Dietary fiber is a component of edible plant material that cannot be digested in the body. Fiber is generally identified as soluble (can be dissolved in water) or insoluble (cannot be dissolved in water). Soluble fibers have been shown to decrease blood glucose and cholesterol levels whereas insoluble fibers are great for regulating movement of food through the digestive tract and satiety. Many studies have been conducted to identify the protective effects that fiber can have, and there are 5 primary associations that have been identified:
- High fiber intake is associated with lower blood cholesterol.
- Soluble fiber may decrease blood sugar levels by trapping excess glucose in the soluble material during digestion.
- Increased fiber intake has been shown to decrease the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD). This is thought to occur because of the positive effects fiber has on blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
- High fiber intake may help reduce the risk of having a stroke. As previously noted, fiber intake can help lower cholesterol which can increase the risk of a person experiencing a stroke. Fiber has also been shown to help manage weight; those who are overweight may be at increased risk of stroke.
- While the mechanism has yet to be discovered, fiber intake has been shown to decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension.
For those under the age of 50, the recommended daily intake of fiber is 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women. For those over the age of 50, the recommended daily intake drops to 30 and 21 grams per day for men and women respectively. Fiber is primarily found in legumes, whole grains and oats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Studies have shown that even an increase of 7 grams of fiber per day can decrease the risk of developing CVD by 9%. While there is still more research that needs to be conducted, it is evident that increasing fiber intake does play a beneficial role in preventing disease and reducing risk factors. Therefore, fiber should be incorporated into the diet as often as possible.
Fiber. (2019, September 9). Retrieved from https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/fiber.
Routhenstien, M. (2019, October). Fiber and Heart Health. Today’s Dietitian.