Eat more fiber! A prescription for weight management and disease prevention

A fiber-rich diet supports weight management and also aids in disease prevention. Chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease and digestive disorders all call for fiber-rich diets.

April 6, 2016 - Author: Pam Daniels,

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, fiber is a substance in plants and dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that you eat. You may see fiber listed on a food label as soluble or insoluble fiber. Both types have important health benefits. To most of us, fiber is simply viewed as foods which bulks-up, or swells when we eat them. As our bodies digest the fiber it absorbs moisture and waste along the digestion track. 

Major contributors of fiber in our food supply are grain products, vegetables, legumes and potatoes. Certain fruits are high in fiber too, like avocados, oranges, kiwi and mangos, as are nuts and soy.

Fiber can be associated with side effects such as bloating or gas. Rather than avoiding fiber due to these side effects, look for high fiber foods that do not cause bloating or gas. Apples, tomatoes and dark green vegetables generally don’t lend to bloating or excess gas. 

What makes fiber healthy?

Incorporating the recommended daily allowance of fiber into our diet is beneficial to our health. According to the Mayo Clinic, as a guideline, if you are 50 years old or younger, men should strive for 38 grams of fiber per day and women should strive for 25 grams of fiber per day. For those 50 years and older, the recommendation for men is 30 grams and women 21 grams of fiber per day. 

A fiber-rich diet supports weight management and also aids in disease prevention. Chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease and digestive disorders all call for fiber-rich diets. 

Additional benefits of fiber include:

  • Fiber aids in maintaining healthy bowel function. One of the most important health habits to maintain is healthy bowel function. Eating fiber regularly or taking fiber supplements as prescribed by your doctor keeps bowel function regular, avoiding constipation and hemorrhoids.
  • Fiber gives the body a feeling of fullness. This is very important in weight management. When we feel full we are more able to better control our appetite and snack less between meals.
  • Fiber-rich foods help control blood glucose levels while supplying our bodies with energy. This is particularly important for individuals with pre-diabetes or diabetes since managing blood glucose levels helps to avoid both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.
  • Soluble fiber (dissolves in water to form a gel-like material) can help lower blood cholesterol a major contributor to heart and liver disease.
  • Including more fiber-rich foods at meals and snacks means eating less empty calories.
  • Hydration plus a fiber-rich diet is the perfect duo for weight management success.

Look for fiber on food labels

Knowing how to read food labels is an important part of good weight management. Reading food labels allows you to identify food products highest in dietary fiber. Most people typically do not get enough dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron in their diets. When reading food labels look for foods high in fiber. If a food label states “high fiber,” the product must have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. 

Ask your healthcare provider about the benefits of fiber-rich foods and supplements to aid in weight management and chronic disease prevention. For more information on health and disease prevention visit Michigan State University Extension.

Tags: chronic disease, diabetes, food & health, msu extension, weight management

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