What is Fiber?

Dietary fiber is not considered a source of energy and cannot be broken down easily by our digestive enzymes. The fiber is found in the cell wall of plants, for the most part. In general, most plants contain a combination of fibers. Consuming the entire plant gives a balance of fibers and their nutrient constituents. The plants will contain both soluble (digestible) and insoluble (indigestible) forms of fiber. But, most plants contain soluble fibers as these pass through the gastrointestinal tract more easily. These fiber compounds exert the most beneficial effect:

Soluble Fiber:  oats, seeds, legumes, and pectins (apples, pears, citrus), whole grains, and potatoes.

These dissolve and break down in water. Think of soluble fiber as a sponge soaking up toxins and delaying the time it takes for your intestines to digest so food is released more gradually.  Think of soluble fiber for creating mucilage, a gel-like substance that can increase bulk in the stools and soothe the intestines.

Insoluble fiber:  wheat bran, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

Insoluble fiber is also known as roughage and does not dissolve in water or break down in your digestive system. It passes through the intestinal tract intact. It can sweep toxins and fecal matter through the colon.

The added benefit of consuming fiber rich foods is that these foods are also rich in nutrients.  Because of the fiber content, the nutrients have the time to get into the cells and be fully assimilated as they are being digested. We need a combination of both soluble and insoluble fibers each day. The recommendations for fiber intake are:  35 grams per day total of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

The Beneficial Effects of Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber has been well researched over the past few years, primarily because it was discovered that a deficiency in fiber could lead to cancer and diabetes. Some of the beneficial effects of fiber are the following:

  • Aids elimination through the bowel. •   Blood sugar stabilizer.
  • Increases satiety. •   Decreases cholesterol.
  • Increases stool weight. •   Absorbs toxins in the intestines.

At first, increasing fiber foods in the diet may cause flatulence in some individuals, because as complex carbohydrates are digested by bacteria in the intestine, methane gas is released.  Eating smaller amounts frequently helps to eliminate the problem.  Ginger, garlic, and fennel are “gas expellers” and can be eaten or drunk as tea with or after meals.

As one increases daily fiber, the gastric distress should go away and healthy bowel function should result.

Eat Your Fiber

The amount you have to eat to get the equivalent of 30 grams of fiber per day

Fruits Grams of fiber Fiber Amount to Get

30 grams of Fiber

Apples (medium) 3.5 8.6 apples

Bananas (medium) 2.4 12.5 bananas

Oranges (medium) 2.6 11.5 oranges

Peach with skin 1.9 15.7 peaches

Pear with skin 3.1 9.7 pears

Strawberries (1 cup) 3.0 10 cups of strawberries

Vegetables (Raw)

Tomatoes (medium) 1.5 20 tomatoes

Spinach (1 cup) 1.2 25 cups

Lettuce (1 cup) .9 33 cups

Cucumber (1 cup) .8 37.5 cups

Green Pepper (1 cup) 1.0 30 cups

Vegetables (Cooked)

Broccoli (1 cup) 4.4 6.8 cups

Carrots (1 cup) 4.6 6.5 cups

Corn (1 cup) 5.8 5.2 cups

Cauliflower (1 cup) 2.2 13.6 cups

Potato with skin (medium) 2.5 12 cups

Spinach (1 cup) 4.2 7.1 cups

Zucchini 3.6 8.3 cups

Legumes (Cooked)

Black beans (1 cup) 19.4 1.4 cups

Kidney beans (1 cup) 14.6 2.1 cups

Lima beans (1 cup)  9.0 3.3 cups

Lentils (1 cup)  7.4 4.1 cups

Navy beans (1 cup) 12.0 2.5 cups

Breakfast Cereals

All-bran (1 cup) 25.5 1.1 cups

Bran Chex (1 cup) 6.9 4.3 cups

Rice Bran (1 cup) 8.1 3.7 cups

Oatmeal (1 cup) 2.1 14.3 cups

Brown rice ( 1 cup) 5.5 5.7 cups

Source:  Michael T. Murray, N.D. Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure