Dietary Fiber. Soluble fiber is fiber that partially dissolves in water. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water.

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1 Dietary Fiber Introduction Fiber is a substance in plants. Dietary fiber is the kind of fiber you get from the foods you eat. Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. Fiber helps get rid of excess fats in the intestine. It also helps push food through the intestines. This reference summary will help you understand the importance of dietary fiber and how you can make sure you are getting the right amount. Dietary Fiber Fiber is a substance found in all plant foods. This includes fruits, vegetables and grains. Some of these foods have a lot of fiber. Others have less fiber. Fiber is found in many complex carbohydrates, such as rice and wheat. Carbohydrates, or carbs, are the most important source of energy for your body. Your body cannot digest dietary fibers. They pass through the body without being broken down for energy. Fiber leaves the body in stools, also known as feces or poop, when you go to the bathroom. There are two main types of fiber: Soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is fiber that partially dissolves in water. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. 1

2 Both types of fiber are important to keep your body healthy. For example, fiber helps prevent heart disease by getting rid of excess fats in the intestine. It also helps prevent constipation by pushing food through the intestines. Sources of Fiber Fiber can be found in all plant foods. This includes: Beans. Fruits. Vegetables. Whole grains. The best sources of soluble fiber are beans and peas. Other good sources are: Apples. Blueberries. Flaxseeds. Oat bran. Oatmeal. Pears. Strawberries. The best sources of insoluble fiber are whole wheat and whole grain. Other good sources are: Brown rice. Carrots. Celery. Cucumbers. Dark leafy greens. Grapes. Green beans. Raisins. Tomatoes. Zucchini. 2

3 Fiber supplements are also available. Food sources are generally better than fiber supplements. Supplements do not provide a variety of fiber and other nutrients the body needs. Fiber supplements may be used by people with certain medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a problem that affects the large intestine. It can cause abdominal cramping, bloating and a change in bowel habits. Always check with your health care provider before taking any type of supplement. Benefits of Fiber Eating the right amount of fiber has a number of health benefits. This section explains the importance of including fiber in your diet. Eating enough fiber each day can help: Prevent constipation and diarrhea. Keep your intestines healthy. Lower cholesterol levels. Control blood sugar levels. Reach or maintain a healthy weight. Fiber cannot be digested by the body, so it increases the weight and size of your stool. A bulky stool is easier to pass. Fiber also softens stools because it absorbs water. This can help keep your bowel movements normal. Fiber may also keep your intestines healthy. Eating a diet high in fiber can lower your risk of: Diverticular disease. Hemorrhoids. A high fiber diet may also lower the risk for certain cancers, including colorectal cancer. Diverticula are small pouches that bulge outward through the large intestines. If you have these pouches, you have diverticular disease. Hemorrhoids are swollen, inflamed veins around the anus or lower rectum. They often result from straining to have a bowel movement. 3

4 Soluble fiber can lower total cholesterol levels in the blood by lowering LDL cholesterol levels. LDL is known as the bad cholesterol. It can collect in the walls of blood vessels, which raises the risk for heart problems. Eating enough soluble fiber can prevent LDL levels from getting too high. Soluble fiber can also control blood sugar levels. It does this by slowing the absorption of sugar in the body. Insoluble fiber may also lower the risk for type 2 diabetes. Fiber, along with a well-balanced diet, can help a person reach or maintain a healthy weight. Foods that are high in fiber are filling and can make you feel full longer. These foods also require more chewing. This can prevent a person from overeating. Recommended Amounts The amount of dietary fiber a person should get each day is described in grams. The recommended amount depends on the age and gender of the person. For men from their teen years to age 50, it is recommended that they get 38g of fiber each day. For men 51 and older, the recommended amount is 30g each day. For women from their teenage years to age 50, it is recommended that they get 25g of fiber each day. For women 51 and older, the recommended amount is 21g each day. You should eat a variety of foods to get the recommended amount of fiber. Do not worry about eating fiber that is soluble or insoluble unless you are treating a specific problem. High-Fiber Diet A high-fiber diet may be recommended to treat digestive problems. It can also have many other health benefits, such as lowering the risk of heart disease. Talk to your health care provider to find out if you can benefit from a high-fiber diet. This section explains tips on how to get more fiber in your diet. One way to get more fiber in your diet is by replacing fruit juice with whole fruit. You should also eat fruit at every meal. Make sure to include a variety of fruit in your diet. You can also replace refined grains with whole grains. Choose breads that list whole wheat or whole grain as the first ingredient on the label. Try whole wheat pasta and brown or wild rice. Substitute white flour with whole grain flour when baking. 4

5 Start your day off with a high-fiber breakfast. Look for a breakfast cereal that has 5g or more of fiber in a single serving. Or you could add some unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal. Make snacks that are healthy and filled with fiber, such as fresh fruit and raw vegetables. You could also have whole grain crackers, low fat popcorn, nuts or dried fruits. Most people do not eat as much fiber as is recommended. Increasing the fiber in your diet should be done slowly. Doing so too quickly can cause gas, as well as abdominal pain and cramping. It is also important to drink lots of water. Fiber absorbs water to make the stool soft and bulky. Rarely, eating too much fiber without drinking water can lead to an intestinal obstruction. An intestinal obstruction happens when food or stool cannot move through the intestines. The obstruction can be complete or partial. Summary Fiber is a substance in plants. Dietary fiber is the kind of fiber you get from the foods you eat. Dietary fiber is found in: Beans. Fruits. Vegetables. Whole grains. Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. There are many health benefits of fiber. Eating enough fiber each day can help: Prevent constipation and diarrhea. Keep your intestines healthy. Lower cholesterol levels. Control blood sugar levels. Reach or maintain a healthy weight. Decrease the risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer. A high-fiber diet can have many health benefits. Talk to your health care provider to find out if you can benefit from a high-fiber diet. Remember to add fiber to your diet slowly and to drink more water when doing so. 5

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