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Fiber has a wide range of health benefits:
Promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation
May help lower cholesterol
May regulate blood sugar levels
Promotes a nutritious diet, since most fiber-rich foods are low in fat and high in nutrients
Can help you lose weight as fiber foods are filling
Can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, improve the health of your skin, and help you lose weight. It may even help prevent colon cancer
Types of Fiber: Insoluble & Soluble
Many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber and both are important for your health.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It is the bulky fiber that helps to prevent constipation. Think of it as a broom that helps sweep clean the digestive system. Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains, wheat cereals, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps control blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. Good sources include barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears.
Vegetables (sweet potatoes, white potatoes, squash, carrots, green beans, broccoli, and peppers)
Wheat bran and whole grains (bread, crackers, breakfast cereals)
Common foods high in fiber
Cheerios: 1 cup = 2.6 grams
Multi-Bran Chex: 1 cup = 7.9 grams
Complete Bran Flakes: 3/4 cup = 4.6 grams
Oatmeal: 1 cup = 4.0 grams
Broccoli: 1/2 cup = 3.0 grams
Peas, canned: 1/2 cup = 4.0 grams
Beans (lima, kidney, navy): 1/2 cup = 4.0-7.0 grams
Apple with peel: 1 med. = 4.0 grams
Strawberries: 1 cup = 4.0 grams
Pear: 1 med. = 6.0 grams
Whole Wheat Bread: 1 slice = 3.0 grams
Popcorn, air popped: 3 1/2 cups = 4.5 grams
Whole Wheat Tortillas: 1 tortilla = 3.0 grams
Brown Rice: 1 cup = 4.0 grams
In general, the more natural and unprocessed the food, the higher it is in fiber. There is no fiber in meat, dairy, or sugar. Refined or “white” foods, such as white bread, white rice, and pastries, have had all or most of their fiber removed.
When shopping for food, it is good to read the nutrition facts label to find the foods high in fiber. Foods with 2-5 grams of fiber per serving are good sources of fiber.
How much fiber?
Adults: 25-35 grams of fiber daily. This is twice as much fiber as most are now eating.
Children: Use the rule of age + 5 to age + 10 as a guide.
Example: 4 year old needs 9-14 grams of fiber daily (4+5 and 4+10 = 9-14 grams)
Remember to increase your fluid intake as you increase your fiber intake.
Tips for increasing fiber in your day
Choose at least 3 servings of whole grains per day.
Choose high fiber snacks.
Add cooked, dried beans to your meals such as black beans in taco meat, lentils and split peas in soup.
When baking, substitute whole grain flour for half or all of the white flour. Add crushed bran cereal or unprocessed wheat bran to muffins, cakes, and cookies.
Serve whole fruits or vegetables instead of juice, eat the skin of cleaned fruits and vegetables, and include with every meal.
Top yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal with fruits, nuts, or flaxseed (be sure to grind the flaxseed in a coffee grinder or food processor).
Sample menu (uses fiber-rich foods)
Raisin bran cereal or oatmeal with low fat milk
Coffee or tea
Sandwich on whole-wheat bread with tomato and lettuce
Apple or pear
Large salad with dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach
Low fat milk
Whole-wheat spaghetti with meat balls – try add mashed black beans to your ground beef