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A Focus on Fiber

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
October 25, 2023
November 21, 2023

There are two types of fiber we can get from food: soluble and insoluble fibers. They have some of the same beneficial  effects and come from similar sources, so let’s discuss their differences and why they both matter.

Soluble fiber is "soluble" in water.  When mixed with water it forms a gel-like substance and swells. Soluble fiber has many benefits, including moderating blood glucose levels and lowering cholesterol. The scientific names for soluble fibers include pectins, gums, mucilages, and some hemicelluloses.  

According to the Mayo Clinic, a diet rich in soluble fiber can help lower your level of LDL, or “bad cholesterol.” It may also help lower blood pressure! So add some beans, legumes, berries, or vegetables into your diet daily to reap the rewards.

Insoluble fiber does not absorb or dissolve in water. It passes through our digestive system in close to its original form. Insoluble fiber offers many benefits to intestinal health, including a reduction in the risk of hemorrhoids and constipation. 

The scientific names for insoluble fibers include cellulose, lignins, and also some other hemicelluloses.  Most of insoluble fibers come from the bran layers of cereal grains, but also in unbreakable fibers from some fruits and vegetables, like in celery or skins of tomato.

If you are under 50 years old, get around 38 grams of fiber for men and 25 grams for women, according to the Institute of Medicine.
If you are over 50 years old, get around 30 grams fiber for men and 21g for women, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Since dietary fiber is found only in plant products (i.e., nuts, whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables), these are essential to a healthy diet. 

Soluble fiber

Beans, peas, lentils, oatmeal, oat bran, nuts, seeds, psyllium, apples, pears, strawberries, and blueberries

  • Traps sugar, fat and cholesterol, and slows their absorption into the bloodstream
  • Helps the body absorb more nutrients from food
  • Reduces blood cholesterol levels
  • Improves glucose control for diabetics, reduces risk of developing diabetes 

Insoluble fiber

Whole grains, barley, whole-grain couscous, brown rice, bulgur, wheat bran, nuts, seeds, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, celery, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, nuts, grapes, and tomatoes

  • May help with weight loss
  • Reduces constipation
  • Increases healthy bacteria in the gut to help digestion
  • Reduces risk of bowel cancers
  • May improve immune function

Meal Plan Packed With Fiber

This sample menu for a day gives you 37 or more grams of fiber:

Breakfast: 1 high fiber wheat toast (5g fiber), 2 tbsp natural peanut butter (2 g fiber) 1 cup sliced strawberries (4 g fiber)

  • Mid-Morning Snack: 24 almonds (3.3 grams of fiber) and ¼ cup raisins (2 grams of fiber)

Lunch: Turkey sandwich made with 2 slices of whole wheat bread, lettuce, and tomato (8 grams of fiber), and an orange (3.1 grams of fiber)

  • Afternoon Snack: Yogurt with half a cup of blueberries (2 grams of fiber)

Dinner: Grilled fish with a salad of romaine lettuce and shredded carrots (2.6 grams of fiber), half a cup of spinach (2.1 grams of fiber), and half a cup of lentils (7.5 grams of fiber)

  • Evening Snack: 1 cups plain popped popcorn (3.5 grams of fiber)

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