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Teaching Nutrition: Background information about nutrition, the nutrients, and healthy eating habits

Fruits and high fiber foods.

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 some beans.

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 at:

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