Types of Dietary Fiber The Food and Nutrition Board

Types of Dietary Fiber The Food and Nutrition Board

Has defined the following types of fiber:

• Dietary fiber is the nondigestible carbohydrates (and the noncarbohydrate substance lignin) that are present naturally in plants such as grains, legumes, and vegetables.

• Functional fiber is any nondigestible carbohydrate that has been either isolated from natural sources or synthesized in a lab and then added to a food product or supplement.

• Total fiber is the sum of dietary and functional fiber in a person’s diet.

Fibers have different properties that lead to different physiological effects in the body. Soluble (viscous) fiber such as that found in oat bran or legumes can delay stomach emptying, slow the movement of glucose into the blood after eating, and reduce absorption of cholesterol. Insoluble fiber, such as that found in wheat bran or psyllium seed, increases fecal bulk and helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, and other digestive disorders.

A high-fiber diet can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and pulmonary disease, as well as improve gastrointestinal health and aid in the management of metabolic syndrome and body weight. Some studies have linked high-fiber diets with a reduced risk of colon and rectal cancer. Other studies have suggested that other characteristics of diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may be responsible for this reduction in risk.

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Sources of Fiber All plant foods contain some dietary fiber. Fruits, legumes, oats (especially oat bran), and barley all contain the viscous types of fiber that help lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Wheat (especially wheat bran), cereals, grains, and vegetables are all good sources of cellulose and other fibers that help prevent constipation. Psyllium, which is often added to cereals or used in fiber supplements and laxatives, improves intestinal health and

Dietary fiber Nondigestible carbohydrates and TERMS lignin that are intact in plants.

Functional fiber Nondigestible carbohydrates either isolated from natural sources or synthesized; these may be added to foods and dietary supplements.

Total fiber The total amount of dietary fiber and functional fiber in the diet.

Soluble (viscous) fiber Fiber that dissolves in water or is broken down by bacteria in the large intestine.

Insoluble fiber Fiber that does not dissolve in water and is not broken down by bacteria in the large intestine.

Vitamins Carbon-containing substances needed in small amounts to help promote and regulate chemical reactions and processes in the body.

Antioxidant A substance that protects against the breakdown of food or body constituents by free radicals; antioxidants’ actions include binding oxygen, donating electrons to free radicals, and repairing damage to molecules.

Also helps control glucose and cholesterol levels. The processing of packaged foods can remove fiber, so it’s important to depend on fresh fruits and vegetables and foods made from whole grains as your main sources of fiber.

Recommended Fiber Intake To reduce the risk of chronic disease and maintain intestinal health, the Food and Nutrition Board recommends a daily fiber intake of 38 grams for adult men and 25 grams for adult women. Americans currently consume about half this amount. Fiber should come from foods, not supplements, which should be used only under medical supervision. Drink plenty of water, at least 8 cups daily, to get the most health benefits from the fiber you consume.

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