Benefits of a Fiber Rich Diet

pinto beansBy Lyja Levas

Fiber is an important part of a health diet that most Americans are missing. The quality of food, is as important as the quantity when it comes to the health benefits of fiber. A diet of high-fiber food sources help control both weight and blood sugar levels. Because fiber cannot be digested, it does not raise blood sugar, and that is a good thing. It takes the intestines longer to digest fiber-rich foods, and that slows the release of glucose into a person’s bloodstream.  Many high-fiber foods have naturally low sugar, fat and calorie totals as well, which help a person maintain a healthy weight.

Despite having so many health benefits, the average American adult consumes only 15 grams of fiber a day. This is way off the mark of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations that women get a minimum of 25 grams of fiber and men 38 grams. These amounts are linked to research that show that these levels reduce risk of heart disease and diabetes.

There are two types of fiber that offer different health benefits. Soluble fiber absorbs water and bulks up in a person’s stomach. It promotes that feeling of fullness which is helpful with weight loss. Fiber also absorbs cholesterol, thus can lower a person’s total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber can be found in foods like apples, beans, blueberries, lentils, nuts and oatmeal.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve easily in water. Often referred to as roughage, it acts like a broom and “sweeps” food along the digestive tract and reduces the risk of colon cancer and other diseases. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.

A person should eat both types of fiber. Most plant-based foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber but since the amount can vary in different plant foods, eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains that are high in total fiber is best.

Ready to add more fiber to your diet? Great – but remember adding too much fiber too quickly can also have side effects, like bloating, constipation and gas. Gradually increasing fiber consumption will allow the natural bacteria in a person’s digestive system to adjust to the change. Drinking several glasses of water daily is also highly recommended, as fiber works best when it absorbs water.

Recommended daily fiber intake: 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men
A food considered “high in fiber” must have at least 5 grams per serving
A “good” source of fiber has 2.5-4.9 grams per serving.

Food                                  Serving Size            Total Fiber (grams)
Apple, with skin                   1 med                               4.2
Pear, Bartlett                       1 med                                4
Blueberries                         1/2 cup                             3.8
Raspberries                          1 cup                              3.3
Prunes, dried                      4 each                              3.1

Peas, cooked                   1/2 cup                             4.4
Potato with skin, baked    1 med                               4.4
Artichoke hearts              1/2 cup                               4
Edamame, shelled           1/2 cup                               4
Brussel sprouts, cooked  1/2 cup                             3.6

Barley, cooked                 1/2 cup                             3
Oat bran, cooked             1/2 cup                            2.8
Whole wheat bread          1 slice                             2.2
Brown rice                       1/2 cup                           1.8
White rice                        1/2 cup                             0

Beans (Cooked)
Pinto beans                      1/2 cup                          10.3
Kidney beans                   1/2 cup                            8.2
Black beans                     1/2 cup                            7.7
Garbanzo beans              1/2 cup                            6.2
Lentils                               1/2 cup                            5.2

Nuts and seeds
Almonds                        1/4 cup                              3.9
Peanuts, dry roasted    1/4 cup                              2.9
Sunflower seeds           1/4 cup                              2.2

Breakfast cereal
Fiber One                      1/2 cup                             13
Total Raisin Bran           1 cup                                 6
Bran flakes                   2/3 cup                              4.3
Oatmeal, cooked          1 cup                                  4


Dreisbach, Shaun. (2016, March/April). You need this. Eating Well, pp. 100-106

Dreisbach, S. (2016, March/April). You need this. Eating Well, 100- 103
Health Newsletter (2016, February 29). How to get more fiber if you have diabetes.,,20188703,00.html

Mayo Clinic. (2015, September). Dietary Fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.

Livestrong (2015, August 12). High Fiber Foods for a Diabetic

World Health Organization (2015, March). World Health Day 2016: Beat Diabetes

About the Author

As the Group Exercise Coordinator for BaySport, Lyja provides support to the group exercise instructors, on-site managers and client liaisons. She joined BaySport over 10 years ago as a group exercise instructor, and still enjoys teaching classes today.

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