Bulking Up on FiberEn Español (Spanish Version)
Fiber. You know you need to eat it. You are pretty sure it is good for you. But what is fiber,
? And why is it good for you?
Fiber is found only in plants. It is from the plant cells, particularly the cell walls. The plant fiber that we eat is called dietary fiber. It is unique from other components of the plant because humans lack the enzymes necessary to digest it.
Dietary fiber is made up of two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble means that when the fiber is mixed with a liquid, it forms a gel-like solution. Insoluble fiber does not mix with liquid and passes through the digestive tract largely intact. Both types of fiber help maintain bowel regularity.
When eaten as part of a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol and may help lower your risk cardiovascular disease. Examples of foods high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, beans, peas, and citrus fruits.
Insoluble fiber is important for normal digestive health. Insoluble fiber speeds up movement through the small intestine and helps to alleviate
. Foods that are high in insoluble fiber include apple skin, wheat cereal, whole-wheat breads, and carrots.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women consume 25 grams of fiber daily, while men consume 38 grams. Fiber needs drop after the age of 50. Women older than 50 should consume 21 grams of fiber daily, and men should consume 30 grams daily. This includes both soluble and insoluble fiber. The following table lists how much fiber you can find in some common foods.
Soluble FiberInsoluble FiberVegetables
Broccoli, cooked½ cup1.510.5Brussels sprouts, cooked½ cup4.53.01.5Carrots, cooked½ cup2.511.4Artichoke, fresh½ cup431Fruits
Apple1 medium413Banana1 medium312Blackberries½ cup413Nectarine1 medium211Citrus fruit (orange, grapefruit)1 medium2-311-2Peach1 medium211Pears1 medium422Plums1 medium1.510.5Prunes¼ cup31.51.5Legumes
Black beans, cooked½ cup5.523.5Kidney beans, cooked½ cup633Lima beans, cooked½ cup6.53.53Navy beans, cooked½ cup624Northern beans, cooked½ cup5.550.5Pinto beans, cooked½ cup725Lentils, cooked½ cup817Peas, cooked½ cup615Whole grain cereals
All Bran cereal1/3 cup80.77.3Oatmeal, cooked½ cup211Oat bran½ cup321Shredded wheat2/3 cup30.32.7Wheat germ2/3 cup817Pearl barley, cooked½ cup523Brown rice½ cup40.53.5Seeds
Psyllium seeds1 tablespoon651
Source: Journal of Family Practice. 2006;9:761-769
- Try a whole grain cereal that contains at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Slice a banana on top, or add some raisins or berries to increase the fiber even more.
- Sprinkle a few teaspoons of wheat germ, ground psyllium, or ground flaxseed on your food.
- Try eating some vegetables raw. Cooking can break down some of the fiber content. If you do cook vegetables, steam them lightly, so they are tender but still firm.
- Leave the skin on fruits and vegetables. Just make sure you rinse them well with warm water to remove any dirt or bacteria.
- Eat the whole fruit or vegetable instead of drinking the juice made from it. Juice does not contain the skin or membrane of the fruit or vegetable, and therefore its fiber content is substantially reduced.
- Try adding whole, unprocessed grain to your diet. Substitute brown rice for white rice. Or opt for whole wheat bread or pasta.
- Add beans to your soups, salads, and stews. Throw some beans on top of a salad or add lentils to soup while cooking.
- Snack on fresh and dried fruit. Chomp some raisins or dried apricots in the afternoon, instead of a bag of potato chips or pretzels.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf. Accessed January 31, 2013.
Eat 3 or more whole grain foods every day. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/WeightManagement/LosingWeight/Eat-3-or-More-Whole-Grain-Foods-Every-Day_UCM_320264_Article.jsp. Updated December 23, 2010. Accessed January 31, 2013.
Fiber. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Available at:
http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6796&terms=fiber. Updated January 2013. Accessed January 31, 2013.
Shamliyan T, Jacobs D, Raatz S, Nordstrom D, Keenan J. Are your patients with risk of CVD getting the viscous soluble fiber they need? J Fam Prac. 2006;9:761-769.
3/28/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Park Y, Subar AF, Hollenbeck A, Schatzkin A.
Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.
Arch Intern Med. 2011 Feb 14. [Epub ahead of print]
Whole grains and fiber. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Whole-Grains-and-Fiber_UCM_303249_Article.jsp. Updated January 24, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013.
Last Reviewed January 2013