If you have diabetes, here’s why you should fiber up.
“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 other high-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.
Sandra Arevalo is a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and director of nutrition services and community outreach at South Bronx Health Center.Frances Largeman-Roth
Frances Largeman-Roth is a nutritionist and cookbook author in New York City.
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Fiber is very important to include in
the diet of a person with diabetes.
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And, I will say everybody.
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Not just because you have
diabetes you need to have fiber,
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everybody needs to have fiber.
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But, it's important because it
helps to lower your blood glucose,
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it helps to reduce weight,
if that's one of your goals.
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So it gives you so many benefits that it's
definitely important that you include it
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all the time in your meals.
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Some examples of high-fiber
foods are definitely vegetables.
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Other foods that have fiber are,
for example, popcorn.
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Not the one that come with the butter
though, the one that you make at home.
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Fruits, for example, and
all whole grain products,
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like the brown rice,
the whole wheat pasta,
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whole wheat bread, quinoa, for example.
If you have diabetes,
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I want to tell you about pulses.
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So if some people don't know what
a pulse is other than [LAUGH]
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what's here on their wrist.
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But pulses include lentils,
garbanzo beans, and other beans,
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and also dried peas.
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So not fresh peas but dried peas.
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And these foods have a very
unique combination of protein,
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carbohydrates that are slow burning.
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And several studies have shown that
if you increase your intake of pulses
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it can actually really help you
control your blood sugar levels.
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So many foods that give you more fiber
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is gonna help you with your
digestive system as well.
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As we start changing the diet and
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we start introducing more fiber into
the diet, they find a relief on that.
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They can go to the bathroom easier, they
have more frequent bowl movements that
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are softer, and it's because of the fiber.
When you're looking at adding fiber to
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the diet, you don't wanna add it all at
once, because that can be uncomfortable.
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And also with more fiber,
you need more water.
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So you also need to get in the habit
of drinking more water but
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add fiber throughout the day.
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Don't think that you're gonna have some
mega salad at the end of the day and
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pack it all in.
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Start with breakfast and
add some whole grain cereal, some fruit,
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berries are fantastic for diabetics
because they're actually low glycemic.
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And then maybe for a snack you're gonna
have another piece of fruit with a cheese
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stick to also help mitigate
the rise in your blood sugar.
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Lunch time could be like a brown rice bowl
with some lean protein and vegetables.
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And then, another whole grain
snack in the afternoon.
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And then, at dinner, quinoa with
chicken and a side of broccoli.
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If we have diabetes, you really need the
same amount of fiber as everybody else,
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20 to 35 grams a day, but it's really
essential for controlling blood glucose.
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So for the rest of us folks out here
who are not getting enough fiber,
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that's not great.
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But if you have diabetes, you really do
wanna work on getting enough everyday.
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Soluble fiber vs. insoluble fiber. Bethesda, MD. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus, 2017. (Accessed on April 10, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002136.htm)Metabolic Effects of Dietary Fiber Consumption and Prevention of Diabetes. Berlin, Germany: Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Nutrition, Charité-University-Medicine-Berlin. (Accessed on April 10, 2021 at http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/3/439.long)