Fiber important component of diet

Fiber important component of diet Food fads come and go, but the importance of a well balanced diet never goes out of style.

One of the important components of that diet is fiber, said Carol Pitts, Extension nutrition and food safety specialist at South Dakota State University.

"Too few Americans consume adequate amounts of fiber. We can decrease the risk of certain diseases if we consume the recommended dietary intake of 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day," reported Pitts.

Ailments that fiber can potentially decrease risk for are colon cancer, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, diverticulosis, constipation, hypertension, obesity, gallstone formation and growth of pathogen organisms in the large intestine, she said.

A fiber increase also aids weight control.

"High fiber foods usually don't just slide down. A diet of 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day can help a person feel more full, stop eating when they are full and help with their appetite control," said Pitts.

Two types of fiber exist and both have very different functions in the body. Soluble fiber is found in fruits and a few cereals, especially oats and barley.

"It's the type of fiber we look to when we look at heart disease and decreasing blood cholesterol levels," she said.

Insoluble fiber is found in cereal, fruits, vegetables and is important for regularity and overall health.

Another good source of fiber are legumes, such as kidney beans.

Eating a combination of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber helps maintain a healthy population of bacteria in the large intestine. This means consuming a variety of foods is very important.

"Whole grain cereals and breads, anything from raisin bran to whole grain bread to even white bread that has fiber added, can increase our daily fiber intake," said Pitts.

Combining favorite low-fiber foods with high-fiber foods is one way to keep those favorites in the diet.

"Sometimes people have particular cereals they enjoy that don't have a lot of fiber. To get around this, you can have a whole-fiber cereal along with a lower fiber cereal or use a small amount of your regular cereal and eat a serving of the high-fiber one later," said Pitts.

The new food label, which has been out for several years, lists the grams of dietary fiber per serving in the particular food product. Pitts said that is an important tool for figuring out how much dietary fiber one is consuming per day.

Baking quick-breads or muffins using whole grain cereals is another way to integrate fiber into the diet. "Bran muffins are an excellent source of fiber and something families or children may accept more quickly than cereal or bread," said Pitts.

One should consider a full-fiber diet rather than taking all of the daily recommended fiber at one time, such as at breakfast.

Fiber is the indigestible part of plants. It may be mechanically broken down somewhat, but it is not absorbed by the body, but continues on through and is eventually eliminated, she said.

It's important, if one is not already consuming fiber, to gradually increase the intake of fiber so minor problems, including stomach or intestinal discomfort, do not occur.

"Thinking about fiber, not only as part of a healthy diet, but also as potentially decreasing risk of diseases can help people remember to include it into their daily diet," said Pitts.

For more information on fiber or other food safety or nutrition issues, contact your local Extension educator, a local healthcare professional, or Carol Pitts, 605-688-6233 or

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