Grains and Fruit in a Bowl Dietary fiber is a versatile and helpful nutrient when managing weight, digestion, and chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.  Though fiber is essential, many Americans miss the mark on the recommended daily intake for age and gender.  Thankfully, fiber is found naturally in a variety of foods and can easily be included as part of a healthy diet. Below are the daily recommendations for most healthy adults from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Age

Recommended Fiber Intake

Men (≤ 50 years)

38 grams fiber/day

Men (≥ 51 years)

30 grams fiber/day

Women (≤ 50 years)

25 grams fiber/day

Women (≥ 51 years)

21 grams fiber/day

Dietary fiber is classified into two different types: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber has been found to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a regular diet. It also positively affects blood sugar control due to its effects on insulin sensitivity. Sources of soluble fiber include oats, beans, rice bran, nuts, flaxseeds, psyllium, cucumbers, citrus fruits, and apple pulp.

Insoluble fiber acts as a bulking agent and is helpful to your gastrointestinal system by preventing constipation. Insoluble fibers do not dissolve in water, thus speeding up the passage of food and waste through your gut. Sources of insoluble include wheat bran, brown rice, bulgar, zucchini, celery, broccoli, seeds, and apple peel.

Both soluble and insoluble fibers are beneficial in weight management as they aid in providing fullness after meals. If you’re having trouble adding fiber to your diet, try the following suggestions:

  • Leave skins on fruits and vegetables and reduce cooking time so they remain colorful and crunchy.
  • Substitute white flour in recipes with whole grain flour. Many recipes that call for white flour can be altered by replacing half with whole wheat flour.
  • Add a variety of grains to soups; these can include whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or barley.
  • Use whole grain breads or tortillas when making sandwiches.
  • Instead of using mayonnaise as a sandwich spread, try hummus or avocado.
  • Try adding brown rice, beans, lentils, or peas as a starchy side item at dinner.

Many fiber-containing foods will include a combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber. When increasing your fiber intake, be sure to increase your amounts slowly while also increasing consumption of fluids. Adequate fluid intake can assist in digestion of fiber-containing foods and decrease any gastrointestinal discomfort from fiber additions to your diet. If you opt to get a majority of your daily fiber intake from fiber supplements, it’s important to note that fiber supplements do not provide the same sensation of fullness provided by foods that are naturally high in fiber. By eating a variety of fiber-containing foods, you can ensure that you will be able to take advantage of the health benefits of fiber while also consuming a balanced diet.