Nutrition and Health

FOCUS on FIBER

Dietary fiber is made up of nondigestible carbohydrates found in plants.1 We get dietary fiber from fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains (wheat, oat, rye, corn, barley, rice, and quinoa).  

Consuming a diet high in fiber has been shown to be associated with a reduced risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. High fiber diets may also lower your risk of diverticular disease, constipation, and developing hemorrhoids in addition to supporting the immune system.2-4

Fiber helps to promote a healthy gastrointestinal tract microbiota. Fermentation of dietary fiber occurs when fermentable fibers in the colon produce short-chain fatty acids that in turn produce good bacteria in the intestines.  These short-chain fatty acids help to inhibit the production of harmful bacteria and may aid in preventing inflammation.2 

Consumption of viscous fibers slows down the process of gastric emptying which can allow for glucose to be absorbed into the system more evenly, and reduce spikes in insulin levels.3 Viscous fiber can also help to clear cholesterol through the action of binding to cholesterol-containing digestive acids that are eliminated from the body.2

High fiber diets are also linked with a lower body weight and reduced risk for obesity which may be due in part to the fact that we don’t absorb all the fiber we eat. Additionally, dietary fiber helps to fill us up so that we are more likely to stop eating at a meal.   

Read food labels for serving size and grams of dietary fiber to keep up with daily intake levels. The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) provide guidance for how much fiber (from diet and supplement sources) we should be aiming to take in each day.  

Life Stage GroupFiber Grams Per Day
Children 1-3 years19
Children 4-8 years25
Males 9-13 years31
Males 14-50 years38
Males 51+ years30
Females 9-18 years26
Females 19-50 years25
Females 51+ years21
Pregnancy28
Lactation29
Source: 5

A high fiber diet, puts the body to work in good ways.  Keep things moving along with dietary fiber all the while toning and giving the digestive tract a workout. 🏋️‍♂️ Consuming a diet high in a variety of fibers should be started early in life and continued throughout life to provide optimal health benefits. Suggestions for increasing dietary fiber in the diet include doing so gradually along with drinking plenty of water. 

Be sure to check with your doctor first before making significant diet changes especially if you have digestive problems. This information is not meant to replace the advice of your personal physician. 

Notes:

  1. Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). The National Academies Press: 2005. https://www.nap.edu.
  2. Dahl W, Stewart M. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115(11):1861-1870.
  3. Ye E, Chacko S, Chou E, Kugizaki M, Liu S. Greater whole-grain intake is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain. J Nutr. 2012;142(7):1304-1313.
  4. Aune D, Sen A, Norat T, Riboli E. Dietary fibre intake and the risk of diverticular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Eur J Nutr. 2020;59(2):421-432. 
  5. Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements. The National Academies Press. 2006. https://www.nap.edu.

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