Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

Incorporate Fiber in Your Diet

Photo by Jannis Brandt

You may have heard that fruits and vegetables are good for you not just because of all the nutrients they provide but also because of their fiber content. Fiber is actually a requirement for your body to function. Dietary fiber include the parts of plant foods that the body cannot digest or absorb. There are 2 types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.


Soluble fiber

  • Dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can be metabolized by the “good” bacteria in the gut and function as prebiotics.
  • It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.
  • Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, nuts, oatmeal, lentils, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.

Insoluble fiber

  • Does not dissolve in water, promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk.
  • Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Benefits of fiber intake

  • Keeps your digestive system in shape-normalizes bowel movements, reduces risk of developing hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, and studies have shown may reduce risk of colorectal cancer.
  • High fiber diet has been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease(heart disease and stroke).
  • Lowers cholesterol level.
  • Helps in achieving and maintaining healthy weight-high-fiber foods make you feel full preventing increased eating/snacking.
  • Helps to control blood sugar- slows the absorption of sugar and helps improve blood sugar levels.
  • Improves longevity- Studies have shown that fiber, especially cereal fiber — is associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers.

Recommendation of fiber intake

  • The American Health Association recommends 25 to 30 grams a day from food, not supplements.

Tips for fitting in more fiber in diet

  • Make breakfast count-look for cereals with whole grain, choose whole wheat bread
  • Incorporate beans, peas, lentils to your diet
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables
  • Snack on nuts, dried fruit, whole grain crackers

Now, before going all in on a high fiber diet, remember to do it gradually over a few weeks. When the gut flora/bacteria ferment the fiber, they produce gases wich can lead to abdominal bloating or intestinal gas. These side effects usually go away with time as your body adjusts. Remember to increase your water intake as you increase your fiber intake.