The Benefits of
Tara Gidus Collingwood | October 30, 2017
Found only in plant foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, fiber is composed of complex carbohydrates. Some fibers are soluble in water and others are insoluble. Both types of fiber are found in most plant foods and provide health benefits.
1. Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid and becomes gummy or viscous. It is used in low fat and nonfat food to add texture and consistency.
Sources: Dried beans, oats, peas, barley, and some fruits (apples, citrus), and vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes. Psyllium, a grain that is found in some cereal products, dietary supplements, and bulk fiber laxatives, is also high in soluble fiber.
2. Insoluble fiber (roughage) gives structure to plant cell walls and passes through the digestive tract largely intact. ADVERTISEMENT Fiber moves waste through the intestinal tract but is not digested. Although it does not dissolve, insoluble fiber does hold on to water.
Sources: Whole wheat and wheat bran, corn bran, whole grains, cereals, seeds, vegetables, and skins of fruits and root vegetables such as potatoes.
How Much Do I Need?
38 grams daily for males less than 50 years old
30 grams daily for males more than 50 years old
25 grams for females less than 50 years old
21 grams for females more than 50 years old
Why is Fiber Important?
Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber are associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, diabetes, digestive disorders and heart disease.
• Cancer: A high-fiber diet is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer. By moving waste through the colon, insoluble fiber decreases the time that potentially harmful substances are in contact with the intestinal lining.
• Digestive disorders: By adding bulk and softness to stools, insoluble fiber promotes regularity and helps prevent constipation. Insoluble fiber also plays a roll in reducing the risk, and alleviating the symptoms of diverticulosis (tiny outpouchings of the colon).
• Diabetes: Soluble fiber helps to regulate blood sugar by binding carbohydrates to slow their digestion and absorption. This may help prevent wide swings in blood sugar levels.
• Heart Disease: A diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, can lower blood cholesterol. Pectin, a type of soluble fiber, binds bile acids in the digestive tract and removes them. The liver must break down cholesterol to make more bile acids, resulting in lower blood cholesterol levels.
• Obesity: Insoluble fiber is bulky, providing fewer calories because it passes through the body virtually intact. High fiber foods are generally more filling than low fiber foods.
ADDING FIBER TO YOUR DIET
Increase fiber slowly in your diet to minimize bloating or cramping that may occur. It is also important to increase your intake of fluids as you add fiber because fiber tends to hold water.
A “good” fiber source has 2.5 grams per serving. A “high” fiber source has 5 grams per serving.
For more on adding fiber to your diet, and how much fiber is in your favorite foods, click here.
Tara Gidus Collingwood is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition, fitness and health promotion. She is currently the nutrition consultant to the USTA National Campus with Andrews Institute and Nemours, the team dietitian for the Orlando Magic NBA team, the nutrition consultant to University of Central Florida Athletic Department and a nutrition and exercise executive coach at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute.