Appointments

866.320.4573

Submit a Form

Questions

800.223.2273

Submit a Form

Live Chat Hours: 9:00a.m.-3:00p.m., M-F EST

Expand Content

The Fiber Lifestyle

Food fibers are the part of plant foods that are not digested when eaten. Some types of fiber might have a cholesterol-lowering effect, which could lead to reduced risk of heart disease. Fiber might also help reduce the incidence of certain types of cancer, especially those associated with the digestive tract, and might be helpful in controlling diabetes. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.

Insoluble fibers: cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin

These types of fibers are often referred to as "roughage." Foods that contain insoluble fibers include wheat bran, whole grain products, and vegetables. Insoluble fibers help to promote regularity by keeping things moving through your digestive tract.

Soluble fibers

These fibers form gels in water, helping promote a softer stool. There are three types of soluble fibers: gums, pectins, and mucilages.

When eaten, soluble fiber sources slow the passage of food through the digestive system. Some researchers believe this action helps to regulate cholesterol and glucose (sugar) levels in the blood by affecting absorption rates. Food sources of soluble fibers are dried beans, oats, barley, and some fruits and vegetables.

The National Academy of Sciences recommends Americans eat 21 to 38 grams of fiber each day. Two out of three Americans eat 15 grams of fiber a day or less.

Fiber grams are included as part of the Nutrition Facts on food labels. They are listed under "Total Carbohydrates."

There are many sources of high fiber foods. Some examples include:

Whole grains

Whole grain foods contain all three parts of the grain: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Common whole grains include whole wheat, whole rolled oats, wild rice, brown rice, pearl barley, and popcorn.

When shopping, look for food items that list "whole grain" as the first ingredient. Look for breads with at least two grams of fiber per serving and cereals with at least five grams of fiber per serving.

Less common whole grains include: amaranth, buckwheat, bulgur, kamut, millet, quinoa, spelt, whole grain cornmeal (not de-germed), and whole rye. "Pumpernickel" is not a whole grain. It refers to a dark bread made from rye and wheat flours, not   usually whole grain flours. "Multi-grain" and "stone ground" might also be refined and not whole grains.

Fruits and vegetables

Set a minimum goal of two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables per day.

Legumes

Aside from their fiber content, legumes are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and protein. Examples of legumes are: lentils, split peas, red and white kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, black-eyed peas, chick peas or garbanzo beans. Try for 3 cups of legumes/week.

Nuts and seeds

While a good source of fiber, they are high in calories and fats, and should be eaten sparingly. Try 2 tablespoons as a serving size to limit the calories.

Insoluble

Cellulose
  • Whole-wheat flour
  • Bran
  • Cabbage family
  • Dried peas/beans
  • Apples
  • Root vegetables
Hemicellulose
  • Bran
  • Cereals
  • Whole grains
Lignin
  • Mature vegetables
  • Wheat

Soluble

Pectin
  • Apples
  • Citrus fruits
  • Strawberries
Gums
  • Oatmeal
  • Dried beans
  • Other legumes

Following is a list of foods that can help you achieve your quota of daily fiber:

  • ¾ cup raisin bran (5 grams)
  • 1 red apple (3 grams)
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (3.2 grams)
  • lettuce and tomato garnish (.5 grams)
  • 1 cup air-popped popcorn (1.3 grams)
  • 1 cup spinach salad (1.4 grams)
  • 1 pear (4.3 grams)
  • 1 cup cooked long-grain brown rice (3.3 grams)
  • 1 cup cooked carrots (3 grams)
  • 1 kiwi fruit (3.1 grams)
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal (4 grams)
  • ½ cup navy beans (5.8 grams)
  • 1 cup broccoli (5.5 grams)
  • 1 cup strawberries (3 grams)
  • 1 cup blueberries (4 grams)

For further help in planning a high fiber style of eating, make an appointment with a registered dietitian, a nutrition expert.

Inside the USDA’s New Food Pyramid

For more information, go to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, www.mypyramid.gov, or speak to a registered dietitian.

© Copyright 1995-2010 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/28/2010...#12269