Dietary fiber is the part of plant-based foods – beans, fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains – that your body does not fully digest, but that are nevertheless very good for your health. There are several types of dietary fiber, but they break down into two general categories: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance. Foods that have soluble fiber include:
- Apples (3-4 grams)
- Bananas (3 grams)
- Barley (32 grams / cup)
- Citrus fruit (3-4 grams)
- Lentils (8 grams / ½ cup)
- Oat bran (14 grams / ½ cup)
- Peas (3-4 grams / ½ cup)
- Pistachios (6.5 grams / ½ cup)
- Raspberries (8 grams / cup)
- Strawberries (3-4 grams / cup)
- Sunflower seeds (6 grams / ½ cup)
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, passes through the digestive system relatively intact. Foods that have insoluble fibers include:
- Beans (7-8 grams / ½ cup)
- Brussels sprouts (3.3 grams / cup)
- Carrots (3-4 grams / cup)
- Cauliflower (3-4 grams / ½ cup)
- Corn (2.4 grams / ear)
- Flaxseed (2 grams / Tbsp.)
- Kale (2.6 grams / cup)
- Spinach, cooked (2.4 grams / ½ cup)
- Squash (3-4g / ½ cup)
- Sweet potatoes (3-4 grams / medium potato)
- Wheat bran (12.5 grams / ½ cup)
Government guidelines recommend that men over 50 should get 28 grams of fiber per day and that women over 50 should get 22 grams per day. Unfortunately, few Americans consume the amount of dietary fiber they should. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that adults in this age group average only 16 grams of dietary fiber every day.
Fiber is Your Friend
Although dietary fiber receives some very well-deserved credit for keeping the digestive system in good order, it does so much more than that. Greg Bishop, an attorney in Park City, Utah, explains that a recent analysis concluded that there is a significant decrease in health-related risks when comparing those with high and low intake of fiber. That analysis was based on just under 135 million person-years of data from 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials. Specifically, the analysis noted that observational data suggested that a high-fiber diet results in a 15%-30% decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular-related deaths, and a similar decrease in coronary heart disease, stroke incidence (including death), type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. Moreover, clinical trials demonstrated significantly lower body weight, systolic blood pressure and total cholesterol when comparing higher with lower intakes of dietary fiber. Researchers noted that risk reduction associated with a range of critical outcomes were greatest when the daily consumption of dietary fiber was between 25 grams and 29 grams per day. Finally, a recent study in the Journals of Gerontology concluded that older adults who ate fiber-rich diets were 80% more likely to live longer and stay healthier than those who didn’t.
Despite the obvious health benefits of a high-fiber diet, older adults are sometimes reluctant to increase their intake of dietary fiber because of bloating and gas issues. Although the concern is warranted, the effects can be reduced by gradually increasing dietary fiber, allowing the cultivation of enzymes that are necessary so that the intestines are ready to handle the increased fiber. Attorney Greg Bishop suggests gradually increasing dietary fiber over time, with fiber consumption spread out across all meals. He explains that it is also important to increase your daily water intake to help your digestive system handle the increase in dietary fiber.
About Greg Bishop, Attorney | Greg Bishop is a Park City, Utah-based attorney, business executive, HR specialist, outdoors lover, and above all, a volunteer. He has extensive experience working with both domestic and international companies. He also spent seven years working very closely with the largest organization helping the homeless in Washington, D.C. He also has volunteered for an international organization that rescues child sex-trafficking victims.