We always hear about food companies promoting that their products contain fiber, but what’s all the hype about this indigestible food source?
Most people recognize fiber for its role in improving bowel regularity. However, other benefits of fiber include lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), promoting weight loss, and improving glucose control in people with diabetes.
Some studies have shown a decreased risk of developing CVD in people who consume a diet high in fiber. This is likely due to fiber’s ability to help reduce blood pressure, decrease cholesterol, and reduce inflammatory markers.
Fiber, specifically soluble fiber, delays the absorption of food resulting in a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream. This allows the pancreas more time to produce insulin, which is necessary to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Thus, fiber allows better glucose control in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
Although there are mixed studies that show an association between fiber and colon cancer, it is known that an increase in fiber helps improve bowel regularity.
Fiber increases satiety (feeling of fullness), which helps people eat less because they feel full. Meals that consist primarily of foods that are high in fiber and low in calories are keys to weight management, as people will feel full from fewer calories.
According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, it is recommended to consume approximately 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories. An alternative goal would be to try and consume 25 to 35 grams per day.
Primary natural food sources include fruits and vegetables (specifically those that are consumed with the skin and seeds), legumes, beans, and whole grains.
Approximate fiber content in different foods:
1 cup artichoke cooked 14.4 grams of fiber
½ cup of 100% Bran cereal 8.8 grams of fiber
½ cup of canned kidney beans 8.2 grams of fiber
1 medium baked sweet potato with peel 4.8 grams of fiber
½ cup of green peas cooked 4.4 grams of fiber
1 whole English muffin 4.4 grams of fiber
1 small pear 4.3 grams of fiber
½ cup of mixed cooked vegetables 4.0 grams of fiber
1 medium banana 3.1 grams of fiber