What Is Fiber?
Dietary fiber is a form of carbohydrate found in plants that cannot be digested by humans. All plants contain fiber, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Fiber is often classified into two categories: soluble and insoluble .
- Soluble fiber draws water into the bowel and can help slow digestion. Examples of foods that are high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, oat bran, barley, legumes (eg, beans and peas), apples, and strawberries.
- Insoluble fiber speeds digestion and can add bulk to the stool. Examples of foods that are high in insoluble fiber include whole-wheat products, wheat bran, cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes.
Why Follow a High-Fiber Diet?
A high-fiber diet is often recommended to prevent and treat constipation , hemorrhoids , diverticulitis , and irritable bowel syndrome . Eating a high-fiber diet can also help improve your cholesterol levels, lower your risk of coronary heart disease , reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes , and assist with weight loss.
How Much Fiber Should I Eat?
A high-fiber diet should contain between 20 and 35 grams of fiber a day. This is actually the amount recommended for the general adult population; however, most Americans eat only 15 grams of fiber per day.
Digestion of Fiber
Eating a higher fiber diet than usual can take some getting used to by your body’s digestive system. To avoid the side effects of sudden increases in dietary fiber (eg, gas, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea), increase fiber gradually and be sure to drink plenty of fluids every day.
Tips for Increasing Fiber Intake
- Whenever possible, choose whole grains over refined grains (eg, brown rice instead of white rice, whole-wheat bread instead of white bread).
- Eat more vegetarian-based meals. Here are some ideas: black bean burgers, eggplant lasagna, and veggie tofu stir-fry.
- Choose high-fiber snacks, such as fruits, popcorn, whole-grain crackers, and nuts.
- Include whole-grain cereal or whole-grain toast as part of your daily breakfast regime.
- When eating out, whether ordering a sandwich or dinner, ask for extra vegetables.
High-Fiber Diet Eating Guide
|Food Category||Foods Recommended||Notes|
|Meats and Beans|
|Fats and Oils|
|Snacks, Sweets, and Condiments|
BC Health Guide
Dietitians of Canada
Fiber. Harvard School of Public Health website. Available at: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/fiber.html . Accessed January 12, 2006.
Fiber. The Linus Pauling Institute. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/fiber/ . Accessed January 12, 2006
Fiber facts. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center website. Available at: http://patienteducation.upmc.com/Pdf/FiberFacts.pdf . Accessed January 11, 2006.
Shield J, Mullen MC. Patient education materials. Supplement to the Manual of Clinical Dietetics. 3rd ed. Chicago, IL: American Dietetic Association; 2001.
Last reviewed May 2008 by Dianne Scheinberg, MS, RD, LDN
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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