Why is fiber important?
A high-fiber diet appears to reduce the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, constipation and colon cancer. Fiber is important for the health of the digestive system and for lowering cholesterol.
What is fiber?
Dietary fiber is material from plant cells that cannot be broken down by enzymes in the human digestive tract. There are two important types of fiber: water-soluble and water insoluble. Each has different properties and characteristics.
- Soluble Water-soluble fibers absorb water during digestion. They increase stool bulk and may decrease blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber can be found in fruits (such as apples, oranges and grapefruit), vegetables, legumes (such as dry beans, lentils and peas), barley, oats and oat bran.
- Insoluble Water-insoluble fibers remain unchanged during digestion. They promote normal movement of intestinal contents. Insoluble fiber can be found in fruits with edible peel or seeds, vegetables, whole grain products (such as whole-wheat bread, pasta and crackers), bulgur wheat, stone ground corn meal, cereals, bran, rolled oats, buckwheat and brown rice.
How much fiber do I need each day?
The American Heart Association Eating Plan suggests eating a variety of food fiber sources. Total dietary fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams a day from food, not supplements. Currently, dietary fiber intakes among adults in the United States average about 15 grams a day. That’s about half the recommended amount.
How do I increase my fiber intake?
Here are some easy ways to increase fiber:
Grains and Cereals
- As a general rule, include at least one serving of whole grain in every meal.
- Keep a jar of oat bran or wheat germ handy. Sprinkle over salad, soup, breakfast cereals and yogurt.
- Use whole-wheat flour when possible in your cooking and baking.
- Choose whole grain bread. Look on the label for breads with the highest amount of fiber per slice.
- Choose cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
- Keep whole-wheat crackers on hand for an easy snack.
- Cook with brown rice instead of white rice. If the switch is hard to make, start by mixing them together.
Legumes and Beans
- Add kidney beans, garbanzos or other bean varieties to your salads. Each 1/2 cup serving is approximately 7 to 8 grams of fiber.
- Substitute legumes for meat two to three times per week in chili and soups
- Experiment with international dishes (such as Indian or Middle Eastern) that use whole grains and legumes as part of the main meal or in salads.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Fresh fruit is slightly higher in fiber than canned. Eat the peel whenever possible — it’s easier than peeling or eating around it.
- Have fresh fruit for dessert.
- Eat whole fruits instead of drinking juices. Juices don’t have fiber.
- Add chopped dried fruits to your cookies, muffins, pancakes or breads before baking. Dried fruits have a higher amount of fiber than the fresh versions. For example, 1 cup of grapes has 1 gram of fiber, but 1 cup of raisins has 7 grams. However, 1 cup of raisins or any other dried fruit has more calories than the fresh fruit variety.
- Add sliced banana, peach or other fruit to your cereal.
- Grate carrots on salads.
To find information on fiber supplements, please see Fiber Supplements.
How much fiber do I get from fruits and vegetables?
While all fruits have some fiber, there are some that are higher than others. Here are a few that have 3 to 4 grams of fiber:
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup strawberries
Raspberries are high in fiber, as one cup has 8 grams.
Here are some vegetable choices that have 3 to 4 grams of fiber:
- 1/2 cup peas
- 1/2 cup cauliflower
- 1 cup carrots
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 1/2 cup squash
Why is soluble fiber so important?
Soluble fiber has been shown to reduce total blood cholesterol levels and may improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
The best sources of soluble fiber are oats, dried beans and some fruits and vegetables. Although there is no dietary reference intake for insoluble or soluble fiber, many experts recommend a total dietary fiber intake of 25 to 30 grams per day with about one-fourth — 6 to 8 grams per day — coming from soluble fiber.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
When you think about incorporating fiber into your diet, you might imagine crunchy, bland cereals. However, fiber isn’t just bland cereals. In fact, it’s an incredibly important nutrient that everyone needs in their diet. Despite that, most people don’t get enough fiber throughout their day. In fact, most Americans only consume about half the fiber they need every day, getting an average of 14 grams instead of the recommended 20 to 38 grams. Here’s what fiber is, and why it’s so important.
