Feature Articles: Food, Fitness, and Eating Well
Fiber: Look to Fruits and Vegetables
Karma Metzgar, C.F.C.S. Former Northwest Regional Nutrition Specialist, Nodaway County Extension Center, University of Missouri Extension
We're supposed to eat 25 grams of fiber per day according to the
Nutrition Facts label for the 2,000-calorie level.
The average American consumes 12 grams. So there's some work
to be done here.
One thing to remember about fiber is it is only found in
plants. You can get plenty of fiber if you include whole
grain products (including oats and barley), fruits and
vegetables (especially eaten raw with the peel), and legumes
like beans, peas and lentils in your diet.
Although meat and poultry look fibrous and are sometimes
hard to chew, only plant foods contain fiber. It's the
protein in these foods that adds the texture.
There are two main types of dietary fiber: those that
dissolve in water which are soluble and those that do not
which are insoluble. They have different, but equally
important roles in maintaining good health. Dietary fiber
has preventive health benefits for many conditions,
including diverticular disease, colon cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
When we look to the food label for information, dietary
fiber is the term we see. The manufacturer may also list the
amount of insoluble fiber and soluble fiber.
How do you know when reading a label if the food is a good
source of fiber? Good sources of fiber contain 3 to less
than 5 grams of fiber or 10 to 19 percent of the Daily Value
for fiber. High sources of fiber contain 5 grams or more of
fiber which is 20 percent or more of the Daily Value.
When selecting food styles for fiber, the more highly
processed a food and the more "instant" its preparation, the
lower its fiber content. For example, one medium whole apple
with peel has 3.73 grams of fiber; without the peel, 2.09
grams; 1/2 (one-half) cup applesauce has 1.5 grams of fiber;
and 1 cup apple juice has .25 grams of fiber. (Source: USDA
Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 14).
Since fruits and vegetables are a major source of fiber - and
only occasionally have a label you can read - you might want
to explore the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory at
You have the ability to search by a food type for a specific
amount, or you can generate “huge” lists of foods either
arranged alphabetically or by content.
I like using the Nutrition Facts labeling, and focus on the
percent Daily Value for fiber. It’s fun searching for the
bread with the highest amount - or being set straight when you
think it’s high in fiber and it’s not! Read labels, compare
them, and select styles of food which give you the best
Your best fiber sources are from food. MyPyramid recommends
at least 3 ounces of whole grains consumed daily. Whole
grains, beans, fruits and vegetables are all good sources of
fiber. Adequate fiber intake may reduce your risk for heart
Just a word of caution - increase your fiber content gradually. Increasing fiber too rapidly can initially cause excess gas formation or diarrhea. Since water-insoluble fibers absorb water, it is also important to drink plenty of liquids along with increased dietary fiber intake. Include at least six, eight-ounce glasses of fluid each day. Also, try to spread high fiber foods out throughout the day, at meals and snacks.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009