As we age, health requirements change – at least, they change if you want to be able to age gracefully. This is where diet and exercise come into play. Today, we’ll be focusing specifically on why fiber is important for seniors.
When it comes to healthy eating, you probably think of adding more fruits and vegetables to your daily meals, or drinking plenty of water, right? While those are all impactful parts of a healthy diet, so is consuming fiber each day.
At The Village, we prioritize residents’ dietary preferences and restrictions throughout every level of care, including Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Skilled Nursing. Our active lifestyle focuses on living well, and food plays a major role in doing so. Learn more about the importance of a high-fiber diet and the daily fiber requirement for seniors, below.
What is fiber?
Cleveland Clinic defines fiber in simple terms: “Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t break down.” But while this seems like a worrisome thing to happen in our digestive systems, it actually proves to be a positive thing because our bodies need fiber to function.
There are two categories of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can be found in fruits and vegetables, dried kidney beans and other beans, oats, barley, and rice. Insoluble fiber can be found in foods that contain wheat flour like whole-grain breads, certain cereals, nuts, seeds, and fruit and vegetable skin. (Pro tip: Don’t peel your fruits and veggies! Keep the skin on, and just wash them thoroughly to get the most nutrients out of them.)
The importance of fiber for seniors
So, why do older adults need to pay close attention to their fiber intake? “Research shows that in countries where people consume high amounts of fiber in their diets, the overall rates of chronic disease are low,” notes registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, from Cleveland Clinic.
Additional benefits of fiber include:
- Improved blood sugar levels
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, colorectal cancer, and gastrointestinal and digestive tract issues
- Maintaining a healthy weight, because fiber helps keep you fuller longer
- Bowel regularity
How much fiber do seniors need?
First things first. Visit your physician to see how much fiber you need to start including in your daily meals and snacks. Usually, if you’re constipated, have hemorrhoids, rarely feel full after eating, or feel sluggish, these are signs that you need to up your fiber intake.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends women age 51 and older consume at least 22 grams of fiber daily, and men age 51 and older consume at least 28 grams of fiber daily. It’s important to note that these are baseline recommendations. Factors like body mass index (BMI), medications, and other health conditions can alter the fiber intake your doctor recommends.
Quick tips for incorporating fiber-rich foods into your diet
- When baking, use whole-grain or wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour.
- Replace white rice with brown rice.
- Add fruit to your morning cereal.
- Replace potato chips with popcorn.
- Replace iceberg lettuce with romaine lettuce or spinach.
Many individuals struggle with maintaining healthy levels of fiber. If that’s the case, some of the best fiber supplements for seniors include Metamucil and Benefiber, among these others recommended by Forbes Health.
Enjoy nutritious meals every day at The Village.
Our senior living community in Hemet, CA, takes dining to a whole new level, with fresh, chef-curated meals served each day in a variety of venues. Get a taste of our lifestyle for yourself when you call to schedule a personal tour today.