What is fiber?
You may not realize it, but fiber is technically a carbohydrate. But unlike other types of carbohydrates, your body can’t digest fiber. Bodies use starch and sugar carbohydrates as sources of energy, but fiber helps control cholesterol and aids in digestion. You can find fiber in all kinds of food, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.
Different types of fiber
There are actually two different kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble, which serve different purposes. Insoluble fiber absorbs water instead of dissolving in it. This is why fiber has a reputation for keeping you “regular.” It absorbs water from your body, which softens waste and helps it pass through your digestive system. Soluble fiber does dissolve in water. When it does, it takes on a gel-like texture, which passes through the digestive system more slowly. This is why you tend to feel full longer when you eat fibrous foods.
What foods have fiber?
Because each plays such different roles, both kinds of fiber are important components of a balanced diet. As we mentioned earlier, there are tons of different types of fibrous foods. You probably enjoy more fiber in your diet than you realize! However, some foods contain more of one type of fiber than the other. Whole grain breads, pasta, and cereal often have a lot of insoluble fiber. On the other hand, beans, oats, and bran have more soluble fiber. Fruits and vegetables contain a mix of both, so they’re a good place to start if you’re trying to add more fiber to your diet.
What does fiber do for your body?
A fiber-filled diet does a lot more than simply help you digest. It can also help with weight management, because soluble fiber prevents your body from absorbing too much fat. Additionally, it plays an important part in lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar levels over time.
While too much fiber can cause unpleasant digestive issues like bloating, it’s an undeniably important part of your gut’s ecosystem.
Every person interested in health knows that fibre is one of the most important things in your diet. But how exactly does dietary fibre make your body healthier? And how do you build an optimal diet rich in fibre?
Today, we are going to explore it.
What is fibre actually
It’s not so simple to describe what fibre is because many different compounds are described as dietary fibre. But they do have one thing in common. Each of these substances is resistant to digestion and absorption in the small intestine with complete or partial fermentation in the large intestine. In a nutshell, dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrates that your body cannot digest.
Dietary fibre is usually divided into two groups:
Soluble fibre is digested by gut bacteria, attracts water and turns to gel during digestion. This slows digestion which helps control your appetite.
Insoluble fibre. Even gut bacteria cannot digest this type of fibre. It adds bulk to the stool and appears to help food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines.
Some types of dietary fibres are known as prebiotics. They promote beneficial bacteria growth. For example, adding more fructo- and galactooligosaccharides in your diet may increase the level of bifidobacteria in your gut.
Why do we need fibre
At first sight, the idea that your body can’t manage to digest one of the most important components of your diet is a bit ridiculous. So why do we need it? Well, dietary fibre is a nutrition for the small fellows living in our large intestine.
Your gut bacteria need to eat something to perform their protective function. The major part of the food you eat is fermented and digested by the stomach and small intestine, and dietary fibre is the only part that passes to the large intestine intact. Here’s how beneficial bacteria get into the act.
What is your microbiome?
While fermenting, bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids. These organic compounds possess key roles in regulating your metabolism, immune system, and cell proliferation. High fibre intake and the production of SCFAs by the gut bacteria enhance mucus – an essential layer in the colon and in the small intestine which protects your gut from harmful bacteria and inflammations. For example, the health benefits of dietary fibre include the prevention and mitigation of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.
In contrast, the Western diet with low fibre intake, high protein and sugar consumption leads to a limited number of bacteria species and a significant reduction in their ability to produce SCFAs. This condition is associated with the appearance of chronic inflammatory diseases.
How should you analyze your dietary fibre intake
The cheapest option is to count fibre amount in the food you consume every time. You can use dietitian sheets like this one or that one to find out how many grams of fibre you’ve already eaten. Some food products in stores have nutrition facts labels on them where you can find the information about the carbs and fibre inside.
