Will Eating More Fiber Help a Person Who Has Diabetes?

High fiber foods may help people who have diabetes.
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Question:  I have diabetes and I've read that fiber can help slow down sugar absorption. Will eating foods high in fiber help with my diabetes? Or can I take fiber supplements?

Answer: Fiber includes the parts of plants that your body can't digest. It's an important component of a healthful diet, including a diabetic diet, but there's no research evidence that supports average fiber intake with improved blood sugar control.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests a person with diabetes should consume 14 grams per every 1,000 calories per day, so in the range of 25 to 35 grams. That's about the same as for a non-diabetic diet. Most people don't get enough fiber: the average intake is only around 14 grams per day.

It's possible that taking enormous amounts of fiber might improve blood sugar levels, but you'd need to take in about 44 to 50 grams of fiber every day, which is hard to do with a regular diet. Fiber supplements are available, but you should speak to your healthcare provider before taking that much fiber, especially if you are on any blood sugar lowering medications or insulin. Taking large amounts of fiber might also cause some digestive system discomfort resulting in bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.

Cardiovascular Impact of Eating More Fiber

Even though upping your intake of fiber might not affect your blood sugar levels, it may help you control your cholesterol levels, which is important because diabetes and heart disease often go together, and high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.

Consuming 25 - 30 grams of fiber each day is probably enough to help reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol a few percentage points. The best fiber for this is soluble fiber, and you should take in about 7 to 13 grams of this form every day.

Plants provide fiber for your diet, so eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes will increase your fiber intake.

Insoluble fiber is found primarily in whole grains, nuts, wheat bran and vegetables, and soluble fiber (the best for reducing cholesterol) is found chiefly in oats, citrus fruits, apples, barley, psyllium, flax seeds and beans.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library. "Recommendations Summary Diabetes Mellitus (DM): Fiber and Diabetes." Accessed April 2, 2016. http://www.andeal.org/topic.cfm?cat=3252.

American Diabetes Association. "Nutrition Recommendations and Interventions for Diabetes: a Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association." Diabetes Care 2007;30 Suppl 1:S48-65. Accessed April 2, 2016. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/31/Supplement_1/S61.full.

Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. "Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids." Accessed April 2, 2016. http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2002/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Energy-Carbohydrate-Fiber-Fat-Fatty-Acids-Cholesterol-Protein-and-Amino-Acids.aspx.

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