What is dietary fiber?


Eat more fiber to prevent constipation. We’ve probably heard this many times now and it is true. But did you know that fiber provides a myriad of other health benefits as well?

What is dietary fiber?

Unlike other types of carbohydrate that are digested in the body to provide energy, dietary fiber are carbohydrates that do not get broken down and digested. Instead, fiber passes through the stomach, small intestine and out of the body intact. Fret not though, these fibers are still useful to us despite it! 

Types of Fiber

There are two types of fiber, both of which are beneficial to our health.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. Commonly found in peas, beans, psyllium, oats, apples and citrus fruits, soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar levels.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and adds bulk to stool, which leads to softer and more regular bowels to prevent constipation. Legumes, beans, potatoes, carrots and berries are a good source of insoluble fiber. 

Health Benefits 

- Heart: Individuals who consume higher amounts of fiber reported lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Fiber reduces total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – also known as the ‘bad cholesterol’.

- Gut Health: Some forms of dietary fibers including inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) gut serve as prebiotics. Prebiotics stimulate the growth of good bacteria that help maintain a healthy digestive tract by improving gut barrier function and immunity. 

- Blood sugar control: Fiber slows down the digestion and absorption of sugar in the body, hence reducing spikes in blood sugar levels. Research has shown that Type 2 diabetics who consumed a high fiber diet experienced 28% reduction in fasting glucose levels.

- Weight management: Fiber helps us keep full longer as it slows down the speed of food passing through the stomach to the rest of the digestive tract. Foods that are high in fiber are often lower in calories as well. Studies have shown that individuals who increased their dietary fiber intake increased weight loss and had better adherence to diet.

Tips to increase fiber intake

Based on the Malaysian Recommended Nutrient Intake 2017, adults are recommended to consume at least 20g-30g of dietary fiber daily. Adopt these tips to help you meet your fiber intake:

  • Include a variety of fruits and vegetables to get the best of both insoluble and soluble fibers
  • Choose whole foods over processed foods, which have most of the fibers removed
  • Eat whole fruits instead of fruit juices
  • Select whole grain versions of foods such as brown rice over white rice.
  • Incorporate legumes such as peas, beans and lentils into your meals as a side dish or by adding into soups.


By Zuanne, Nutritionist
Anna Hoo Clinic



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2.     McRae, M. P. (2017). Dietary fiber is beneficial for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: an umbrella review of meta-analyses. Journal of chiropractic medicine, 16(4), 289-299.


3.     Myhrstad, M. C., Tunsjø, H., Charnock, C., & Telle-Hansen, V. H. (2020). Dietary fiber, gut microbiota, and metabolic regulation—Status in human randomized trials. Nutrients, 12(3), 859.


Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), 1417-1435.