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Fiber Consumption and its Benefits

By Ruchi Shah, MS, RD, CDN

Dietary fiber is the material from plant cells that cannot be broken down during digestion. There are two types of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fibers absorb water during digestion, while insoluble fibers remain unchanged during digestion.

Soluble fibers include fruits, vegetables, legumes, barley, oats, and oat bran. Insoluble fibers include fruits with edible peel or seeds, vegetables, whole grain products, bulgur wheat, ground corn meal, cereals, bran, rolled oats, buckwheat, and brown rice.

According to the American Heart Association, the recommended intake of dietary fiber is 25 – 30 grams a day. Of this total, 6-8 grams should be soluble fiber. Supplements are not included in this recommendation. Current dietary intake of fiber is about 15 grams a day in the United States which is about half of what is recommended.

Here are some tips to Increase fiber intake, as recommended by UCSFhealth.org:

  • Include at least one serving of whole grain in every meal.
  • Choose whole grain bread, whole wheat crackers, whole wheat flour, and brown rice instead of other options for those particular foods.
  • Pick cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Add beans to dishes or substitute meat with beans.
  • Eat 5 servings of vegetables and fruits a day. Fresh fruits with the skin on are higher in fiber than peeled or canned fruits.

Why is fiber important? According to the World Health Organization, eating more dietary fiber and whole grains protect against type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and colorectal cancer. It was found that eating 25-29 grams of dietary fiber/day provided the most benefits. Many studies state that soluble fiber may “reduce total blood cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.” Fiber is an important part of every meal.

  1. “Increasing Fiber Intake.” UCSF Medical Center, www.ucsfhealth.org/education/increasing_fiber_intake/.
  2. “High Fiber, Whole Grains Linked to Lower CVD, Diabetes, Cancer Risk.” Medscape. Jan 15, 2019.

Ruchi Shah is a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at rs2522@cornell.edu

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