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Diet Tips for Digestive Health

Here are some simple changes that can improve your diet and help relieve constipation:

  • Add veggies. You don't have to count grams of fiber to get the recommended amount. Instead, aim to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables every day. Make sandwiches with roasted veggies, add a salad instead of fries to your meal, buy pre-cut vegetables to snack on with low-fat dip, keep the fruit bowl full for a handy and healthy snack, and add chopped, dried fruit to oatmeal and cereal.
  • Go for grains. Replace white bread, white rice, and regular pasta with whole-grain bread and whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. Eat more whole oats, multi-grain cereals, and whole-wheat crackers -- just be sure to choose low-fat and low-sugar options. Snack on air-popped popcorn instead of chips. When buying cereal, choose brands that have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Bulk up on beans. Replace meat with a bean or legume dish at least once or twice a week. Add cooked beans to salads, and try bean soups and stews as main course meals.
  • Add fiber gradually. Make changes slowly over the course of a week or so -- increasing fiber too quickly can cause bloating and gas. Be patient -- it may take time for your body to adjust.
  • Consider a fiber supplement. If you have trouble getting enough fiber in your diet, consider a fiber supplement such as Citrucel, FiberCon, and Metamucil. Also called bulk-forming laxatives, fiber supplements are generally safe and non-habit forming. Just be sure to talk with your doctor before using them as they can interfere with some medications.
  • Stay hydrated. If you add more fiber to your diet either with food or supplements, be sure to drink more fluids to aid digestion. Aim for about 8 glasses a day. Choose low or no-calorie beverages -- drinking sugary soda and fruit drinks will add extra calories you don't need.

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