As we age, our body changes. Our digestion system doesn’t work as quickly as it used to. Our body doesn’t absorb nutrients as well. The resulting slowdown causes nutrient deficiency and constipation. For seniors having digestive difficulties, help is available. You need look no further than the dietary fiber in the foods you eat.
Adding dietary fiber into your daily menu has many benefits beyond digestion. Fiber helps rid the body of cholesterol and toxins. Increasing fiber in your diet also regulates glucose levels in the blood, reduces the risk of heart-related complications, diabetes, colon cancer, diverticulitis and can even help you lose weight.
Fiber Recommendations for the Elderly
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that women over 50 need 21 grams of dietary fiber per day; men over 50 need 30 grams. Too much or not enough fiber, over time, will cause unpleasant issues. To understand why, it’s helpful to know how fiber works.
Soluble fiber, found in fruits, vegetables and oats, absorbs water in the intestines and becomes gel. As it passes through the digestive tract, that gel draws and drags toxins, bile and debris out of your body. Insoluble fiber, found in wheat bran, nuts, beans and potatoes, does not dissolve in water. Instead, it acts as a scrub brush, cleaning the intestines and stimulating movement through the digestive tract.Too much fiber in your diet (and not enough water) will result in a slowing of your digestive system, and may cause constipation, bloating, gas and abdominal pain. Too little fiber in your diet prevents the body from moving toxins, cholesterol or other substances through the body, resulting in constipation and bloating. Without enough fiber to regulate digestion, you may experience a sugar high followed by a significant crash, weight gain and frequent hunger pangs – even after you eat.
List of High Fiber Foods for the Elderly
You may be wondering, “What is a good source of fiber for the elderly?” You should look for a combination of soluble and insoluble fibers. This list will help guide your choices. These delicious foods, in the serving sizes noted, will help you obtain the ideal amount of fiber that your body needs.
- Apples (3–4g)
- Bananas (3.1g)
- Barley (32g/cup
- Citrus fruit (3–4g)
- Lentils (8g/half cup)
- Oat bran (14g/cup)
- Peas (3–4g/half cup)
- Pistachios (6.5g/half cup)
- Raspberries (8g/cup)
- Strawberries (3–4g/cup)
- Sunflower seeds (6g/half cup)
- Beans (7–8g/half cup)
- Brussels sprouts (3.3g/cup)
- Carrots (3–4g/cup)
- Cauliflower (3–4g/half cup)
- Corn (2.4g/ear)
- Flaxseed (2g/tbsp)
- Kale (2.6g/cup)
- Spinach, cooked (2.4g/half cup)
- Squash (3–4g/half cup)
- Sweet potatoes (3–4g/medium potato)
- Wheat bran (12.5g/half cup)
Fiber SupplementsSome people may be interested in the best fiber supplement for seniors. Before you consider a fiber supplement, understand that supplements do not provide as many benefits as getting fiber from naturally occurring sources. That’s because whole foods contain the vitamins that many supplements may lack. If you’re seeking temporary relief from constipation, a fiber supplement may help. Over the long term, it may be better to boost the fiber-rich foods in your diet. Your doctor will help you make the best decision based on your individual needs.
Incorporate More Fiber in Your Diet
With some easy menu additions and food substitutions, you’ll find it’s not difficult to add more fiber to your diet. Try one of these ideas:
- Add chopped dried fruit to cookies.
- Choose whole grain breads.
- Eat whole fruit instead of drinking juice.
- Experiment with fiber-rich dishes based on the Mediterranean diet.
- Slice fruit on top of yogurt or cereal.
- Sprinkle flaxseed over cereal, soup, salad or yogurt.
- Substitute whole wheat flour in your baking.
- Swap your normal snacks for whole wheat crackers
- Switch to brown rice instead of white.
- Toss beans and grated carrot into salads.
Ready to incorporate more high-fiber options into your menu? These recipes will get you started. Start slowly adding more fiber to your diet. You may be amazed at how quickly you will feel stronger and more energized.