Let's take the mystery out of dietary fiber

Have you ever felt confused by terms like dietary fiber, soluble fiber, and insoluble fiber?

We are going to spend a few minutes discussing each of those terms and why they matter.

Dietary fiber comes from plants and grains that our body is unable to digest and or absorb. It passes through our stomach, small intestine, colon and out of our bodies pretty much intact.

Soluble and insoluble fiber make up dietary fiber. Soluble means that it dissolves in water. Insoluble means that is doesn't dissolve in water.

What are the benefits?

Soluble fiber forms a gel-like material that helps lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Studies show that this can aid in reducing blood pressure and inflammation, which helps keep our hearts healthy.

Soluble fiber also helps slow down the absorption of sugar. For individuals with diabetes this can help with blood sugar levels.

Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of waste materials through our digestive system.

It also helps increase stool bulk, which helps with constipation or irregular bowel movements.

This can help in preventing hemorrhoids and diverticular disease. Insoluble fiber has also been associated with reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Increasing the amount of fiber we consume aids in weight loss. Higher fiber foods generally require more chewing, causing us to eat more slowly and giving our brains time to recognize that we have eaten.

We may be less likely to overeat because high fiber foods usually make us feel fuller and stay fuller longer. High fiber foods also tend to be lower in calories.

How much fiber should a person eat?

The average person only consumes about 14 to 15 grams of fiber per day. The recommended daily allowance is:

• For children 1 to 3 years old, 19 grams of fiber per day.

• Children 4 to 8 years old, 25 grams.

• Boys 9 to 13 years old, 31 grams.

• Young men 14 to 50 years old, 38 grams.

• Men 51 to 70 years old, 30 grams.

• Girls and young women 9 to 18 years old, 26 grams.

• Women 19 to 50 years old, 25 grams.

• Pregnant or lactating women 14 to 50 years old, 28 to 29 grams.

• Women 51 to 70 years old, 21 grams of fiber per day.

What foods are high in fiber?

• Breakfast cereals that contain 5 grams or more of fiber per serving. Choose cereals with the words bran or fiber in their name.

• Whole grain breads that contain at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving. The first ingredient on the label should say whole-wheat flour or another type of whole grain.

• Brown or wild rice and whole wheat pastas.

• Fresh or frozen vegetables.

• Eat more beans, peas, lentils, black beans, and kidney beans. All of these can be added to salads, soups, or stews.

• Eat fresh fruit at every meal. Apples, bananas, oranges, pears and berries are good sources of fiber.