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Is your diet low on fiber? Find out and protect your health.

Is your diet short on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains? If so, you may not be getting all the fiber you need -- raising your risks for weight gain, heart disease, and cancer.

Though the symptoms of a fiber-poor diet aren't always clear-cut, there are four key warning signs to watch for:

  • Constipation : If you're having fewer than three bowel movements a week, and the stools are hard and dry, you're constipated. Constipation can result from lack of fiber, but also from too little exercise and certain medications and supplements.
    Prevention: If your constipation is diet-related, try adding more fiber-rich foods such as apples, raspberries, carrots, broccoli, or whole grains to your diet.
    Boosting your fiber intake can help form soft, bulky stools, relieving and preventing constipation. Be sure to add fiber slowly so your body gets used to it. And help yourself stay regular by drinking plenty of fluids and exercising regularly.
  • Weight Gain: "Fiber contributes to satiety," says Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, director of nutrition for WebMD. Satiety is that feeling of comfortable fullness you get after a meal. If you're not experiencing that feeling, Zelman says you may be eating more than your body needs.
    Prevention: Try meeting the recommended goal of 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily by enjoying fiber-filled foods like fresh fruit, whole grains, and seasonal vegetables. Choose the fiber-rich foods you like best; you're more likely to eat favorites often.
  • Blood Sugar Fluctuations: If you have diabetes and find controlling your blood sugar difficult, talk to your doctor: you may not be getting enough fiber.
    Prevention: Because fiber delays the absorption of sugar, helping you control blood sugar levels, try adding more fresh produce, beans and peas, brown rice, and other high-fiber foods to your diet. Remember to discuss any change in your diabetes management plan with your doctor.
  • Diet-Related Nausea & Tiredness: Getting most of your calories from a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet -- one rich in meat, eggs, and cheese and low in produce -- may lead not only to a rise in cholesterol, but also leave you nauseous, tired, and weak.
    Prevention: Try boosting your dietary fiber with the vitamin- and mineral-rich whole grains, fruits and vegetables your body needs, and cut back on fatty foods.

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