Many Choices for Fiber

Delicious, ripe fruits and berries. Crisp, crunchy, colorful vegetables. Flavorful grains. Savory nuts. Even a mouthwatering bowl of popcorn.

These are among the many tempting foods that offer you abundant fiber, that all-important component of a healthy diet.

In the ordinary metabolic sense of the term, fiber is not a nutrient at all. In a crude and purely physical way, fiber acts as a vital nutrient because it’s a substance — found in food — that your body needs for one of its most vital functions: To eliminate some of the waste products of ordinary metabolism. Fiber lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels and helps move waste through the intestines.

Fiber and Weight Control

Functional fibers are also non-digestible fibers that act like dietary fiber, but can come from either natural or synthetic sources and are usually added to food. One example of a natural source of functional fiber is pectin, used in jams and jellies and extracted from citrus peel.

Functional fibers have many health benefits. Some, like those found in oatmeal, pectin and gums, delay the passage of food from the stomach into the small intestine.

Experts have known for a long time that fiber has significant benefits; however, there has yet to be an official guideline as to how much fiber we should aim for in our daily diets. But not the Food and Drug Board has issued preliminary recommended levels for daily fiber intake. Some evidence suggests that fiber may help to promote weight control by controlling the appetite because fiber makes you feel satisfied longer. A proven fact: Fiber helps food and waste move through the digestive system, plus, some forms of fiber can help to carry excess cholesterol out of your digestive system so it is eliminated rather than absorbed in the blood.

Fiber and Diabetes

Fiber Shortcut. Get a fiber boost from psyllium seed to help you avoid diabetes, or to reduce or eliminate diabetes medications. Pour one-half cup of a fiber supplement made from ground psyllium seed into a plastic bag and tuck it into your purse. Have a teaspoon in a cup of water before each meal. Research shows that this strategy could reduce blood sugar dramatically – from 210mg/dl to 140mg/dl in one study.

Fiber and Inflammation

Research suggests that diets rich in fiber can stave off inflammation. For example, studies have linked a high fiber intake to low CRP levels. In the Iowa Womens’ Health Study, nearly 42,000 postmenopausal women were followed for 17 years, and those who habitually ate whole grains were at lower risk of inflammation-related deaths.

Diets rich in plant fiber are related to a reduction of heart disease, colon cancer and diabetes. Most scientists and nutritionists have accepted that the body needs between 20 and 30 grams of fiber per day for optimal elimination of waste. Many people routinely get much less fiber than this. Animal foods have no natural fiber. Highly refined plant foods often have had much of their natural fiber removed.

Getting more fiber is linked to less severe strokes, according to the findings of a Boston study of 50 men and women. Intakes of both total fiber and insoluble fiber were inversely linked to stroke severity. The average fiber intake in the study wasn’t even high, only 10 grams a day, which is less than half the Daily Value of 25 grams a day.

Fiber and Weight Loss

Daily soluble fiber supplements may help you lose weight by curbing your hunger, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. People who took them lost an extra 9 pounds over four months. Experts say eating fiber rich foods each day can work similar magic. A few to try:

  • Oatmeal: 1 cup, cooked, instant or regular
  • Popcorn: 3 cups, air-popped or microwaved
  • Edamame: 1/2 cup cooked
  • Raspberries: 1 cup, fresh or frozen
  • Potatoes: 1 medium with skin, baked or roasted

Where You Get Fiber

Fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables, except for the very starchy ones like potatoes and rice, generally have the most fiber with the fewest calories. There are also fiber supplements available that have almost no calories at all.

Spices and herbs that contain dietary fiber are black pepper, cayenne, chili, turmeric, sage, thyme, cumin, coriander, dill, allspice, fennel, fenugreek, basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, peppermint, curry, garlic, paprika, utmeg, anise, caraway seed, tarragon, chives, saffron, parsley, savory and chervil. (Source: Nutrition Data)

It is fairly simple to bring your fiber intake up to where it should be. Increase your fiber intake gradually over several weeks so your body has time to adapt to the change. And, while you increase your fiber intake, you should drink enough fluids. For individuals without a fluid restriction, six to eight 8-fluid ounce glasses of non-caffeinated beverages can complement your daily fiber intake.

