From CBN: Fill’er Up…With Fiber by Beth Bence Reinke, MS, RD





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Keeping Healthy

Fill’er Up…With Fiber

By Beth Bence Reinke, MS, RD                 Guest Writer

       –            Does the phrase “dietary fiber” make you think of wood  pulp, bran cereal, and celery strings? Fiber-rich foods can be way more  appetizing than that: creamy oatmeal, crunchy popcorn, fresh fruit salad. High-fiber  foods not only taste good, they’re also major contributors to good health and  disease prevention.

What is Fiber?

                Fiber is the component of cell walls that gives plants their  shape and stiffness. Even though fiber is a type of carbohydrate, our bodies  cannot fully digest it, so it provides no calories. Cows have digestive enzymes  that can break down fiber, which is why they can survive on grass.

Two Kinds of Fiber

                There are two main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Most  plant foods contain both kinds in varied amounts. Since both types are indigestible,  they are not absorbed into the bloodstream, but stay in the digestive tract to  be excreted. Even though fiber cannot be used for energy or nutrition, both  types have unique functions.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and becomes gel-like during  digestion. It promotes proper absorption of nutrients by slowing digestion in  the stomach and intestines. Foods that contain soluble fiber include fruits,  oats, barley, dried beans and peas, nuts, seeds and some vegetables. Soluble  fibers like pectin, mucilage, or gum are added to some foods during  manufacturing.  

Insoluble fiber, often called roughage, does not dissolve in  water. It provides bulk to help move foods through the intestines. Insoluble  fiber is found in whole wheat products, fruit and vegetable skins, corn bran, seeds,  and nuts.

Health Benefits of  Fiber

                Fiber is good for digestion and bowel health and is often  used to treat constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Some food fibers  function as natural prebiotics in the colon, encouraging the growth of good  bacteria. Fiber helps prevent colon cancer by moving toxins through quickly and  by promoting a healthy intestinal pH level. 

Another benefit of fiber is its role in reducing the risk of  chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Soluble fiber  works against heart disease by binding with fatty acids in the intestines and  lowering blood cholesterol levels. It also plays a role in regulating blood  sugar. Fiber-rich foods can help with weight loss because they are usually  lower in fat and calories, plus the added bulk helps us feel full longer.

How Much Fiber do I  Need?

                The recommended intake for dietary fiber is 21-25 grams per  day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men. According to the American  Dietetic Association, most Americans get only about half the recommended  amount.

The nutrition label provides the total grams of fiber in a serving  of food. Don’t worry about whether you’re eating soluble or insoluble fiber.  Just try to consume more plant foods and you will boost both kinds.

When increasing your fiber intake, be sure to drink plenty  of liquids. Add more fiber to your diet gradually so your digestive system gets  used to it without side effects like gas and bloating.

What About Whole  Grains?

                The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans define a whole  grain as a food made from the entire grain seed, which consists of the bran,  germ, and endosperm. The word “wheat” or “multigrain” on  the label does not always mean whole grain. To get real whole grains, look for  “100% whole wheat,” “whole oats” or other whole grains as  the first or second ingredient.

The labeling has become more complicated with the advent of “whole  grain health claims” found on the front of food packages. An  “excellent” source of whole grains contains 16 grams of whole grain  per serving. A “good” source contains 8 grams of whole grain per  serving.

But here’s the tricky part: grams of whole grains are NOT  the same as grams of fiber. Your best bet for comparing the fiber content of food  products is to look at the grams of fiber on the nutrition panel. A  “high-fiber” food contains 5 grams of fiber (or more) per serving. A  “good” source of fiber contains 2.5-4.9 grams of fiber per serving.

Tips for Getting  Enough Fiber

                1) Eat several high-fiber foods at every meal.                 2) Snack on veggies, fruit, nuts, or popcorn.                 3) Use whole grain breads, whole wheat pastas, and brown  rice instead white.                 4) Eat beans a few times each week.                 5) Aim for at least 2 cups of fruit and 2-1/2 cups of  veggies each day.               6) Add oat bran, oatmeal, or wheat bran to muffins, bread,  meatloaf, casseroles, or sauces.

Sample menu: 25      grams fiber


Food Choice Grams Fiber
Breakfast: oatmeal,      1 cup cooked    4
  lowfat      milk, 1 cup        0
  whole      grain toast, 1 slice     3
  orange,      1 medium        3
Snack:    apple,      1 medium     3
Lunch:  1/2      turkey sandwich on whole wheat                 3
  banana,      1 small                                     2
  yogurt,      1 cup                                                  0
Dinner: chicken      breast      0
  brown      rice, 1 cup                                             3
  green      beans, 1 cup                                         4
Changing to this      dinner brings the day’s total to 32 grams fiber
Meal Food Choice Grams Fiber
Dinner: whole wheat      spaghetti, 1 cup                                                   6
  marinara sauce , 1 cup                            6
  meatballs, 2                                         0
  steamed      broccoli, 1/2 cup                                 2

              To recap, if you want to increase your fiber intake, a good  way to start is to check the grams of fiber per serving on the nutrition panel.  Substitute whole grains for their white counterparts and eat more fruits,  veggies, nuts, seeds, and beans. To get the maximum health benefits from different  antioxidants, eat a variety of high-fiber foods each day. That’s fiber in a  nutshell!


“Dietary Fiber: An Important Link in the Fight Against  Heart Disease.” American Dietetic Association nutrition factsheet, 2006.

Shanta-Retelny,   Victoria, RD. “The Whole  Story – Fiber, Whole Grains & Health.” Today’s Dietitian, February 2005.

Tsang, Gloria, RD. “Fiber 101: Soluble Fiber vs.  Insoluble Fiber.” November 2005. Web site.                 Accessed 12/20/08.

U.S.  Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005.  Available at Accessed 1/3/09.

Beth Bence ReinkeBeth Bence Reinke is a registered dietitian who writes about  food, nutrition, and health topics. She is a mom of two sons and the author of  numerous magazine articles for adults and children. Beth and her husband have  been CBN partners since 1998. Visit her at .




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One thought on “From CBN: Fill’er Up…With Fiber by Beth Bence Reinke, MS, RD

  1. […] From CBN: Fill’er Up…With Fiber by Beth Bence Reinke, MS, RD ( […]

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