Fiber is one of the most essential “nutrients” for a healthy diet. It may not supply vitamins, minerals or calories, but its effects on digestion, overall well being and the internal microorganisms within the colon are profound. Most people only eat half of the daily recommended amount with fewer than 5% meeting the Adequate Intake levels recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM, 2005).

Recommended Amounts:

14g/1000 kcal/day which equals about 19g/day for most children, 28g for most women, 35g for most men (IOM, 2005)

Major Sources

: Whole grains (e.g., whole wheat, corn, barley, rice, oats, quinoa, etc), beans and nuts, fruits and vegetables

Key Ways That Fiber Impacts Health and Nutrition:

1. Adds “bulk” without calories, may increase feelings of fullness and satiety, and decreasing “transit” time of food through the bowels when consumed with plenty of fluids. [Slavin 2013]
2. Reduces risk of heart disease by lowering reabsorption of dietary cholesterol, and reducing inflammation of the blood vessels. [Ma 2006)
3. Lowers risk of metabolic syndrome by reducing post-meal glucose and insulin levels, a known risk factor for heart disease. [Kellow 2013]
4. Reduces Inflammation, as measured by levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). Inflammation is associated with nearly all disease processes, including heart disease and some types of cancer. [MA, 2006]
5. Promotes digestive health by encouraging growth of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacilli, which produce highly beneficial short chain fatty acids associ- ated with a reduced risk of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease [Roberfroid 2010].

Tips to Include More Fiber in Your Diet

1. Start well. Whole grain or bran cereal topped with fresh fruit, or a slice of whole grain toast or bagel with peanut butter.
2. Switch it up. Try whole wheat pasta, tortillas and cereals, and use whole wheat bread or rolls for meals and sandwiches. Add a vegetable or bean soup to increase the fiber even more.
3. Make sides count by trying whole grain couscous, bulgur, pasta, tortillas, rolls or wheat berries instead of your usual side dish, or try adding beans or a whole grain to your favorite side salad.
4. Add it in by using whole wheat flour and bread crumbs in recipes, cooking with wheat kernels, bulgur, couscous, barley, or adding beans or whole wheat pasta to soups.
5. Snack on fiber by trying whole grain bars or cereals, whole wheat crackers with nut butters or hummus to boost fiber and fullness.

Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, Panel on Macronutrients. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients) Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; (2005).

Kellow NJ, Coughlan MT, Reid CM. Metabolic benefits of dietary prebiotics in human subjects: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Br J Nutr. 2014; 111(7):1147-61. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513003607. Epub 2013 Nov 13.

Lattimer JM, and Haub MD*, Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health. Nutrients. 2010; 2(12): 1266–1289. doi: 10.3390/nu2121266 [Ma Y. Association between dietary fiber and serum C-reactive protein. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006; 83(4): 760–766.

Roberfroid M, Prebiotic effects: metabolic and health benefits. Br J Nutr. 2010; Suppl 2:S1-63. doi: 10.1017/S0007114510003363

Slavin J, Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits, Nutrients. 2013; 5(4): 1417– 1435. Published online 2013 Apr 22. doi: 10.3390/nu5041417