Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate consisting of the
parts of a plant that cannot be digested. There are two categories
of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is dissolved
in water and may help control diabetes and lower blood pressure
in some people. Soluble fiber is found in some fruits, beans,
and oat bran. Insoluble fiber is not able to be dissolved
in water and therefore has different functions from soluble
fiber. Insoluble fiber helps move food through the digestive
tract. It aids in the prevention of colon and rectal cancer,
helps to control diverticulosis, and helps prevent constipation.
Diverticulosis is caused when bulging pockets form on the
intestinal wall and can become inflamed. Sources of insoluble
fiber are fruits, vegetables, wheat bran, whole wheat, and
Fiber has a number of functions in the digestive system:
- Because fiber cannot be absorbed, it essentially
contributes no calories to the diet. It can give a feeling
of fullness in the stomach, without adding extra calories.
- Fiber slows the emptying of food from the
small intestine. Because sugars in the food are not moving
through your digestive system so quickly, fiber has a positive
effect on blood glucose levels.
- Fiber can interfere with the absorption
of fats and cholesterol. By sweeping the fats out of the
body, fiber can help lower blood cholesterol levels.
Many types of beans (black, navy, kidney, pinto,
lima, etc.) are very high in fiber. Bran and shredded wheat
cereals are also good fiber sources. Many fruits and vegetables,
including sweet and plain potatoes, pears, peas, berries (raspberries,
blackberries), pumpkin, spinach, apples, bananas, oranges,
and broccoli, are good sources of fiber. Additionally, some
foods you might not expect – such as almonds, soybeans,
and tomato paste – also provide fiber to the diet.
The Dietary Reference Intake guidelines for fiber can be found