The Facts About Fiber

Nora Saul, M.S, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.

Nora Saul is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Manager of Nutritional Education at Joslin Diabetes Center.

By Nora Saul
M.S, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.
Manager of Nutritional Education at Joslin Diabetes Center

Nutritionists and health professionals are always extolling the virtues of a high fiber diet and bemoaning the fact that Americans get so little.

But, how much should we get, why should we get it and how can we get it without increasing the time we spend in the kitchen three-fold or taking a handful of pills?

The good news is that getting adequate fiber can be a good tasting trip down the fresh food aisle of any supermarket.

Fiber is a type of plant carbohydrate and is found in breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, peas and beans and nuts.  The less processed the food, the more fiber it is likely to have, hence whole grain breads and cereals will have more fiber than highly processed varieties and whole fruits will have more fiber than juices. (unless the juice is fortified with fiber).

Though fiber has almost no calories since it passes through the body virtually undigested, it packs a powerhouse of health benefits.

Insoluble fiber, the type found in whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts and vegetables, can reduce the incidence and severity of constipation by softening the stool and increasing the speed waste products move through the digestive tract.   This can help prevent hemorrhoids and diverticulosis (a condition in which pockets form in the walls of the colon).

Soluble fiber found in dried peas and beans, oats, apples and citrus foods forms a gel in the intestine, trapping cholesterol and removing it in the stool.   Both types of fiber can add bulk to the diet, making dieters feel fuller and helping them lose weight.

When it comes to fiber, in general more is better.  The National Academy of Sciences recommends adults under age 50 get 25-38 grams and those over age 51, 21-30 grams per day.  Another way to calculate your fiber needs is to look at your calorie intake; you should have at least 14 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories you eat.   So if you eat about 2000 calories a day that would be about 28-30 grams of fiber.

Is there a top five sources of fiber?   The highest fiber sources in the diet are high fiber cereals and beans.  Some cereals have over 12 grams of fiber per serving and dried peas and beans have 6-8 grams per servings.

It is best however to get your fiber from a variety of sources since different fiber containing foods come packaged with a different set of nutrients.  You will get B vitamins from cereal products but vitamin A and C from a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Adding vegetables to casseroles and soups, beans to salads and wraps and choosing fruits and nuts as snacks will put you well on your way to getting your daily fiber boost.   To avoid gas and abdominal distress increase your fiber intake gradually and drink plenty of fluids.

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This blog by Nora Saul appeared earlier this year on www.healthywomen.org Check out Nora’s appearance on HealthyWomen and Real Women on Health Talk Radio, where she offers simple tips on keeping nutrition healthy but tasty and the importance of monitoring sugar levels and taking insulin when necessary.
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3 Responses to The Facts About Fiber

  1. This article is the same old tired drivel that’s been spewed for what… the last 30 years or so?

    I’ve been sub 10 grams of fiber per day for 20 months.

    Oh….and I take no drugs, nor insulin and I do not pay for a CDE to tell me to eat grains…

    I follow a low carb, gluten free, grain free, High Fat meal plan…and I thrive.

  2. Judy Sandness says:

    The thing is how long one can thrive on a high fat diet, and how long you will live on such a diet. My father had heart attacks from the high fat diet he was on most of his life. He was very unhealthy until late in life he did chaged his diet and did eat a lot of beans, whole grains and omitted the many eggs and fatty foods. He then felt better and wasn’t in as much pain from the arthritis either, and lived to be 83, which is good from the way he had treated his body for many years. The many years of eating fatty foods and a completely bad diet is what affected his heart and other organs. He had no more heart attacks when he started eating more of the nutritional foods and no fat products. He also quit sugar and ate more whole fruits. He died because he had lost the will to live and lived on 2 small glasses of fruit juice each meal and 1 glass of milk each meal for 2 years. He lost a lot of weight and, waisted away.
    My father -in -law ate the right foods and lived to be 93, and cancer was what killed him, he was still going strong doing things around his home with his wife until the cancer came and he fought it, but it was a loosing battle. Now my mother-in-law just celebrated her 90th birthday and has ate the right foods and is still going strong, walking her dog, going to movies and shopping. To debunk Drs. and ones who have studied the foods that are good for us is not intelligent, or healthy, but as you said people like to spew and fat is spewing in your artries and building up there.

  3. Pam Ledoux says:

    I have found that eating fiber does not make me feel fuller. I find that it causes me to be starving and unsatisfied and I can’t stop eating after I eat higher fiber foods. This doesn’t happen when I eat primarily low fiber foods. When my diet includes more protein foods, I eat fewer total foods all day and feel better. Although I know thtt I need to increase my fiber intake, it is a real battle to limit my ravenous appetite when I eat them.

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