Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.

How should we quantify the puzzling amount of fiber in foods before we aim the insulin dart at ourselves?

One can ignore it, subtract it, or make a complicated math problem out of it.

Whatever you choose to do, there are straightforward recommendations out there. Fiber can affect the bottom line when it comes to carbohydrate counting.

Let’s see what the experts are saying.

What is fiber?

According to Joslin Diabetes Center, fiber qualifies as a carbohydrate; however, it’s different than a sugar or starch because it doesn’t deteriorate in the body or tack on any calories.

More confusingly, you’ll find fiber listed under the carbohydrate section on a nutritional label, but according to Joslin: “Fiber does not raise blood glucose levels.”

That's right. If the body isn’t breaking it down, there’s simply no high impact on blood sugar. And in fact, the Diabetes Care Journals, in conjunction with the American Diabetes Association, recommend a diet high in fiber.

Benefits found in a fiber rich diet (50 grams/ day):

  • Decreased blood sugar in people with type 1 diabetes
  • Decreased blood sugar, insulin, and lipid levels in people with type 2 diabetes

Soluble versus insoluble fiber

Soluble fiber dissolves in water; insoluble fiber isn’t. Neither types of fiber are used as an energy source, nor are they digested—rather, they are excreted.

Do I count it or not?

There are a few different trains of thought. If you’re feeling confused about how to account for fiber, verify what technique your care provider would like you to follow.

  • According to Joslin Diabetes Center: “The grams of fiber can actually be subtracted from the total grams of carbs you are eating.”
  • According to Anne Daly MS, RD, CDE of the American Diabetes Association as quoted in Diabetes Health: “A high-fiber food is one that contains five or more grams of dietary fiber per serving. When there are five or more grams of fiber per serving, subtract them from the total grams of carbohydrate to determine how much carbohydrate is available.”
  • According to UCSF: The net carbohydrates matter. Subtract the fiber from the total carbohydrates to get net carbs.

How much fiber do I need?

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, getting enough fiber in your daily diet isn’t difficult to attain; whole grains, beans, fruits, and veggies are rich in fiber.

Daily goals for dietary fiber:

  • 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men
  • After age 50, your daily fiber needs drop to 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men.

Check the nutrition labels—serving size can make a huge difference in your calculations.

Click here for more information on how to check nutrition labels for fiber content.

To learn more about carb counting:

Start Small: Learning to Carb Count and Follow a Diabetes Meal Plan
Complex Carbohydrates and Diabetes
Low Fat Diet vs. Low Carb: Which Works Best?