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4.2: Benefits of Fiber

  • Page ID
    21118
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    Learning Objectives

    • Identify the health benefits of eating a diet high in fiber.

    Health Benefits of Fiber in the Diet

    Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains all contain fiber. Americans typically do not consume the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. Only 12.2% of adults meet the daily fruit recommendation; only 9.3% meet the daily vegetable recommendation1. The recommendation for grains is that at least 50% of the grains we eat should be whole grains. According to a recent National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief, Americans consume ~16% of their grains as whole grains2. However, research indicates that consuming higher amounts of dietary fiber decreases the risk for Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease3,4.

    Benefits of fiber include:

    • improved blood glucose control (fiber helps delay the absorption of glucose into the blood)
    • potential aid for weight control (fiber helps provide a feeling of fullness)
    • helps reduce blood cholesterol levels by delaying or blocking absorption of dietary cholesterol
      • When eating a high-fiber diet, fiber binds to the bile that is produced from cholesterol, resulting in relatively more cholesterol being excreted in the feces.
      • When a lower-fiber diet is consumed, less fiber (and thus less cholesterol) is bound to bile and excreted in the feces.
    • supports digestion and optimizes colon health by helping to prevent:
      • hemorrhoids, constipation, and other intestinal problems (keeps stool soft and moist, gives GI tract muscles “something to push on”)
      • colon cancer5 (fiber binds cancer-causing substances and speeds elimination from colon)
      • diverticulosis (bulging pockets that can form in the wall of the colon; see Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)) and diverticulitis (inflamed bulging pockets)

    Drawing of diverticula within the colon. Diverticula are bulging pockets within the wall of the colon.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Diverticulosis (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0LibreTexts An Introduction to Nutrition (Zimmerman))

    Most Americans eat only half the recommended amount of fiber. People interested in increasing their fiber intake can include more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes in their diet. Increasing fluid intake as you increase your fiber intake is also important to prevent constipation.

    Key Takeaways

    • Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contribute fiber to our diets.
    • Consuming higher amounts of fiber can benefit blood glucose control, weight management, heart health, and colon health.

    References

    1. Lee-Kwan SH, Moore LV, Blanck HM, Harris DM, Galuska D. Disparities in State-Specific Adult Fruit and Vegetable Consumption — United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:1241–1247. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6645a1.
    2. Ahluwalia N, Herrick KA, Terry AL, Hughes JP. Contribution of whole grains to total grains intake among adults aged 20 and over: United States, 2013–2016. NCHS Data Brief, no 341. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2019.
    3. Reynolds AN, Akerman AP, Mann J. Dietary fibre and whole grains in diabetes management: Systematic review and meta-analyses. PLoS Med. 2020;17(3):e1003053. Published 2020 Mar 6. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1003053.
    4. McRae MP. Dietary Fiber Is Beneficial for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses. J Chiropr Med. 2017;16(4):289-299. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2017.05.005.
    5. Gianfredi V, Salvatori T, Villarini M, Moretti M, Nucci D, Realdon S. Is dietary fibre truly protective against colon cancer? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2018;69(8):904-915. doi:10.1080/09637486.2018.1446917.

    4.2: Benefits of Fiber is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.