The Importance of Fiber in Healthy Diabetes Meal Plans

January 11,2023 |
Woman eating a fruit bowl on her couch.

There are hundreds of fad diets that circulate the internet in a given year. One week you may hear that eating no carbohydrates at all will help you drop fat, while the next week you could read an article that says carbohydrates are essential for weight loss. It can be confusing, especially when you’re trying to manage a chronic condition like diabetes. The best thing to do is work with your doctor or a diabetes-certified nutritionist to create a meal plan that works well for your needs. This will include prioritizing macronutrients like lean protein, healthy fats, and certain types of carbohydrates like fiber. For a deeper look inside carbohydrates, here’s more information regarding the importance of fiber in healthy diabetes meal plans.


What is Fiber?

Fiber is an essential type of carbohydrate that’s primarily found in plant-based foods and whole grains. Unlike other types of carbs, fiber isn’t digestible. Instead, it aids our digestive system and helps regulate how sugar is processed, controls blood sugar levels, and leaves us feeling full for longer. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), fiber is kind of like your body’s natural scrub brush—it helps clean out your digestive tract and keep you healthy.

Different Types of Fiber

There are actually several different types of fiber in various different food sources. Some of these include resistant starch, oligofructose, inulin, pectin, fructooligosaccharides, cellulose, and more. While it’s important to get a range of different types of fiber, you can focus on balancing out your ‘soluble’ and ‘insoluble’ fibers rather than trying to determine the specific subtype you’re consuming.

Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that helps to slow the rate of digestion. This fiber will turn into a gel-like substance during digestion and aids in the absorption of sugar from foods. Soluble fiber can help keep you full for longer periods of time, thus producing a range of cascading benefits.

Insoluble fiber is, for the most part, not digested. Instead, it helps other waste products move through the digestive tract and makes up a decent portion of our solid waste. Although it’s not digested, insoluble fiber still plays an important role in overall bodily function and should not be avoided.


Diabetes-Related Health Benefits of Fiber

Fiber is essential to overall health and longevity, especially in individuals living with diabetes. It’s been shown to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, insulin resistance, and more. Some of the most notable diabetes-related health benefits of fiber are as follows:

Lowers Cholesterol

When you eat fiber, it helps prevent your body from taking in certain amounts of fat and storing it. This, in turn, lowers your cholesterol levels. When you eat a diet that’s high in fiber, you can protect your heart from diabetes-related cardiovascular diseases and maintain healthy cholesterol levels overtime.

Improves Digestive Health

Your digestive tract is made up of trillions of microscopic bacteria. These gut bacteria work together to create your microbiome, which helps support several different functions of the body. When gut bacteria changes in a negative way, it can result in chronic conditions like diabetes. Fiber can help promote positive changes to your gut microbiome, which can improve your overall health and enhance digestion.

This can also help improve your insulin sensitivity with type 2 diabetes, which may result in less of a reliance on medication. However, it’s still important to regularly monitor your blood glucose levels, especially when changing your diet.

Aids in Weight Management

Foods that are high in fiber tend to have a lower glycemic index, which means that they slow digestion and keep you full for longer periods of time. This can help you manage your appetite and reduce the amount of food you eat over the course of a day. While it’s still important to make sure you’re consuming enough calories for your current weight and weight loss goals, fiber can help lower your cravings for unhealthy food in between mealtimes.

Fiber can also help our bodies retain water throughout the day, which may reduce feelings of hunger. Finally, many foods that are rich in natural fiber are also naturally low in fat and have fewer calories. When you have a diet that’s rich in fiber, you’ll find that it’s easier to lose weight and keep it off over time.

Lower Blood Sugar and A1C

One of the biggest benefits of eating a diet filled with fiber when living with diabetes is the impact it has on blood sugar levels. Since high-fiber foods take longer to digest, it slows the entire process within your gut. This means that sugars from other foods are released more slowly, and blood sugar levels remain more constant. While they do still rise, the rise is gradual rather than a sudden spike, which is important for long-term diabetes management.

High-fiber diets have also been shown to significantly reduce A1C levels, which can result in a drastic improvement in a type 2 diabetes prognosis. In situations where significant weight loss is achieved, fiber may also help individuals with type 2 diabetes reach remission.


The Best Diabetes-Friendly High Fiber Foods

Luckily, there are hundreds of natural sources of fiber that you can incorporate into your diet. Try to consume a minimum of 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories each day. This looks a little different based on age and gender, but in general it should be anywhere from 22 to 34 grams of fiber. Work with your doctor to get a better understanding of your daily fiber needs.

Try to start your day with a high fiber breakfast, as this can help set you up for a healthy day of eating. Whenever possible, choose whole, natural foods that are unprocessed and try to understand how food labels can impact your blood glucose levels. Make sure you’re getting a lot of fiber in each meal to help enhance the benefits of diabetes management. You can reach your daily recommended intake by consuming the following foods.

  • Vegetables — sprouts, romaine, spinach, arugula, zucchini, spaghetti squash, watercress, squash, broccoli, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, red cabbage, mustard greens, sweet peas, russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Bran — rice bran, wheat bran, oat bran, etc.
  • Fruit — avocados, bananas, apples, prunes, raisins, figs, oranges, etc.
  • Nuts and Seeds — walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pinon nuts, cashews, peanuts, pistachio nuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
  • Whole Grains — popcorn, oats, quinoa, barley, rye flour, wild rice, millet, bulgur, brown rice, etc.
  • Berries — raspberries, elderberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, gooseberries, boysenberries, etc.
  • Beans and Legumes — black beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, etc.


Additionally, there are several foods available on the market with added fiber in them, but most of them are processed foods. While these are generally better than their low fiber alternatives, just because something is marketed as “high fiber” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It’s important to read the nutrition labels to get a better understanding of what’s in your food. The best course of action is trying to utilize whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to reach your dietary fiber needs. Highly processed foods are not great for long-term diabetes management and can lead to several complications, so try to only eat them in moderation. If you’re having trouble creating a healthy diet, work with a nutritionist who specializes in diabetes management.

Although eating a diet that’s high in fiber can drastically improve your overall diabetes management, it’s still important to regularly check your blood glucose levels and administer medication as needed. Creating a robust management plan will help you reduce your risk of complications and increase longevity. Some individuals may even be able to reverse type 2 diabetes with the proper weight loss and care. To help you stay healthy, Byram Healthcare carries a wide variety of continuous glucose monitors, diabetes testing strips, and more. Visit our diabetes product guide today or reach out to one of our customer support specialists for further information on diabetes management and long-term care.