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Nutrition Education: Fiber


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Fiber is an important part of a balanced diet. When coupled with a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, dietary fiber has been associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Fiber is a substance that is derived from plants and is not digested by the body. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers absorb water in the intestine and slow emptying time, extending the feeling of fullness. Insoluble fibers draw water into the intestine to speed emptying time, which may help prevent certain kinds of cancers.

The daily recommendation for fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. After age 50, your needs decrease to 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men. This information is located on the nutrition label and is categorized as dietary fiber. Remember to increase fiber intake slowly to avoid cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and gas. Also, drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation.

Importance of Fiber

  • Helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
  • Decreases cardiovascular risk.
  • Slows progression of cardiovascular disease for high-risk individuals.

Tips to Increase Fiber Intake

  • Choose whole grains like whole wheat or whole grain bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereal, and oatmeal.
  • Consume a variety of vegetables and fruits, especially dried fruits and those with skin.
  • Nuts and seeds can be added to salads to increase fiber.
  • Try to consume legumes 2-3 times per week.
  • Snack on popcorn, whole wheat crackers, pretzels, nuts, fruits, and vegetables which are higher in fiber.