For Colon Health, Find Your Way to More Fiber
If you’re age 50 or older, scheduling that all-important colonoscopy is your No. 1 step in the right direction when it comes to fighting colon cancer.
But there’s a world of work you can do to keep your colon healthy regardless of your age. Higher-fiber foods fight for you. But first you need to know what they are, buy them and include them in your daily feasts and snacks.
Daily fiber intake for women 65 and younger is about 25 grams – think five large apples – and it’s about 38 grams for men in the same age. Older men and women should get 30 and 21 grams, respectively. It’s not terribly hard to find that fiber out there – it has actually gotten easier.
“Compared to a decade ago, there are so many more reliably available options, things like quinoa, chia and flax seeds and more variety of breads,” said Avera Heart Hospital Nutrition Specialist Carri Oetken, RD, LN. “Start by choosing higher fiber alternatives like whole-grain bread in place of white breads, brown rice in place of white rice or whole-grain pasta instead of white ones.”
Food First, Naturally
The more fiber, the better, but start with a gradual ramp-up, and do so with food itself, especially as you get started on your changes.
“The best way to begin is with a little research on food labels. Many products may say things like whole-grain but really offer little in terms of higher fiber content,” Oetken said. “The first ingredient in any prepared food, like a bread or pasta, must be whole-wheat flour. Watch out for anything with enriched flour ingredients as the first item on the list. These would not be considered whole grains.”
When it comes to per-serving fiber content, the gold standard for most foods is greater than 3 grams, Oetken added. Fiber levels will vary greatly, and even “looks good” products that offer whole-wheat or are darker in color may not provide the fiber your body needs for good digestive – and colon – health.
“There are some great sources of fiber in legumes and beans, and they also pack a good punch in terms of protein,” she said. “Flax and chia are great examples. Lentils are another inexpensive and high-fiber food that can be versatile in the kitchen, too.”
While foods rich in fiber are a best way to get more, the use of supplemental fiber products can have a role.
“Some people just don’t eat as much as others, and if a supplement can help them to get the proper amounts of fiber in their diets, that’s fine, just avoid over-doing it or relying solely on supplemental sources of fiber,” said Oetken. “If you’re making those smaller steps toward more fiber, start by educating yourself on healthier alternatives.”
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced into ½- inch pieces (red or yellow)
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1¼ pound ground chicken or turkey
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup low-sodium black beans (about ½ can, rinsed and drained)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
- In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the onions and garlic, sauté until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add the chicken. Sprinkle with spices and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.
- Add the cherry tomatoes and continue to sauté until the tomatoes begin to burst and the chicken is cooked through.
- Taste and season with additional spices to your liking.
- Add the black beans and cilantro. Stir gently to warm through.
- When ready to eat, serve with whole-grain brown rice, wild rice or quinoa and your favorite toppings.
Nutritional information: 265 calories, 17 g carb, 37 g protein, 6 g fat, 6 g fiber and 181 mg sodium.