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Navigating Nutrition: Fiber is our Friend

Consuming enough fiber every day provides multiple health benefits throughout the body. Fiber is present in a lot of the nutrient-dense foods we eat. You may have not even realized what role fiber plays in keeping you healthy!

Normally, the body breaks down carbohydrates into sugar that our bodies use for fuel. Fiber is a carbohydrate that our bodies do not use as a source of fuel. Instead, fiber moves throughout the digestive system and supports many of our biological processes!

Fiber plays a key role in:

  • Bowel health and movements
  • Controlling cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Consuming enough fiber throughout the day is important to meet our daily needs. Dietary fiber content can be found in grams on the nutrition facts panel of packaged foods such as grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. A quick google search can give you estimates of grams of fiber for foods that do not have nutrition facts panels such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Daily Fiber recommendations:

  • Men (50 or younger) need 38 grams
  • Men (51 or older) need 30 grams
  • Women (50 or younger) need 25 grams
  • Women (51 or older) need 21 grams

Daily fiber needs can be met through eating a well-balanced diet. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. You can obtain the most fiber content from fruit and vegetables when the skin/peel is left on. The skin of fruits and vegetables contains important components that provide fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. There are different ways to prepare your fruits and vegetables if you are someone who doesn’t prefer the skin or peel, such as:

  • Blending the fruit or vegetables
  • Chopping the fruit or vegetables into finer pieces
  • Spiralizing your vegetables
  • Incorporating frozen fruits

There are two different types of fiber that both provide distinct health benefits: Soluble fiber and Insoluble fiber. Eating a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds will provide you with appropriate amounts of both forms of fiber.

Soluble fiber

  • Dissolves in water to create a beneficial gel substance that regulates digestion
  • Controls cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • Aids in constipation and diarrhea
  • Makes you feel full for longer
  • Helps maintain a healthy gut

Insoluble fiber

  • Does not dissolve in water to add bulk to stools
  • Promotes regular bowel movements
  • Aids in constipation
  • Makes you feel full for longer

Obtaining your daily fiber from a well-balanced diet is the gold standard. Eating fiber-rich foods helps you to feel full for longer. Meals that provide a feeling of fullness are beneficial to individuals looking to obtain their desired healthy weight. Fiber supplements do not provide the same level of fullness which makes them less effective for individuals looking to maintain a healthy weight. 

Staying hydrated is important for overall health but is especially important for fiber as the two work hand-in-hand. If you are hitting your fiber goals for the day and aren’t achieving the results you are looking for, make sure you are not chronically dehydrated. Try to space your water consumption evenly throughout the day and monitor urine color for levels of hydration.


An example of a fiber-dense breakfast and snack:

Breakfast: ½ cup cooked Oatmeal (4g fiber), 2 Tablespoons Peanut butter (3g fiber), ½ cup Raspberries (4g fiber)

Total (11g fiber)

Snack: 1 medium Apple (4g fiber), 2 Tablespoons Peanut butter (3g fiber)

Total (7g fiber)


Written by: Danielle Baldizzi


Individuals and families who have been receiving extra SNAP benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency will see a reduction in their monthly benefit amounts starting in March 2023. Due to changes at the federal level, February 2023 will be the last month that emergency allotments are distributed with benefits, so eligible households will revert back to their pre-pandemic benefit amounts. 

The NC Department of Health and Human Services has provided some tools you can use to plan ahead for this change. More information about how much of a reduction to expect, how to check your benefit amounts, and where to find additional resources for food can be found on the NCDHHS website here

Some important community food resources that may help are listed below:


Adapted from NC Department of Health and Human Services

Steps to Health is featured in a December blog post for the Agricultural and Human Sciences Department at NC State University. Christian Woods, Nutrition Education Outreach and Materials Management Extension Assistant and Steps to Health team member, wrote about the 15-year history of the program at NC State, the ways that agents and educators in the field have utilized Steps to Health programs to work alongside partners in NC communities to improve health, and the ways that the program continues to innovate to respond to the changing needs of communities around the state. Together, state team members, county Extension personnel, and community partners work to make the healthy choice the easy choice!

Read the full story on the AHS blog!

Each garden season provides a bounty of delicious and nutritious foods and the fall season is no exception. Apples and pumpkins immediately come to mind, but autumn brings many other superstars as well.

Winter squash, for example, is plentiful now. Common varieties include acorn, patty pan, butternut, delicata, and spaghetti squash. Unlike summer squash, these varieties have a sweeter flavor and, because of their thick skin, can be stored for up to three months. All types of winter squash pair well with other fall flavors such as cinnamon and ginger and fall fruits like apples and cranberries. And of course, like other yellow and orange vegetables, winter squash is super nutritious.

When choosing winter squash, look for ones that are firm, heavy for their size, and have dull skins (not shiny). They should be hard without cracks or soft spots. Store uncut winter squash in a dark, cool, dry place. Wash squash thoroughly under cool running water just before cutting. Once cut, store in the refrigerator and use within one week.

Winter squash can be baked, roasted, steamed, sautéed, or microwaved. To prepare acorn or butternut squash, cut in half, remove seeds and strings, and drizzle with olive oil. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees. Alternatively, these squash can be peeled, then cubed or sliced and roasted at 450 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until soft. Squash with thick hard rinds, especially butternut, can be very difficult to cut. To soften, poke holes in the rind with a fork and microwave for 2-5 minutes. Delicata squash have thinner skins so they can be sliced and cooked without peeling first. Patty pan squash are best steamed whole and topped with butter and Parmesan cheese. Spaghetti squash can be baked whole and cut in half immediately after cooking. Discard the seeds and rake out the strands with a fork to serve with your favorite pasta sauce.

While winter squash is delicious on its own, feel free to experiment with low-sodium seasonings such as allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, marjoram, or nutmeg. Combining with apples or nuts provides additional flavor and crunch. Leftover squash can be mashed and frozen in one-cup portions for quick use in pies, breads or muffins.

In addition to winter squash, the fall season also features turnips, beets, cabbage, sweet potatoes, collards, and other dark green leafy vegetables. Fruits such as apples, pears, persimmons, grapes, dates, and cranberries are plentiful this time of year as well. When added to salads, eaten fresh, or in combination with a savory meat dish, these fruits really bring fall to the table.

Written By Tracy Davis, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Rutherford County Center