a far better choice than the psyllium products, as it contains no harmful ingredients. You might use it as a booster when needed.
However, the best form of fiber comes from food, itself. Yet this may prove a difficult battle for some. Most of us caring for elderly loved ones well know the challenges encountered with change.
How you can increase fiber intake for your loved ones, especially if they don’t want change!
This, then, may well become the challenge. If your Dad insists on a burger on a white bun with french fries, where will the fiber come from? If Mom only wants chicken noodle soup for lunch, where is her fiber?
Creativity becomes part of your life! You can increase fiber intake, without starting a family feud.
Burgers offer an easy solution. If it must be a meat burger, add ground flax seed to the mix. If a veggie burger suffices, choose an oatmeal based or bean based burger.
When loved ones choose low-fiber soups, encourage a side dish of fruit or perhaps whole grain toast. Remember that many whole-grain breads are chewier and might not be easy for your Mom to eat. Whole grain crackers might be a better choice in that case.
Finding a good solution is not a one-day task.
It’s important to know which foods your loved one likes that are high in fiber. Use these when possible. For other times, add fiber by mixing in ground flaxseed or other high-fiber ingredients.
Elderly often find it difficult to eat fruit and vegetables with skins attached. It is quite possible to mince some of these and include in foods, such as applesauce. Fiber amounts do change when foods are cooked or overly processed, so be sure to check the new amounts on the fiber chart.
Using natural ingredients to sweeten foods also provides another good source of fiber and other nutrients. For instance, date sugar contains many nutrients and each date contributes 1.6 grams of fiber. Another popular sweetener, apples, provide 4.4 grams of fiber in one medium apple.
Nuts and seeds may be difficult for our elderly to eat, but they can be chopped or ground and added for their nutrient value. Likewise, whole grains might not be enjoyed, but grind them and add a bit to food where they will neatly hide.
One of our favorite forms of fiber comes in the form of a shake!
In fact, a favorite for our entire family is
This shake contains 8 grams of fiber in one serving. That’s better than most of the psyllium powders offer! (approximately 3-6 grams/serving).
You can increase that a bit more by blending in flax seed or frozen fruit. Plus, the plant-based meal replacement shake provides added nutrients. As a bonus, most people truly enjoy these shakes (with our without enhancements such as added fruit) making them a healthy treat!
In our home, the ability to provide a beneficial treat far surpasses the dreaded grainy psyllium drink. And the nutrient boost is welcome, too.
Another favorite shake is the
What ways do you use to increase fiber intake for your loved ones? We’d like to hear from you! Please share with the comments below.
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Find Additional Healthy Vegan Recipes to Increase Your Fiber at:
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