Another problem is even if you get 30 grams of fibre every day, your microbiome might still lack the ability to break down dietary fibre. With our microbiome test you can check how good is your gut at metabolizing dietary fibre and converting it into sufficient levels of short-chain fatty acids. You will also find out your ability to digest different types of fibre, especially the soluble types digested by your gut bacteria which are widely represented.
How to get more dietary fibre into your diet
Here are some tips that will help you to increase the amount of fibre in your diet.
- Switch from white bread, pasta and rice to brown and whole-grain alternatives;
- Try to include wholegrain cereals, muesli, oats, barley or rye in your breakfasts;
- Eat nuts, seeds or fruits such as berries, pears, melon and oranges as healthy snacks;
- Add peas, beans and vegetables such as broccoli, carrots or sweet corn to your meals;
- Cook potatoes with skin;
- Include so-called superfoods in your diet: Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, pears. They contain various types of fibre.
AtlasBiomed users can follow food recommendations in their personal account.
Our Top-10 personalised list of foods is updated every week so that you can enhance your intake of different types of fibres and diversify your gut bacteria.
We’ve prepared an affordable example of a high-fibre diet. You can manage it to find the best menu for you. Also, don’t forget to update your diet by adding seasonal fruits and vegetables and other varieties of food. The more diverse your menu, the more diverse your gut bacteria become. Diversity is an important key to your health.
1. Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrates that your body cannot digest.
2. Some types of dietary fibres are known as prebiotics.
3. Dietary fibre is the only part that passes to the large intestine intact.
4. While fermenting, bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids — organic compounds which possess key roles in regulating your metabolism, immune system, and cell proliferation.
5. The Western diet with low fibre intake is associated with the appearance of chronic inflammatory diseases.
6. You should eat 30 grams of fibre per day.
7. Try to increase the amount of fibre in your diet. Follow recommendations in your personal account.
Sure, you’ve heard that fiber is good for you, but do you know why? Four key benefits come from eating a diet rich in fiber.
- Fiber slows the rate that sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. When you eat foods high in fiber, such as beans and whole grains, the sugar in those foods is absorbed slower, which keeps your blood glucose levels from rising too fast. This is good for you because spikes in glucose fall rapidly, which can make you feel hungry soon after eating and lead to overeating.
- Fiber makes your intestines move faster. When you eat whole grains rich in insoluble fiber, it moves faster through your intestines, which can help signal that you are full.
- Fiber cleans your colon, acting like a scrub brush. The scrub-brush effect of fiber helps clean out bacteria and other buildup in your intestines, and reduces your risk for colon cancer.
- Fiber helps keep you regular. A high-fiber diet helps you have soft, regular bowel movements, reducing constipation.
Adding Fiber to Your Family’s Diet
The benefits of fiber are important for both you and your child, and the entire family should eat a diet rich in fiber. To add fiber to your family’s diet, include the following foods. Check food labels for the grams of dietary fiber to find breads, cereals and other foods high in fiber.
- Whole grain breads with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Choosing whole wheat bread is not enough, as many varieties of whole wheat bread have very little fiber. Make sure to check the fiber content by reading the nutrition label.
- Cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. To find high-fiber cereals look for those made from whole grains, bran and rolled oats. Check the nutrition label to make sure it has enough fiber.
- Brown rice is brown because it still has the husk, which is the fiber. White rice does not have any fiber because the husks have been removed.
- Beans and legumes are great sources of both fiber and protein.
- Fruits and vegetables also contain fiber. This is one reason that eating fruit is much healthier than drinking juice, which does not contain fiber.
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your child’s provider.
Dietary fiber definitely needs water, but whether you’ll need to increase your fluid intake depends on the amount you already drink. Think in terms of drinking water on a regular basis during the day, because simply gulping a glass with your meal won’t do the job. Be especially diligent about your water intake if you’re adding fiber in the form of supplements.
