19 October 10 Basics of Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is not digested in the human gut. It can be found naturally in whole plant foods (intrinsic or intact), but it can also be isolated or synthesized and added to manufactured foods (functional fiber). The fiber contained in manufactured yogurt (inulin) is an example of a functional fiber.

Why should we care about including dietary fiber in our daily eating plan? Because it provides health benefits! As fiber travels through the gut it, it works on our behalf by helping us:

- Keep total cholesterol and LDL levels in check
- Keep blood sugar levels after a meal in check
- Reduce constipation by stimulating the gut to keep moving "stuff" along
- Reduce straining and constipation by improving stool bulk
- Keep the colon healthy by giving resident bacteria particles to ferment (prebiotics)

Intact Sources of Dietary Fiber

To meet your dietary fiber requirement, include three or more servings of whole grains, and five or more servings of vegetables and fruits. Pick whole foods, not juice to meet your requirement. Legumes (dried beans and peas) are a great source of fiber at 7 grams per 1/2 cup of cooked food. Legumes are also high in protein, vitamins and minerals. Unprocessed starchy vegetables (with their skin on) are also good sources of fiber at about 3 grams per 1/2 cup of cooked food. Most whole fruits contain about 3 grams of fiber per medium-sized fruit. Berries provide anywhere from 3 – 8 grams of fiber per cup. A small banana provides about 3 grams of fiber for 90 calories.

Meeting your dietary fiber requirement by consuming whole foods (i.e. whole grains, vegetables, and fruit) is the best tactic since it maximizes intake of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (e.g. antioxidants) while minimizing intake of sodium and calories.

If you are unable to meet your dietary fiber requirement from whole foods due to medical or other reasons, then use of functional fibers (e.g. fiber added to yogurt or laxatives) as a supplemental source can be beneficial. These products can also be helpful as a step towards increasing dietary fiber gradually while one makes multiple dietary changes simultaneously.

How Much is Enough?

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for adults is 14 grams per 1000 calories intake. If you prefer not to do any math, you can simply use the DRI for the standard intake for women and men:

- 25 grams for women
- 38 grams for men

Sample day's intake of whole food sources of fiber (total dietary fiber = 40 grams)

Breakfast: 1 cup cooked rolled oats (4 grams fiber) + 1/4 cup almonds (4 grams fiber)

Snack: 1 cup strawberries (3 grams fiber)

Lunch: Whole wheat sandwich (6 grams fiber for most brands) + small pear (4 grams fiber)

Snack: 2 slices of WASA crackers (4 grams fiber)

Dinner: 1 cup of cooked whole wheat spaghetti (7 grams fiber) + 1/2 cup sauce (2 grams) + garden salad (2 grams)

Dessert: 1/2 cup raspberries (4 grams)

MyNetDiary Tip: You can select fiber as one of your nutrients to track so that it will be displayed on your daily intake screen as well as on reports. Simply go to the PLAN section on the web to select fiber for tracking.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Meal Planning & Diets/Healthy Eating Nutrients/"Carbs: Fiber, Starch, & Sugar"

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