Post-surgery eating a balanced diet is critical to success. You hear all about protein and how important it is to your diet, but what about dietary fiber? How important is it, especially if you’re limiting things like vegetables and fruit intake in favor of protein? How do you ensure that you’re getting enough of this critical nutrient?
According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) individuals between 19 – 50 years of age should intake 25g and 38g for females and males, respectively. This guidelines is for the person who’s consuming an average of 2000 calories per day. The IOM also has stated that for every 1,000 calories consumed a person should receive 14g fiber. For individuals having had bariatric surgery, this formula is a bit more applicable since caloric intake is typically restricted; however, always be sure to speak with your doctor and dietitian before making dietary changes to your program. But why is fiber important?
5 Known Health Benefits Linked to Dietary Fiber:
1. Fiber Controls Blood Sugar
Many bariatric patients also have Type II Diabetes (T2D) and fiber is one nutrient in particular that helps all patients with T2D. Why? While fiber has two main components (soluble and insoluble), soluble fiber (the fiber found in oats, bran, beans, chia and flaxseeds) has been clinically shown to slow down the absorption of sugar, improving blood sugar levels and over time greatly affecting HbA1c. And, while bariatric surgery may reverse or place ones diabetes in remission, continuing with a diet rich in fiber can further reduce the risks of it returning post-surgery.
2. Fiber Helps Regulate Blood Cholesterol
Obesity is closely linked to having high cholesterol, especially low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or the “bad” cholesterol. Soluble fiber, particularly those found in beans and oats, have been clinically shown to be dietary methods that aid in both cholesterol reduction and control. Maintaining a high fiber diet after surgery is one strategy to help keep cholesterol levels under control.
3. Fiber Helps Regulate Appetite
There are so many studies that have linked the connection between dietary fiber and satiety, that feeling of being full. And, the effect is synergistic when dietary fiber is combined with, guess what? Protein! It’s almost like the combination of protein and fiber was made especially for those having had bariatric surgery!
4. Fiber Prevents Constipation
Why does this matter? Well, for many reasons, and if you’ve suffered constipation you’ll understand why. It’s an important topic that is often overlooked because people get uncomfortable when speaking about stool and general bathroom topics. However, dietary fiber helps to bulk and soften one’s stools, making them easier to pass. Dietary fiber can also help to bind one’s system, especially if stools are too loose or watery. However, don’t go too crazy too quickly…be sure that as you increase your daily dose of fiber to do so slowly and over time. Too much too quickly and you may experience some gas discomfort. Slow and steady to build up, then stay consistent.
5. Fiber Aids Weight Loss
Typically, higher fiber foods originate from whole grains which are a bit tougher to chew. Taking your time allows you to pace your meals, which is likely something you’re already doing – taking small, mindful bites. This also helps by preventing the chances of overeating and becoming uncomfortably full. Lastly, higher fiber foods take longer to digest and break down, whereby making you feel fuller longer than had you eaten a lower-fiber diet.
5 Easy Ways to Incorporate Daily Fiber
- Breakfast! Start your day with a fiber rich breakfast like oatmeal with protein powder mixed in, or with a high fiber cereal atop Greek yogurt and some fresh berries. Try to find cereals made with whole grains like whole oats or bran. Aim for 5g or more for your breakfast to start the day off right.
- Get the white out! Substitute all “white” products for “whole grain.” You can do this by substitute whole wheat flour for white flour in recipes and reading labels. BE sure that all labels start with whole grains or calls our whole grains on the label.
- Add 1 serving of beans or lentils on most days of the week. This gives you, on average, 6 – 7 grams of protein AND 5g or more of dietary fiber. Beans are a win-win food for everyone.
- Choose wholefruits instead of fruit juices. When and if you make smoothies use the whole fruit instead of the juice. Whole fruits contain at least 2g or more of fiber per serving.
- When thinking about side dishes for meals look at alternative whole grains to more traditional starch side dishes. Think quinoa, barley, bulgar, farrow, whole wheat pasta, wild rice and wheatberries. These are all great side dishes to meals and add great quality fiber to your diet.