Fiber Needs Water
Both types of dietary fiber — soluble and insoluble — depend on water. Soluble fiber absorbs water to become a gel-like mass. This characteristic enables it to slow down the rate at which food leaves your stomach, which helps you feel full. It also prevents spikes in blood sugar by moderating the absorption of carbohydrates and lowers cholesterol by carrying it out of your system. Insoluble fiber doesn’t absorb fluid, but traps and retains water pulled from your intestine, which adds bulk and moisture to waste and prevents constipation.
Daily Water Requirement
The Institute of Medicine has determined that an adequate intake of fluids — including water and other beverages — is about 9 cups daily for women and 13 cups every day for men. This guideline is based on the amount most Americans drink, but your needs may be a little different. Your age, activity level, overall health and fiber consumption plus whether you’re outside on a hot day influence your daily water needs. Talk to your health-care provider if you have any questions about your water consumption.
Increasing Dietary Fiber
Adult women should consume 25 grams, and men need 38 grams, of fiber daily. If you don’t know how much fiber you get in a day, keep track so that you can determine the amount you need to add to reach your daily goal. Always increase fiber slowly to prevent uncomfortable side effects, such as gas or diarrhea. Begin by replacing processed foods, such as white bread and rice, with whole-grain products. Then add fiber in the form of fruit, vegetables or beans, but increase by just one serving at a time and then wait a few days before adding more.
Water for Fiber
You need to drink at least eight glasses of water or other fluids to be sure you have enough for fiber to work properly, according to the University of Arizona. Consuming a regular supply throughout the day is important. You can’t predict how much water the fiber will use — it depends on the amount you eat and the type of fiber — or even when it will be needed. It can take 30 to 40 hours for fiber to pass all the way through your digestive tract and water may be required throughout the process.
Drink an 8-ounce glass of water at the time you take a fiber supplement. If you don’t drink enough water with the supplement, it can swell in your throat and cause choking. Be sure to drink at least eight glasses, or 64 ounces, during the day to avoid constipation. If you take prescription medications, or have difficulty swallowing or a gastrointestinal obstruction, talk to your health-care provider before taking fiber supplements.
You know that constipation is the classic consequence of not eating enough fiber. But even if you’re not totally backed up, your body might be begging for more roughage in some more surprising ways. And yes, some of them are kind of gross.
But they’re also important, since adequate fiber intake plays a role in everything from helping you manage your weight to lowering your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. Here, 5 signs to watch for. (Want to balance out your hormones and lose weight? Then check out The Hormone Reset Diet to start feeling and looking better.)
Just because you’re not backed up doesn’t actually mean you’re getting all the fiber you need. If your bowel movements are small or hard, like pebbles, that’s a sure sign you’re falling short, says Robynne Chutkan, MD, founder of The Digestive Center for Women and author of The Bloat Cure. “A C-shape or a straight log is ideal,” she says.
Fiber takes up lots of space in your digestive tract, which is one of the reasons why it helps you stay satisfied longer. So if your stomach starts rumbling within an hour or two after eating, that’s a sign that you probably didn’t get enough fiber in your meal, says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of Eating in Color. Next time, try starting off with a small side salad or a small bowl of vegetable-bean soup. (Or if you’re having a salad for your meal, add in ¼ to ½ cup of cooked beans.) All are easy ways to up your meal’s fiber content and help you feel fuller, she says.
