Fiber: Carbs with Extra Benefits!

Fiber: Carbs with Extra Benefits

What Is Fiber?

Fiber is often described as “roughage” or “nature’s laxative” and is known to help certain gastrointestinal issues like constipation. However, there’s way more to the story, as is often the case with nutrition science! Fiber in our diet is referred to as non-digestible components of carbohydrate foods (animal foods have minimal fiber) such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Fiber isn’t broken down and absorbed by the GI tract. It passes through undigested and for the most part intact by the time it reaches the colon (the large intestine). That’s where the fiber party starts!

Soluble Fiber

There are different types of fiber, and each has specific beneficial purposes. Most whole foods as mentioned above have two main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, otherwise known as viscous or gel-type fiber, is found inside the plant cell walls and is commonly eaten in nourishing foods such as oatmeal, beans, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. We can also get soluble fiber from a psyllium fiber supplement such as Metamucil. Soluble fiber can help manage cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar levels, and increase feelings of fullness. Soluble fiber is fermented in the colon to produce another wonderfully protective by-product: short-chain fatty acids, which are used by the cells lining the colon for fuel and strengthening the gut barrier to help prevent translocation of bad bacteria into our bloodstream (an important part of our immune system). Fiber-rich foods are not only great for our gut, but are thought to be protective of our kidneys, liver, heart, and even our lungs. That’s why I often refer to fiber-rich foods as “carbs with extra benefits”!

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber is the “roughage” we often think about that’s found in fiber cereals such as All Bran and Fiber One. It’s also in the skins, peels, and cell walls of plants, which adds to the bulk and weight of our stools. Insoluble fiber can be helpful in stimulating bowel movements and decreasing what is known as “transit time” (how quickly food moves through our intestinal tract). However, fiber doesn’t do everything on its own. Good hydration habits, eating patterns, and other aspects of a healthful lifestyle like getting regular activity and rest also impact our gut and general health. Some conditions that affect the gastrointestinal tract like gastroparesis, malnutrition, erratic eating, and the use of pain medications can be reasons to limit fiber intake. In these cases, too much fiber can actually aggravate constipation and cause significant distress, or even an intestinal blockage.

How to Add More Fiber to Your Diet

For most of us, however, adding more fiber-rich foods can benefit our health and does not need to be costly or complicated. Small changes and additions can make a difference over time. Adding more fiber-rich foods to our diet provides extra benefits of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and other protective components. In general, fiber intake recommendations are 30-40 grams/day.

Here’s a sample meal plan with some variations and options to help you get started:

Breakfast Ideas

  • Old fashioned oats (made with milk of choice for more protein and calcium) topped with slivered almonds (or other nuts) and fresh or frozen berries
  • 100% whole wheat toast with peanut butter (or other nut butter) and fresh fruit
  • Veggie omelet with spinach, peppers, broccoli, and cheese
  • Chia pudding

Snack Ideas

  • Sliced peppers with hummus
  • 2-3 Wasa or Ryvita (or other whole grain) crackers with cheese and avocado
  • 1 cup of yogurt topped with high-fiber cereal
  • Fresh or frozen fruit with a handful of unsalted nuts (the simple carbs in fruit will raise glucose levels, so be sure to watch the amount)
  • Roasted chickpeas

Lunch Ideas

  • Greek salad with chicken
  • Sandwich on 100% whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, and avocado
  • Bean quesadilla with avocado, salsa, and diced peppers
  • Vegetable bean soup with whole grain crackers
  • Mexican burrito bowl with cauliflower rice

Dinner Ideas

  • Grilled meat, fish, or chicken with brown rice or quinoa and fresh or frozen vegetables, or a green salad with a drizzle of dressing of choice
  • Whole wheat pasta (or one of the lower carb pastas like these) with marinara sauce and sliced mushrooms
  • Spinach, mushroom, and cheese omelet with a side of steamed/microwaved edamame beans
  • Spinach salad with strawberries, feta, and walnuts
  • Beef and lentil stew

Evening Snack Ideas

  • Popcorn (preferably lower sodium) seasoned with a light sprinkling of Parmesan or other grated cheese
  • Fresh or frozen fruit topped with plain yogurt (or lower-sugar yogurt) and sliced almonds (the simple carbs in fruit will raise glucose levels, so be careful of portion size)
  • Air fryer kale chips
  • Peanut butter protein balls with oats and flaxseeds

Things to Remember

Keep in mind that everyone’s nutritional needs are unique, and for specific personalized nutrition guidelines, seek out the advice of a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and/or Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. We consider many factors that impact your health including nutritional goals, blood glucose patterns, medical conditions and history, medications, culture, budget, ability or interest in cooking, food access, and of course the pleasure and joy of eating…a critical part of nutrition! Have fun with your fiber! Remember, there’s no one perfect way to eat, and our needs and health goals change over time.



  1. Avatar

    Best breakfast for managing post-meal hyperglycemia seems to be nut butter on whole grain toast. Oatmeal with milk and berries tends to bust my post-breakfast blood glucose. The latter may actually work better later in the day.

  2. Avatar

    Yougrt has a lot of carbs unless it Greek.

    • It definitely can, but there are some good low/lower carb yogurts on the market now that offer good alternatives.

  3. what are the names of the alternative yogurts that have low carbs?

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