The Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber

health benefots of dietary fiberFruits, berries, vegetables, grains, nuts, even popcorn… these are among the foods that offer you a way to include fiber in your diet, an all-important component of healthy eating.

There has yet to be an official guideline as to how much fiber should be included in the daily diet. Nutrition experts have known for a long time that fiber has significant health benefits:

  • Fiber makes you feel full longer and can promote weight control by diminishing the appetite
  • Fiber helps food and waste move through the digestive system
  • Some forms of fiber can carry excess cholesterol out of the digestive system so it is eliminated rather than absorbed
  • Fiber helps the body regulate the level of blood glucose (blood sugar), especially important for diabetics

The recommended daily Adequate Intake (AI) levels for fiber:

  • Men over 50: 30 grams
  • Women over 50: 21 grams
  • Men under 50: 38 grams
  • Women under 50: 25

Using these guidelines, less that 5-percent of adults in the United States eat enough fiber. In one government study, the average daily intake of dietary fiber for all individuals was 15.2 grams, well below recommended levels.

Definition of Fiber

To help consumers understand the different types of fiber and their benefits, the Food and Nutrition Board has proposed special terms for fiber in food:

Total Fiber:
The combination of dietary fiber and functional fiber.

Dietary fiber
The non-digestible component of carbohydrates naturally found in plant food. This fiber carries food through the digestive system and can help give you the feeling of fullness.

Functional fibers:
Non-digestible fibers that act like dietary fiber, but can come from either natural or synthetic sources and are usually added. One example of a natural source of functional fiber is pectin, used in jams and jellies and extracted from citrus peel. An example of a synthetic fiber that can be added to food products is fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

Functional fibers have many health benefits. Some, like those found in oatmeal, pectin and gums, delay the passage of food from the stomach into the small intestine. This results in increased feelings of fullness. These fibers can reduce the rise in blood glucose levels after eating. They can also combine with cholesterol and dietary fat to help carry these substances out of the body, which can lower blood cholesterol levels.

Fiber Intake

It’s fairly easy to increase your fiber intake. Increase your fiber gradually over several weeks so your body has time to get used to the change. Make sure you drink enough non-caffeinated fluids as well.

Easy Ways to Put More Fiber in Your Diet:

  • Wheat or bran cereals instead of processed, sugary cereals
  • Dried fruit mixes (raisins, apricots) instead of candy or sugary snacks
  • 100-percent whole wheat bread instead of white bread
  • Brown rice instead of instant or polished rice
  • Fresh fruit instead of fruit juices
  • Popcorn and nuts instead of potato chips and pretzels
  • Non-peeled fruits instead of peeled fruits (eat the skin!)


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