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When it comes to getting enough fiber in our diets, most of us fall short. But it’s easier than you think to eat the recommended daily intake. For adults 50 and younger you need 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. This sample menu gives you 37 grams of fiber from tasty, familiar foods:
- Breakfast: One serving of whole-grain bran flake cereal (5 grams of fiber), topped with half a sliced banana (1.5 grams of fiber) and skim milk
- Morning snack: 24 almonds (3.3 grams of fiber) mixed with a quarter cup of raisins (2 grams of fiber)
- Lunch: Turkey sandwich made with 2 slices of whole wheat bread, plus lettuce, and tomato (about 5 grams of fiber total), and an orange (3.1 grams of fiber)
- Afternoon snack: Yogurt topped with half a cup of blueberries (2 grams of fiber)
- Dinner: Grilled fish served alongside a salad made with romaine lettuce and shredded carrots (2.6 grams of fiber), plus half a cup of cooked spinach (2.1 grams of fiber), and half a cup of lentils (7.5 grams of fiber)
- After-dinner treat: 3 cups popped popcorn (3.5 grams of fiber)
High Fiber Food Chart
Fiber helps you manage your weight, lowers cholesterol, keeps your bowel movements regular, and reduces your odds of getting diabetes and heart disease. So check food labels and choose “high fiber” foods — which contain more than 5 grams of fiber per serving — whenever possible. Consider fiber supplements if you continually fall short of getting what you need through what you eat. Examples include psyllium and methylcellulose.
You can also make simple substitutions to replace low-fiber foods with fiber-rich dishes. Use this chart to help you put more fiber on your plate.
American Heart Association: “Whole Grains and Fiber.”
Institute of Medicine: “Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids.”
Slavin, J. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2008.
There’s a super-nutrient that boosts your workout results, fat-burning power, mood, and motivation. It’s fiber—and you probably haven’t been getting enough. Until now.
Fiber’s fuddy-duddy image is getting a makeover, and a well-deserved one. For starters, new research shows fiber is critical for active women, helping you work out harder and longer.
A type of carbohydrate, fiber helps food pass through your system. Which is where its potency lies: “Fiber slows down the digestion and absorption of food, so you get steady energy that lasts,” says Sarah Romotsky, R.D.N., of the International Food Information Council Foundation. One way it may ensure that stamina is by boosting the population of a type of gut bacteria that improves the way your body handles sugar, research published in the journal Cell Metabolism shows. (Not to mention, one benefit of a high-fiber diet might decrease your risk of breast cancer.)
A better workout isn’t the only benefit from the rough stuff. Check out the three other important benefits of fiber for staying healthy, slim, and strong.
Torch more fat and calories.
Fiber revs your metabolism. (That’s why it’s one of the most important nutrients for weight loss.) Women who substitute high-fiber grains for refined ones have a higher resting metabolic rate, which means they burn more calories throughout the day, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This effect is probably due to the increased energy your body has when it gets enough fiber, along with a steady blood sugar level, says study author Susan B. Roberts, a senior scientist at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and the founder of the iDiet weight-loss program.
Fiber is especially beneficial for keeping your weight healthy because it produces short-chain fatty acids when it’s broken down by your gut bacteria, says Wendy Dahl, Ph.D., an associate professor in food science and human nutrition at the University of Florida. These fatty acids help induce feelings of fullness and keep your appetite in check.
One kind of fiber called resistant starch may actually increase your body’s ability to burn fat, including belly fat, says Michael Keenan, Ph.D., a food science professor at Louisiana State University. It does this by triggering a mechanism that prompts your body to use fat instead of carbs for fuel. Eaten daily, foods with this starch-like beans, legumes, and whole grains, as well as cooked and cooled potatoes, pasta, and rice (the cooling process makes them develop resistant starch)-can have a big impact. (Try these Healthy, High-Fiber Lentil Recipes That Won’t Weigh You Down.)
Keep your body balanced.
If you’re packing in a lot of postworkout protein to help build and maintain muscle, fiber can be an important counterbalance, Dahl says. Here’s why: Consume too much protein, and some of it may not be digested and will instead be broken down by gut bacteria, which creates inflammation-causing compounds, she explains.
