March 2022

Dietary Fibers: Types and Tips for Eating More

Dietary fiber is important for overall health. Not only does it benefit digestion, but it’s also important for regulating blood sugar and cholesterol. It’s recommended that adults and children consume 25-30 grams of fiber daily, but most people in the US only get about 15 grams. So which ingredients qualify as “dietary fiber”? And how can you help your patients consume more?

The FDA has an established definition for what can be called “dietary fiber” on Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels – essentially saying that they must be naturally occurring, nondigestible carbohydrates obtained from plants that have beneficial effects in the body. There are currently 18 dietary fibers on the list, including the newcomer, gum arabic. Fiber can be water-soluble or -insoluble. Water-soluble fiber helps to lower both blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Gum arabic fits in this category, along with oatsbeta-glucansbarley, and others. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water – it helps the body digest food and improves bowel health. Insoluble fibers include wheat bran and rice bran.

So what foods should you recommend? Some foods may have more fiber than you think. In addition to obvious choices like oatmeal, whole wheat cereals, and grains, avocados are a great option – they’re rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. One avocado provides 9-10 grams. Almonds are also packed with insoluble fiber – ½ cup contains 7.5 grams. Other nuts like pistachios and hazelnuts contain similarly high amounts per serving. In general, encourage patients to choose whole foods that are naturally packed with dietary fiber over processed foods containing added fiber. Check out our resource on Fiber-Rich Common Foods for more ideas, and dive into our Isolated Dietary Fibers monographs to learn more about the benefits of different types of fibers.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.