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The Magic of Fiber

Last updated Aug. 16, 2015

Fiber-rich diets may help prevent some diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.


Dietary fiber is an essential nutrient for everyone’s diet. Dietary fiber is the indigestible portion or roughage of food from plants. Many people know that fiber is extremely important for our diets; however, few know the health benefits and the sources of fiber.

Why Fiber?

Studies have shown that a fiber-rich diet as part of a balanced eating pattern may help prevent some chronic diseases, like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, diverticulitis, constipation, and even some types of cancer. Also, a fiber-rich diet can help promote weight loss.

Soluble Fiber vs. Insoluble Fiber:

Soluble fiber – This fiber dissolves in water to create a gel-like substance, delaying the emptying of the stomach. Soluble fiber is able to bind to the fatty substance cholesterol and promote excretion, which seems to help lower LDL (“bad”) blood cholesterol. Glucose absorption is also slowed, which helps control blood sugar levels. 

Sources of soluble fiber include: peas, beans, oats, barley, apples with skin, oranges, prunes, strawberries, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Insoluble fiber – This fiber is known as “roughage” because it gives plants their firm structure. Insoluble does not dissolve in water, rather, acts like a laxative, aiding in the passage of food and waste through the gut. This prevents potentially harmful substances from lingering in the intestines. With water, insoluble fiber adds bulk to your diet and softness to your stool, preventing constipation. 

Sources of insoluble fiber include: whole-wheat products, wheat bran, corn bran, some fruit (especially with skin) cauliflower, green beans, potatoes with skin, and broccoli.

How much fiber does one need?

The amount of total dietary fiber one should consume is between 25 to 35 grams from food, not supplements. The goal is to consume both soluble and insoluble fiber because both have equal importance in attaining a well-balanced diet.

Be careful to not overdo it. Though fiber does help with weight loss and heart disease, eating more than 50 to 60 grams of fiber can decrease the amount of vitamins and minerals being absorbed in the body. Also, large amounts of fiber can result in gas, diarrhea, and bloating 

When increasing your fiber intake, do it gradually. Sudden increase of fiber can result in diarrhea and bloating. Lastly, be sure to drink water! Fiber teams up with water in order to have its magical properties.

Additional Resource:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/fiber/art-20043983

Source:

Park Y, et al. Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer. JAMA. 2005;294:2849.

Dietary Reference Intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids (macronutrients). Institute of Medicine. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309085373. Accessed Aug. 22, 2012.

Marshall JR. Nutrition and colon cancer prevention. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. 2009;12:539.

Duyff RL. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 4th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons; 2012:55.

Slavin JL. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health implications of dietary fiber. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2008;108:1716.

Nelson JK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 22, 2012.

Schatzkin A, et al. Dietary fiber and whole-grain consumption in relation to colorectal cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. American of the Journal Clinical Nutrition. 2007;85:1353.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm. Accessed Aug. 22, 2012.

Wald A. Management of chronic constipation in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Aug. 21, 2012.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Feb. 19, 2014
Last updated: Aug. 16, 2015

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