A Good Carbohydrate!
Lael Agard, BS Nutrition & Dietetics Student
As the holidays are quickly approaching, many look forward to enjoying the delicious foods that are associated with them. Many of these comfort foods are carbohydrates. An important carbohydrate that is often overlooked is dietary fiber, which is considered a complex carbohydrate. There are two types of dietary fiber, both beneficial to one’s health: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance when dissolved in water. When soluble fiber is consumed, gastric emptying is slowed. This allows one to feel full sooner and helps regulate appetite . Since soluble fiber has the ability to reduce the absorption of fat and cholesterol, it is able to contribute to reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood . Likewise, soluble fiber can help regulate blood glucose levels by slowing digestion and the rate of absorption of various nutrients . Unlike soluble fiber, insoluble fiber does not dissolve when it comes in contact with water. Insoluble fiber mainly remains intact when passing through the digestive tract and leads to increased movement of food .
The average American person does not consume enough fiber on a daily basis and this is considered a “nutrient of public health concern” according to the Food and Drug Administration . The Recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber is about 25 grams for adult females and 38 grams for adult males . Based on a study that compared the nutritional quality of various types of diets, healthy vegetarian diets contain approximately 34 grams of fiber daily and vegans, about 41 grams of fiber daily .
The importance of fiber is often discussed because of its impact on gut microbiota. Dysbiosis is the term used when referring to an imbalance of the gut microbiota. Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, have all been directly associated with gut dysbiosis . It is believed that dietary fiber is able to alter the bacterial composition and metabolites derived from bacteria, which in turn, can change one’s metabolic regulation for the better .
Another common association that is made with fiber is its benefit to heart health. Based on a study that investigated how dietary fiber is beneficial for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, it is suggested that those who consume a high amount of dietary fiber are able to reduce their likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease as well as reduce mortality . This is likely because of reduced total serum and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations that are inversely related to intake of dietary fiber .
Type 2 diabetes is becoming more commonly diagnosed. With this disease on the rise, it is important to understand how to prevent and manage it. Studies show insulin resistance and the potential for developing type 2 diabetes may be reduced with diets that include a high cereal fiber intake [3,7].
There are many benefits to fiber. Adequate intake of dietary fiber has been associated with improving the risks of various diseases including cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes to name a few [1,3,7]. Many diets lack this important nutrient, but there are several ways to incorporate various foods that are good sources of dietary fiber in one’s diet. During this holiday season, think of ways to implement at least one high-fiber food at your holiday celebration and with leftovers. Listed below are some high fiber foods and ideas about how to incorporate them into your overall diet:
- Roasted Crunchy Lentils ® (available @ Whole Foods & Amazon) – snack, include in salads
- Nuts: as a snack, include in salads, ice cream, breads, entrees
- Fruit (with skin): as a snack, in salads, included in desserts
- Sweet Potatoes: baked, roasted with other vegetables
- High fiber charcuterie board: with whole grain crackers, nuts (almonds, pistachios, pecans, etc.) and fruit (raspberries, pears, etc.), artichoke hearts.
- Dried cranberries (low sugar): snack, include in salads, entrees and desserts
- Shredded carrots or zucchini: in casseroles, salads, breads
- Black beans: as a topping over salad or rice, as side dish
- Apple crisp: see recipe in Michiana Vegfest Recipe Page!
- Myhrstad MCW, Tunsjo H, Charnock C, Telle-Hansen VH. Dietary Fiber, Gut Microbiota, and Metabolic Regulation-Current Status in Human Randomized Trials. Nutrients. 2020;12(3):859. Published 2020 Mar 23.https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12030859
- McPae, M.C. Dietary fiber is beneficial for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: an umbrella review of meta-analyses. J Chiropr Med. 2017;16(4):289-299. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcm.2017.05.005
- Martin O Weickert, Andreas FH Pfeiffer, Impact of Dietary Fiber Consumption on Insulin Resistance and the Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes, The Journal of Nutrition, 2018;48(1):7–12, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxx008
- Recommended daily intake. Fiber Facts. https://www.fiberfacts.org/consumer-recommended-daily-intake/. Published September 14, 2018. Accessed October 8, 2021.
- FDA. Interactive nutrition facts label – dietary fiber https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/assets/InteractiveNFL_DietaryFiber_March2020.pdf. Accessed October 8, 2021.
- Clarys P, Deliens T, Huybrechts I, et al. Comparison of nutritional quality of the vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diet. Nutrients. 2014;6(3):1318-1332. Published 2014 Mar 24.https://doi.org/10.3390/nu6031318
- McRae MP. Dietary Fiber Intake and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses. J Chiropr Med. 2018;17(1):44-53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcm.2017.11.002
- Salleh SN, Fairus AAH, Zahary MN, Bhaskar Raj N, Mhd Jalil AM. Unravelling the Effects of Soluble Dietary Fibre Supplementation on Energy Intake and Perceived Satiety in Healthy Adults: Evidence from Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised-Controlled Trials. Foods. 2019;8(1):15. Published 2019 Jan 6. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8010015