Dietary fiber comes from plants and grains. Dietary fiber is not digested by the stomach or small intestine, but arrives unchanged in the colon where it has two main benefits: promoting regularity and providing nourishment for beneficial bacteria.
Types of Dietary Fiber
There are two main types of dietary fiber:
- Soluble Fiber – This fiber consists of carbohydrates and dissolves in water. These fibers are fermented by colon bacteria and used as nourishment and a food source. Foods that contain soluble fiber include fruits, vegetables, oats, barley, and legumes (peas and beans).
- Insoluble Fiber – This fiber does not dissolve in water. It retains water and helps to promote softer, bulkier stool. Foods that contain insoluble fiber include seeds, nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
All plant fiber has both insoluble and soluble fiber, although the amount of each can vary. Wheat and corn fiber are 90 percent insoluble fiber, while oats are about half insoluble and half soluble fiber. The recommended amount of dietary fiber is 25-35 grams per day, while most Americans consume only 10-14 grams per day.
Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber
Consuming the recommended amount of daily dietary fiber has been linked to many health benefits including:
- Heart disease prevention
- Controlled appetite and weight
- Reduced colon polyp and cancer risk factors
- Reduced risk of diabetes
- Preventing obesity
- Prevent diverticulitis
- Blood pressure reduction
What Foods are High in Dietary Fiber?
- Whole grains
- Fresh fruits, including skin and pulp
- Dried or stewed fruits, such as prunes
- Root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and yams
- Cruciferous fresh vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage
While a high fiber diet can improve your health, there are many people who do better by not increasing fiber in their diet. Therefore, attempting a high fiber diet without physician supervision is not recommended. Your healthcare provider is the best source of information for questions and concerns related to your health. To find a physician near you, please see our locations page.
When a high fiber diet is indicated, fiber intake should be increased gradually to give your digestive system time to adjust. Consult with a registered dietitian for help safely increasing your fiber intake, and to help you build personalized plan to increase the fiber in your diet.