Fiber is an essential part of our diet. It plays a role in digestion, a healthy gut, and blood sugar control. What makes fiber different than other types of nutrients is that fiber is a type of carbohydrate our body cannot digest. Carbohydrates or “carbs” for short, are one of the main nutrients found in foods. Carbs also provide our body quick energy. Fiber is a type carb that does get absorbed in the blood stream. Fiber remains in the digestive tract and contributes to a healthy gut.
According to the American Diabetes Association, adult men need about 38 grams of fiber while adult women need about 25 grams of fiber. The amount of fiber recommended is based on the calories eaten. Men usually eat more calories than women, so it is recommended they eat more fiber. Fiber rich foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. The fiber content in foods can be found on a nutrition label and listed per serving. A medium apple contains about 4-5 grams of fiber and a slice of whole wheat bread contains about 2 grams of fiber.
There are 2 types of fiber, insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Both types work in different ways to improve digestion. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and can add bulk to our stool. This bulk improves movement throughout the intestines. It also keeps us feeling full for longer. Soluble fiber does dissolve in water. When this fiber dissolves in water a type of gel is formed. Foods with insoluble fiber include whole wheat foods, nuts, beans and cauliflower. Foods with soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, apples citrus fruits and barley.
Why is fiber Important for Diabetes Management?
Fiber is a type of carb that cannot be digested by the body. Since it is not digested, it does not contribute to blood sugar levels. The gel that is formed from soluble fiber slows absorption and digestion of nutrients. Because fiber slows digestion, blood sugar levels are less likely to spike.
Adding Fiber in your Diet
Fiber can be found in lots of foods including avocados, bananas, spinach, other dark leafy greens, bran cereals, oatmeal, lentils and beans, and broccoli. A good guide to maintain a diet rich in fiber is to remember to consume 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and making sure half of the grains you consume are whole grains. This will help with meeting the daily fiber needs.
UCSF. Why Fiber is So Good for You. [Cited 2020 May 27]. Available from: https://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/education/why_fiber_is_so_good_for_you/
ADA. Making Sense of Food Labels [Cited 2020 May 28]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org/nutrition/understanding-food-labels/making-sense-of-food-labels
Jessica Miller, RD, DE. Medtronic. The Role of Fiber in Diabetes Management. Posted 2015 November 5. [Cited 2020 May 27] Available from: https://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/loop-blog/role-fiber-diabetes-management/
Laura Ferguson. Tufts Nutrition. 10 Things You Need to Know About Fiber. Posted Winter 2019. [Cited 2020 June 5]. Available from: https://sites.tufts.edu/nutrition/winter-2019/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-fiber/