Dietary Fiber Intake after Bariatric Surgery
With so much attention being paid to protein intake (combined with smaller portions) after bariatric surgery, some patients may find that their diet is not as balanced as it should be. If your diet does not contain the right balance of foods you might not be getting enough fiber, which can lead to constipation and weight plateaus. Read on to learn the benefits of dietary fiber and how to increase this nutrient in your diet after weight loss surgery.
What is fiber?
Fiber is found in plant foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Refined grains, such as white rice or white flour, are missing one or more of the three parts of the grain that make it “whole” (the bran, endosperm, and germ). This process leaves these foods with a quarter of the nutrients (like fiber) that they contained before. For this reason, the recommendation is to eat make half your grains whole (1). Fruit also contains fiber, but when fruit is made into juice it loses most of the fiber. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Both forms have different health benefits, so it’s important to include a variety of fiber-containing foods in your diet.
Why is fiber important?
There are many benefits to eating a diet with sufficient fiber. Fiber takes longer to digest which can stabilize blood sugar (glucose) levels – an added benefit to patients with Type 2 Diabetes (2). Slower digestion means you feel fuller longer which can aid in weight loss and weight maintenance. Studies also show that a diet high in fiber can lower cholesterol levels (LDL and total cholesterol) and improve bowel regularity, which is great news for patients suffering from constipation (3, 4).
How much fiber is enough?
Men should aim for 30 – 38 g of fiber per day and women should get 21 – 25 g of fiber per day. When reading nutrition labels look for foods that list 2- 5 g of fiber per serving. Fiber is best absorbed from foods; however, if for some reason you’re unable to get enough from you diet you can talk to your doctor about a fiber supplement (such as Metamucil). Meet with your dietitian so they can analyze how much fiber you’ve been consuming. If your diet is seriously lacking in this nutrient you want to add it back in slowly – otherwise you can experience painful bloating and abdominal pain. Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day as you increase your fiber intake – fiber works better when it can absorb fluid.
To increase the fiber in your diet try to include either a whole grain, a vegetable or fruit, beans, nuts, or seeds at each meal or snack (in addition to your protein food/drink). Most fiber-rich foods are low in calories so doing so won’t interfere with weight loss. Remember that every patient is different. You might not tolerate all foods mentioned – it’s best to try one food at a time to test your tolerance.
Examples of ways to increase the fiber in your diet:
Breakfast: Add oatmeal, walnuts, or berries to Greek yogurt
Lunch: Add a small scoop of quinoa to grilled chicken salad.
Dinner: Add ¼ of a sweet potato to grilled salmon and spinach.
Snacks: Hummus and carrots, whole wheat crackers with low fat cheese, handful of unsalted nuts with berries.
- The Whole Grains Council. https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whats-whole-grain-refined-grain. Date accessed: April 1, 2019.
- Flávia M Silva, Caroline K Kramer, Jussara C de Almeida, Thais Steemburgo, Jorge Luiz Gross, Mirela J Azevedo, Fiber intake and glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review with meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 71, Issue 12, 1 December 2013, Pages 790–801, https://doi.org/10.1111/nure.12076
- Pernille LB Hollænder, Alastair B Ross, Mette Kristensen, Whole-grain and blood lipid changes in apparently healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies–, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 102, Issue 3, September 2015, Pages 556–572, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.109165
- Yang J, Wang HP, Zhou L, Xu CF. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: a meta analysis. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(48):7378–7383. doi:10.3748/wjg.v18.i48.7378
Questions? Ask Kim!
Get A Quick Response
Need help registering for support groups, monthly workshops or bariatric seminars? Unsure of the process or how to begin? We take pride in offering concierge style guidance for all current and potential patients.