Nutrition: Dietary fiber keeps us moving – Duluth News Tribune

Dietary fiber is an essential nutrient in a healthy diet, but its function is often misunderstood. Fiber is associated with several health benefits including weight management, gut health and reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.

Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. While it is not digested in the body, fiber does actually aid in digestion by helping waste move through the gut and out of your body. There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble:

  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like material. This helps to bulk up stools and can be especially beneficial when experiencing diarrhea. Soluble fiber also binds to cholesterol, which works to slow digestion. This can help to better control cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Examples of soluble fiber include oats, beans, lentils, apples, citrus fruits and berries.
  • insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps to promote regular movement through your digestive system, preventing constipation. Some examples of insoluble fiber include whole-grain products, nuts, seeds, raw vegetables and fruits with skins.

Beans, dried peas and lentils contain less water than fruits and vegetables, which makes them a more concentrated source of fiber.


Soluble and insoluble fiber together make up dietary fiber. Because the amount and type of fiber varies in different foods, it’s important to eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods as part of a healthy diet. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains have a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients, which adds to their nutritional value.

Daily recommendations for adults include about 21-25 grams per day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men.

When adding fiber to your diet, it’s important to slowly increase the amount of fiber you eat in a day to prevent any potential gastrointestinal discomfort such as bloating, cramping or gas.

Additionally, because fiber absorbs water in order to function effectively, too much fiber without enough water can also cause abdominal discomfort, nausea or constipation. Because of this, it’s important to consume an adequate amount of water when increasing fiber intake, try to aim for at least six to eight cups of water per day.

Suggestions for increasing fiber intake include adding more whole fruits and vegetables, choosing whole grain products instead of refined grains, eating a high-fiber food as a snack, or try adding beans or legumes to your diet a few times per week. There are several ways to work on increasing fiber intake, but the best way is to simply set a goal and stick to it.

Try this high-fiber recipe:

Makes 5 servings


  • red onion
  • large cucumber
  • cup fresh parsley or cilantro
  • 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • cup olive oil
  • cup red wine vinegar
  • teaspoon dried oregano
  • teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon pepper

Thinly slice the red onion and add to a large bowl. Quarter the cucumber, remove the seeds and dice, then add to the bowl with the red onion. Use a fork to remove the leaves from the parsley, then finely chop and add to the bowl. Add the chickpeas, kidney beans and cannellini beans to the bowl.
In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper, and whisk together. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well until evenly distributed.


Recipe from

Madeline Henke is a dietary intern at St. Luke’s.

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