The recommended daily Adequate Intake (AI) levels for fiber suggest adults over 50 get 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women. For adults under 50, the recommended AI is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. By these guidelines, less that 5-percent of adults in the United States get enough fiber. In one recent government study, the average daily intake of dietary fiber for all individuals was 15.2 grams, well below recommended levels.

Tasty Ways to Put More Fiber in Your Diet

  • Wheat or bran cereals instead of processed, sugary cereals
  • Dried fruit mixes (raisins, apricots) instead of candy or sugary snacks
  • 100-percent whole wheat bread instead of white bread
  • Brown rice instead of instant or polished rice
  • Fresh fruit instead of fruit juices
  • Popcorn and nuts instead of potato chips and pretzels
  • Non-peeled fruits instead of peeled fruits

Balancing Fiber with Fluids

balancing fiber with juices Fiber is the indigestible carbohydrate found in plant cell walls and is either soluble or insoluble.

Insoluble fiber adds bulk to soften stools, helping to prevent hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.

Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance that helps keep dietary cholesterol from being absorbed so it is moved out of the body. Soluble fiber also helps control blood sugar levels, an advantage in managing diabetes.


In addition, because fiber stimulates intestinal movement, waste products travel through the intestine faster.

Harmful substances have less time in contact with the intestinal walls.

Researchers have observed a relationship between high-fiber diets and lower incidence of colon and rectal cancer, as well as less constipation.

Fruits and Vegetables

Some ways to increase your family’s intake of fruits and vegetables include:

  • Keep fresh fruit handy for snacks.
  • Offer snacks of fruit or vegetables in place of chips, crackers or cookies.
  • Eat an orange for breakfast instead of drinking orange juice.
  • Always have at least two vegetables or fruits with the noon and evening meals.


Do you drink enough water each day?

Two to three quarts a day is the recommendation for normal activity. A gallon of fluid should be consumed if you are in an exercise program or extreme summer heat. Besides water, the best fluids include milk, fruit juice and vegetable juices. Sodas, coffee and tea will contribute to your overall fluid intake, but may add unnecessary sugars and calories as well as caffeine. Beverages with caffeine tend to act as a diuretic, causing you to lose fluid.

Drinking a large volume of fluid will decrease the likelihood of forming kidney stones, help prevent constipation, and may protect against bladder and kidney cancers. This is because the urine is diluted, causing frequent elimination, both of which may reduce exposure to cancer-causing agents.

Strive to drink at 8 glasses of water each day in addition to other beverages. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to have a drink of water!

Helpful Hints

  • Whenever you see a water fountain, take a drink.
  • Purchase a two-quart insulated bottle, fill it with water and drink it throughout the day.
  • For every cup of coffee, tea or soda you consume, drink the same amount of water.
  • Instead of filling your travel much with soda or coffee, fill it with water.

Resistant Starch

Resistant starch is actually a type of fiber that your body doesn’t absorb. Resistant starch is found in foods like cold cooked potatoes, navy beans, and lentils, and it provides the same benefits as fiber. How much weight you can lose is unclear, but the effects may be similar to those of regular fiber.

Experts say Americans get 3 to 8 grams per day but could benefit from double that amount. Resistant starch isn’t available in pill form, but you can buy it in bulk and add it to food or smoothies. Caution: Too much could lead to bathroom troubles.

High Fiber Smoothie

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup unsweetened strawberries or raspberries, frozen
  • 1 banana
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

Place all ingredients in blender in order listed. Cover and process on high (100 percent power) until smooth. Serve immediately. Recipe makes 1 to 2 servings.

Quick Fiber Quiz

  • Wheat or bran cereals instead of processed, sugary cereals
  • Dried fruit mixes (raisins, apricots) instead of candy or sugary snacks
  • 100-percent whole wheat bread instead of white bread
  • Brown rice instead of instant or polished rice
  • Fresh fruit instead of fruit juices
  • Popcorn and nuts instead of potato chips and pretzels
  • Non-peeled fruits instead of peeled fruits

Which of the following foods contains the most fiber?:
A.  One-half cup of baked beans
B.  A turkey sandwich made with whole-grain bread
C.  1 prepared packet of instant oatmeal
D.  1 cup of fresh, whole strawberries

Answer: A, the beans.
Beans are an excellent source of fiber. A half-cup serving of typical canned or home made baked beans contains 7 grams of fiber, more than double the amount found in a sandwich, instant oatmeal, or strawberries.

Read More: Essential Nutrients