What Kind? There is no “best” fiber. Dietary fiber comes from a variety of plant sources in two basic forms: soluble and insoluble. Both are necessary for proper digestive functioning and disease prevention. Soluble fiber is mainly found in oats, beans, fruit and nuts. It assists with slowing glucose absorption, softening stool, and lowering cholesterol . Insoluble fiber is mainly found in vegetables, whole grains, and seeds. It helps speed up transit time in the colon thus reducing absorption of toxins and carcinogens. Both soluble and insoluble fiber help strengthen the muscles of the large intestine and contribute to the formation of unique compounds (short-chain fatty acids) that benefit the body. Eating a diet high in fiber is more satisfying and associated with lower body weight.
How Much? It’s ideal to get about 12-15 grams Fiber per 1,000 Calories consumed. The Institute of Medicine’s recommendation for 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men (21 gm and 30 gm respectively, if over 50 yrs.) reflects this amount due to energy differences, as does the World Health Organization’s recommendation for 27-40 grams per day. A high-fiber food is one that provides at least 20% of a woman’s need (5 grams) per serving as seen on the Nutrition Facts Panel.
Eating the USDA suggested servings of whole grains, beans/peas, vegetables and fruits can easily provide the necessary daily fiber. If you opt for a supplement, you may want to start with a small amount and increase over time as tolerance allows to the full directed dose. Be sure to drink plenty of water! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics adds that “few fiber supplements have been studied for physiological effectiveness, so the best advice is to consume fiber in foods.”
- Debbie J., MS, RD
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