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Fiber Consumption and its Benefits

By Ruchi Shah, MS, RD, CDN

“Dietary fiber is a material from plant cells that cannot be broken down by enzymes in the human digestive tract.1“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.1” 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.1

According to the American Heart Association, the recommended intake of dietary fiber is 25 to 30 grams a day from the diet, with 6 to 8 grams of this total recommended to be from soluble fiber. Supplements are not included in this recommendation. Currently, dietary intake of fiber is about 15 grams a day in the United States, only approximately half of what is recommended.

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. Fruits are higher in fiber when eaten fresh with skin. Peeled or canned fruits are lower in fiber.

Why is Fiber Important?

According to the World Health Organization, eating more dietary fiber and whole grains protect against non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and colorectal cancer. They found that eating from 25 to 29 grams of dietary fiber increased health benefits against these NCDs. 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 aspect of every meal. Fiber consumption within 25-30 grams is recommended for proper digestive health and protection against NCDs.

  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 Dietician 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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