What Is Dietary Fiber?
According to the Mayo Clinic, dietary fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that travel through your digestive system.2 Unlike macronutrients (carbs, fats and proteins) that are broken down by your body, fiber does not get digested. Instead, fiber helps food travel through your digestive tract. Foods high in fiber fulfill an important role by assisting with your digestive processes, even though dietary fiber is not digested itself.
Fiber is divided into two different types — soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and then forms a gelatinous substance as it goes through the digestive system, whereas insoluble fiber remains solid the entire time.2 Here are some benefits and examples of each.
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Enjoying a healthy diet that includes foods rich in soluble fiber could have the following benefits:2
- Feel more satisfied. According to the Mayo Clinic, foods high in fiber tend to be more filling than foods low in fiber. Try comparing an apple to a pack of fruit snacks.3-4 While their caloric content is similar, an apple is filled with fiber (over 4 grams!) which will digest slowly — compared to the fruit snacks that don’t contain any fiber and are packed with added sugar.
- Lower your “bad” cholesterol. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, known as the “bad” kind of cholesterol, can contribute to heart disease and other health conditions.5 Foods filled with soluble fiber can help reduce the absorption of cholesterol. The Mayo Clinic reports 5-10 grams of soluble fiber a day could help decrease your LDL levels – but more is recommended!6
- Regulate blood sugar levels. Foods rich in soluble fiber can also help regulate blood sugar levels since they tend to slow the absorption of sugar.2
Foods high in soluble fiber include:
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Insoluble fiber can also help you feel full, but it’s best known for keeping your digestive system working regularly.
Foods high in insoluble fiber include:
- Brown rice
- Whole grains
Recommended daily fiber intake
While everyone’s dietary needs differ, experts recommend getting the following amount of dietary fiber per day:7
- 25 grams for women
- 38 grams for men
It might seem like a lot, but it’s actually not too difficult to attain. You can get this amount of fiber by consuming about one cup of fruit and three cups of non-starchy vegetables a day. Veggies and fruits with the skin on them typically contain more fiber — so try your best to consume more whole foods rather than peeling or juicing them to get all of the beneficial fiber other nutrients.7
Snacking on high-fiber foods like fruits and veggies instead of chips or sweets can help you get to the recommended amount of fiber in no time.
5 ways fiber can boost your health and support weight loss
Your weight loss journey would be incomplete without plenty of fiber-rich foods. Here are a five reasons why adopting a high-fiber diet for weight loss could help you reach your goals and boost your overall health in the process.
#1. Healthy digestion
Digestive issues can be frustrating — especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Consuming a high-fiber diet helps support healthy digestion by bulking up your stool, ensuring that waste moves through your colon at a healthy pace.8 Just remember that for fiber to do its waste removal duties, you need to stay properly hydrated! Make sure you’re drinking an adequate amount of water and other non-caloric beverages throughout the day.8 Here are 10 tips to drink more water every day.
Certain fibrous foods also contain prebiotics (not to be confused with probiotics, which are found in things like yogurt and other dairy products). According to WebMD, prebiotics are special plant fibers that help the good kind of bacteria to grow in your gut.9 Research indicates that prebiotics can help reduce inflammation and symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).10
#2. Regulate blood sugar
Fiber has benefits beyond supporting healthy digestion. If you have Type 2 diabetes, a high-fiber meal plan might help control your blood sugar levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and may help to improve blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity.11,12
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#3. Stay full
High-fiber foods are, by nature, satisfying. They’re hearty and filling, and since they metabolize more slowly than low-fiber foods, they tend to help us feel full longer. Oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, apples, carrots and legumes like garbanzo beans and lentils are just some examples of high-fiber foods. Although these foods do not have magical fat-burning properties, they can help you feel full longer — which may help you avoid reaching for other foods that are less nutritious and may contribute to weight gain.
#4. Strengthen your bones
Bone density — the amount of calcium and minerals measured in a section of bone — decreases with age, which may lead to brittle bones that are easily broken.13 However, some types of soluble fiber may help postmenopausal women to increase their bone calcium retention, which could lead to better bone health.14
#5. Stay healthy overall
Making fiber an important part of your diet isn’t just helpful for weight loss — it may also lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, contributing to better health in the long run. A recent study found that people who followed a high-fiber diet were able to significantly reduce their risk of several cardiovascular risk factors.15 Plus, experts say that fiber may help to feed healthy bacteria in the gut, which help to create good-for-you fatty acids that could help control blood sugar.15
Fiber supplements — good or bad?
Supplements can be a helpful shortcut to get more fiber into your diet, but they shouldn’t replace fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Eating fresh and frozen produce is a more nutritious option. Experts suggest eating high-fiber foods in their natural forms to make the most of powerful vitamins and minerals.16 Try adding smaller portions of fruits, oats, chia or flax seeds, and larger portions of non-starchy veggies to your meals instead of taking fiber pills or supplements.
Fiber and Jenny Craig
Looking for more ways to add fiber to your diet while supporting your weight loss goals? Our menus and balanced meals are designed to meet fiber intake recommendations. While the amount of fiber in Jenny Craig entrées vary, each day is balanced with the addition of fruits and vegetables. Try these delicious meals that are good sources of fiber:
- Cauliflower Fried Rice with Chicken and Vegetables: 4g fiber, 19g protein, 10g fat, 200 calories
- Cheesy Chicken and Rice Bowl: 4g fiber, 19g protein, 10g fat, 250 calories
- Margherita Pizza: 4g fiber, 12g protein, 4.5g fat, 220 calories
- Pulled Pork with BBQ Sauce and Vegetables: 4g fiber, 19g protein, 11g fat, 270 calories
- Stuffed Green Bell Pepper: 4g fiber, 19g protein, 8g fat, 190 calories
- Thai-Style Curry with Cauliflower Rice: 4g fiber, 19g protein, 11g fat, 220 calories
Add more healthful fiber into your meals, all while supporting your weight loss goals with Jenny Craig. Get started today and have delicious, balanced meals delivered right to your door.
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple
Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and reviewed by certified professionals.
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