“Eat more fiber!” You hear it all the time, so you know that getting enough fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. But for people with diabetes, fiber is especially powerful. Not only can fiber help you manage your weight (by helping you stay full), but it also has a beneficial impact on your blood glucose levels.
How Does Fiber Help Improve My Blood Sugar?
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber—found in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains—keeps your digestive tract running smoothly. Soluble fiber—found in oatmeal, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and peas—may help lower your cholesterol and improve blood glucose control. (Sick of oatmeal? Give these otherhigh-fiber breakfast staples a try.)
Fiber is a carbohydrate, but unlike sugars and starches, it’s not easily digested the body. As soluble fiber moves through your intestines, it mixes with water and forms a gel-like substance, which prevents macronutrient (read: carb) absorption. This slows down digestion which helps moderate how much sugar is going into the blood.
Bonus: Since the fiber in your whole wheat bread passes through undigested, you can actually subtract those fiber grams listed from the total carb count you see on the nutrition label. Cha-ching!
How Much Fiber Should I Eat?
One University of Texas study showed that people with diabetes who ate 50 grams of (mostly soluble) fiber a day were able to control their blood glucose better than those who ate about 24 grams. While that’s a great number to aim for, most Americans only eat about half the daily recommended amount for adults—which is 20 to 35 grams per day—and upping your fiber intake too rapidly could give you some digestive troubles. “When you’re looking to add fiber to your diet, you don’t want to add it all at once because that can be uncomfortable,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, a nutritionist and cookbook author in New York City. Slowly incorporate fiber into each meal, like eating a piece of fruit with breakfast, or swapping in one of those whole grain options instead of white rice or pasta. With more fiber in your diet, you also need to make sure you’re drinking enough water to help your body flush out your system (a.k.a., to avoid constipation).
Now that you’ve tackled fiber, arm yourself with these other key rules for eating well with diabetes.