But when you eat enough fiber, the nutrient acts as a deterrent. The bacteria break it down instead, which prevents this harmful process. For the best results, make sure that at least some of your daily protein comes from plant sources, like beans and peas, that contain plenty of fiber, Dahl says. (These vegetarian dinners are high in protein and fiber.)
Fiber boosts the population of good gut bugs in your digestive tract, which research has linked to a bolstered immune system and even a better mood, Dahl says. (Really-gut health and happiness go hand in hand.) Your bones benefit too. Certain types of fiber, like chicory root, make it easier for your body to absorb magnesium and calcium, which are both critical for a strong frame. A fiber-rich diet can even help ward off knee problems. In a study at Boston University School of Medicine, people who ate the most fiber were less likely than people who consumed less fiber to experience worsening knee pain or develop painful osteoarthritis in their knees later, probably thanks to fiber’s anti-inflammatory benefits, the researchers say.
But how much fiber do you actually need?
To reap the benefits of fiber, aim for at least 25 grams of fiber every day-most of us get only about 16 grams. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts, and you’ll end up with the right mix of different types of fiber, Romotsky says. (Try these recipes using high-fiber foods.) And as you up your fiber intake, drink more water to prevent stomach upset, she says. Your new goal: nine glasses of H2O a day.
Some packaged foods contain “functional fiber,” like psyllium and inulin. While it’s OK to eat this type to help fill the gaps, eating whole foods gives you the benefit of fiber plus other nutrients as well. (And, in case you were wondering, this is what you need to know about having too much fiber in your diet.)
In our diets full of fast food and sugary snacks, it’s hard to find foods that are actually good for you. If you want to be healthier and feel better, then you should try adding fiber to your diet.
What is Fiber?
Fiber is a material produced by plants that we can’t digest. So why would we want to eat something we can’t digest? Insoluble fiber dissolves in water and gives your food a thicker consistency. This makes you absorb sugar into your blood stream more slowly. Soluble fiber absorbs water, but doesn’t dissolve it. This makes your stool moist and helps clean out your digestive tract.
Here are 3 reasons why you need to add fiber to your diet: Helps Control and Fight Disease
The most notable benefit from eating high fiber foods is that it can help calm or even prevent certain diseases. People diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, suffer from chronic abdominal pain, along with other symptoms such as constipation or diarrhea. High fiber foods may easy these symptoms without the use of prescription drugs. Because fiber clears unwanted material out of your colon, it helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. If this isn’t enough of a benefit, a high fiber diet has also been advocated for people with high cholesterol because it has been shown to lower overall cholesterol levels.
Keeps Your Blood Sugar Steady
Nowadays, people get a lot more processed and refined sugars in their diet than the body was meant to handle. When we eat simple sugars, our insulin response is triggered causing our blood sugar levels to drop. This can lead to weight gain because our body stores these sugars as fats. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the body and reduces the insulin response, keeping our blood sugar at reasonable levels instead of bouncing it up and down throughout the day. High fiber foods are recommended for people with hypoglycemia and diabetes to help steady blood sugar levels. If it can help treat their conditions, imagine what it can do for you.
Helps Control Hunger
In addition to making us store fat, our insulin response leaves us feeling drained, tired, and wanting another sugar pick me up. The more sugar we have, the lower our blood sugar drops, and the faster we get hungry again. Fiber is a great way to stop this cycle in its tracks. It keeps us feeling fuller longer, so we end up eating less. Plus, what we eat is just a little healthier.
So why not add a little extra fiber to your diet? It’s not as hard as it sounds. You can find high fiber fruits (pears apples, blueberries strawberries, oranges, raisins, and dried peaches, figs, and apricots), grains (whole grain pasta and bread, bran cereal, and oatmeal), legumes (black, lima, and baked beans, lentils, and assorted nuts), and vegetables (carrots, baked potatoes, artichokes, peas, turnip greens, and Brussels sprouts) that taste great and are good for you. Just add a few of these foods to your diet and you’ll be healthier and feeling great in no time. Happy eating!
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