Fiber is an important element of a healthy diet at any age, but eating enough fiber is particularly important for seniors. As you age, your risks of such conditions as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and dementia increase. Research has found that good nutrition, including a diet rich in fiber, may help ward off these health conditions.
Fiber is particularly important for seniors. What are the health benefits?
- Keeping the bowels regular and relieving constipation
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Helping to manage blood glucose levels (important for lowering diabetes risk and managing diabetes)
- possible protection against colorectal cancer
- Reduced LDL cholesterol
- Helping manage weight
Women over 50 years old should get at least 21 grams of fiber per day, while men over 50 should eat at least 30 grams. But fiber can be hard to get as we age. If you have problems with your teeth and gums, for example, you may no longer be able to chew some fiber-rich foods like apples.
But just because your diet may be more limited than it was when you were younger, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on fiber. There are many excellent sources of dietary fiber, which allows you to make choices from those foods that you are still able to eat.
If you don’t have the appetite that you used to have, make sure that what you do eat is nutrient-dense -- including plenty of fiber -- and be sure to eat a variety of foods with each meal.
For example, if you have a meal that includes whole wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce (6 grams fiber), half a cup of cooked spinach (7 grams fiber), and a large baked apple (softer and easier to chew, 6 grams fiber), you’ve already made it to 19 grams of fiber for the day!
Other top sources of dietary fiber include:
- Beans. White, black, pinto, kidney, and baked beans all have fiber contents ranging from 16 to 20 grams per cup when cooked.
- Bread. Whole-grain breads have the higher fiber content, anywhere from 5 to 7 grams per slice.
- Figs. Three dried figs have 10 grams of fiber!
- Yams and russet potatoes. These have about 6 or 7 grams of fiber each.