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Diet and Nutrition

Facts about Fiber

Why is fiber an essential part of a healthy diet?

Does it seem that you are hearing more about the importance of dietary fiber than ever before? Recent scientific evidence shows that a high-fiber diet is associated with a variety of health benefits such as:

 

What is fiber?

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by enzymes in your digestive tract. Fiber is categorized as soluble or insoluble, each with its own unique health benefits.

Soluble fiber is a gel-type substance that:

It is found in foods such as:

Insoluble fiber is a woodier substance that provides bulk and speeds the transit of food through the gastrointestinal tract, lowering the risk of diverticulosis and hemorrhoids. It is found in:

In a variety of dairy products, baked goods, and cereals, you may also find fiber additives such as:

Although these additives increase the fiber content of the product, their long-term effects on health have not yet been determined.

 

How much fiber is enough?

The Institute of Medicine recommends 14 grams of fiber for each 1,000 calories. For simpler guidelines:

Unfortunately, 9 out of 10 adults and children in the United States are not eating enough fiber. The average fiber intake is about one-half the recommended amount.

 

How can I know if a packaged food is high in fiber?

Many consumers assume that all whole grain foods contain a high amount of fiber, but these foods can vary in fiber content. For packaged foods, choose those that list whole grains as the first ingredient. Also, read the fiber information on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Select products that are: 

 

What are some easy ways to increase the fiber in my diet?

When you decide to increase your fiber intake, be sure to make small, incremental changes in your diet and increase your fluid intake. Include more:

You might start the day with a small bowl of bran flakes with berries, and then enjoy a whole-wheat pita stuffed with vegetables and an unpeeled apple for lunch, followed by baked fish, steamed broccoli, and brown rice for dinner.

Do not forget to boost your fiber intake with healthy snacks such as popcorn or trail mix, which has mixed nuts and dried fruit, throughout the day.

 

This article originally appeared in Nutri-bytes, a service of the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.


 

 

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Last Reviewed: Jul 29, 2014

Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD
Professor of Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati