- Written by Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDN, Nutritionist
- Published: 17 March 2017
All about fiber, and more
Did you know that fiber is good for your digestion, can help lower your cholesterol, and can assist with weight loss? High fiber foods tend to have fewer calories by volume of food, and help you feel full for longer periods. Fiber is also helpful in preventing and treating health conditions including diverticulitis, constipation, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Diverticulosis is a condition where balloon-like sacs (diverticula) develop in the large intestine. According to Harvard Health, diverticulosis is uncommon in people under 40 years old, but one third of people develop it by age 60 and two thirds by age 85. Diverticula generally form where there is pressure inside the colon, often due to constipation. Diverticulitis occurs when inflammation and infection develop in the diverticula sacs and requires immediate medical attention. Eating a diet high in fiber and fluids is helpful in preventing diverticulitis.
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and both are beneficial for your health.
- Soluble fiber forms a gel and dissolves when water is added. Soluble fibers help control blood cholesterol and blood sugar by binding with fatty substances and sugar, helping remove them from the body.
- Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve, absorbs water, and swells up in your intestine, helping to prevent constipation by pushing waste through your intestines. Try to eat fiber from a variety of foods to get both sources.
How do I increase my fiber intake?
Fiber, found in plants, includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts and whole grain breads, flour, pasta, and cereal. Fiber is not found naturally in meat or dairy and contains no calories. Try to incorporate these foods into your diet at every meal or snack in order to meet the recommended dietary guidelines of approximately 21 to 30 grams of fiber daily.
Good sources of fiber
A good source of fiber is a food containing 2.5 to 5+ grams per serving. High fiber sources may include ½ cup of bran cereal containing 5 - 8 grams of fiber, ½ cup of cooked black or kidney beans with 7.5 grams of fiber, and baked unpeeled sweet potato with 5 grams. When looking at bread labels, anything with 2 grams of fiber or less is considered low fiber.
Additional recommendations for getting fiber ito your diet:
- Fill 75% of your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains
- Eat legumes two to three times per week
- Try main dishes with beans rather than meat
- Eat the skins of fruits and vegetables
- Choose healthy snacks including fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat popcorn, dried fruits, and nuts
- Add fiber gradually to your diet, allowing time for your digestive tract to adjust and preventing gas, cramps, or bloating.