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What is fiber?

Fiber, found in plant foods, is a carbohydrate that cannot be fully broken down or absorbed within the body. Eating fiber helps keep you full for longer and regulates digestion. Fiber plays an important role in preventing constipation, cancer, and heart disease. Foods like whole grain breads, cereals, legumes, rice, pasta, fruit, and vegetables are great sources of fiber. There are two major types of dietary fiber, including soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

What foods are high in fiber?

Foods that are high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Natural sources of fiber are called dietary fibers. Fiber may also be isolated and added to foods when processed. These are called functional fibers. Functional fibers are added to foods that may not naturally contain fiber, such as baked goods, fruit spreads, candies, and even some beverages.

How much fiber should I consume per day?

It is recommended that women consume 25 grams of fiber and men consume 38 grams of fiber daily. You may also consider aiming to get 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you consume.

For those who may not be eating enough fiber, start slowly and increase your water intake as you increase your fiber intake. This will help prevent any uncomfortable side effects of increasing fiber very quickly and drastically.

What is soluble fiber? What is insoluble fiber?

Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance in the intestines. This gel-like substance decreases the absorption of fats and cholesterol, prevents large spikes in blood sugar, and can feed good bacteria in the gut through fermentation. Some foods high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, apples, kidney beans, and pears.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. This fiber helps to add bulk, which promotes regularity and helps prevent constipation. Examples of foods with insoluble fiber include corn, grapes, and green beans.

What is fiber good for?

Although fiber is considered indigestible, it is an incredibly important part of our diets. One of the more obvious benefits of fiber is that it helps keep us regular. Fiber also contributes to prevention and management of numerous health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, digestive issues, some forms of cancer, and it even helps with weight management.

Learn more about Fiber:

Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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