Dietary fiber is a form of carbohydrate found in plants that cannot be digested by humans. All plants contain fiber, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Fiber is often classified into two categories:
Soluble fiber draws water into the bowel and can help slow digestion. Examples of foods that are high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, oat bran, barley, legumes (eg, beans and peas), apples, and strawberries.
Insoluble fiber speeds digestion and can add bulk to the stool. Examples of foods that are high in insoluble fiber include whole-wheat products, wheat bran, cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes.
Eating a high-fiber diet can also help improve your cholesterol levels, lower your risk of
coronary heart disease, reduce your risk of
type 2 diabetes, and lower your weight. For people with type 1 or 2 diabetes, a high-fiber diet can also help stabilize blood sugar levels.
How Much Fiber Should I Eat?
A high-fiber diet should contain
of fiber a day. This is actually the amount recommended for the general adult population; however, most Americans eat only 15 grams of fiber per day.
Digestion of Fiber
Eating a higher fiber diet than usual can take some getting used to by your body’s digestive system. To avoid the side effects of sudden increases in dietary fiber (eg, gas, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea), increase fiber gradually and be sure to drink plenty of fluids every day.
Tips for Increasing Fiber Intake
Whenever possible, choose whole grains over refined grains (eg, brown rice instead of white rice, whole-wheat bread instead of white bread).
Include a variety of grains in your diet, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, quinoa, and bulgur.
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