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Bulking Up on Fiber

image Fiber. People need to eat it. They know it's good for them. But they may not know what it is and why it is so good.

Fiber Facts

Fiber is found only in plants. The plant fiber that we eat is called dietary fiber. It is unique from other parts of the plant because humans do not have the enzymes needed to digest it.

High-fiber diets have been linked to a lower risk of death due to heart disease (including heart attack and stroke), cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Dietary fiber is made up of two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both types of fiber help the bowels regular.

Soluble Fiber

Soluble means that the fiber forms a gel-like solution when it is mixed with a liquid. When eaten as part of a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol and may help lower the risk of heart disease. Oatmeal, beans, peas, and citrus fruits are all foods that are high in soluble fiber.

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber does not mix with liquid and passes through the digestive tract without changing. It is important for digestive health. It speeds up movement through the small intestine and helps to ease constipation. Apple skin, wheat cereal, whole-wheat breads, and carrots are all foods that are high in insoluble fiber.

How Much Fiber Is Needed

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women get 25 grams of fiber daily, while men get 38 grams. Fiber needs drop after the age of 50. Women older than 50 should get 21 grams of fiber daily, and men should get 30 grams daily. This includes both soluble and insoluble fiber. This table lists how much fiber a person can find in some common foods.

Food Serving size Total Fiber
(grams)
Soluble Fiber Insoluble Fiber
Veggies
Broccoli, cooked ½ cup 1.5 1 0.5
Brussels sprouts, cooked ½ cup 4.5 3.0 1.5
Carrots, cooked ½ cup 2.5 1 1.4
Artichoke, fresh ½ cup 4 3 1
Fruits
Apple 1 medium 4 1 3
Banana 1 medium 3 1 2
Blackberries ½ cup 4 1 3
Nectarine 1 medium 2 1 1
Citrus fruit (orange, grapefruit) 1 medium 2-3 1 1-2
Peach 1 medium 2 1 1
Pears 1 medium 4 2 2
Plums 1 medium 1.5 1 0.5
Prunes ¼ cup 3 1.5 1.5
Legumes
Black beans, cooked ½ cup 5.5 2 3.5
Kidney beans, cooked ½ cup 6 3 3
Lima beans, cooked ½ cup 6.5 3.5 3
Navy beans, cooked ½ cup 6 2 4
Northern beans, cooked ½ cup 5.5 5 0.5
Pinto beans, cooked ½ cup 7 2 5
Lentils, cooked ½ cup 8 1 7
Peas, cooked ½ cup 6 1 5
Whole grain cereals
All Bran cereal 1/3 cup 8 0.7 7.3
Oatmeal, cooked ½ cup 2 1 1
Oat bran ½ cup 3 2 1
Shredded wheat 2/3 cup 3 0.3 2.7
Wheat germ 2/3 cup 8 1 7
Pearl barley, cooked ½ cup 5 2 3
Brown rice ½ cup 4 0.5 3.5
Seeds
Psyllium seeds 1 tablespoon 6 5 1

Source: Journal of Family Practice. 2006;9:761-769

Ways to Get More Fiber

It is easy to increase the fiber in a person's diet. It just takes a little thought and some action. Here are a few ideas to help a person get more fiber:

RESOURCES:

Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture
http://www.choosemyplate.gov

Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Dietary considerations for cardiovascular disease risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/dietary-considerations-for-cardiovascular-disease-risk-reduction. Accessed August 26, 2020.

Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion website. Available at: https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines. Accessed August 31, 2020.

Eat 3 or more whole grain foods every day. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/WeightManagement/LosingWeight/Eat-3-or-More-Whole-Grain-Foods-Every-Day_UCM_320264_Article.jsp. Accessed September 1, 2020.

Whole grains, refined grains, and dietary fiber. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Whole-Grains-and-Fiber_UCM_303249_Article.jsp. Accessed September 1, 2020.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardDianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN  Last Updated: 3/3/2021