People with diabetes usually know to avoid certain foods and emphasize others. But here’s something that many may not have heard: in a new study published in the journal Diabetologia and reported on link.springer.com, researchers have found that foods high in fiber might help manage and even reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Here's what you need to know about the findings, and about possibly adding more fiber to your diet to improve your diabetes self-care.

The basics of the study

According to the study, fiber was found to help maintain a healthy BMI, or body mass index. Doctors use the BMI guidelines to determine whether someone is overweight by comparing the ratio of body fat to overall height. If an individual's BMI is too high, that may lead to elevated blood sugars. In turn, those high levels may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. Fiber was also shown to affect insulin levels, helping to reduce the risk of insulin spikes following a meal. Like exercise, fiber may also prove to be something that improves insulin receptiveness.

Still, as the study's authors explain, there's plenty of research to be done regarding the links between fiber and diabetes. In a press release published on EurekAlert.org, coauthor Dagfinn Aune, a graduate student from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said that mechanisms for fiber's specific effects "could include feeling physically full for longer, prolonged release of hormonal signals, slowed down nutrient absorption, or altered fermentation in the large intestine."

The right kind of fiber

There are two main kinds of fiber people consume: insoluble (which includes whole grains, vegetables and nuts) and soluble (which includes wheat bran, fruits and lentils). The study found that cereal fiber, the kind consumed in millions of bowls each morning, may be among the more important fibers for diabetes management. Depending on the cereal's ingredients, such as bran or oats, it can contain either soluble or insoluble fiber, and each has its own benefits. Soluble, which dissolves in water, can help slow digestion. Insoluble fibers, which are not digested, will speed up the digestive process.

So, just what brands of cereal are jam-packed with the most fiber? As the University of Massachusetts Medical School notes, there are several varieties with up to 14 grams of fiber per serving, which is usually no more than one cup. Even those cereals on the lower end of the fiber spectrum still contain a few grams each. The study indicates that eating 26 grams of fiber daily may help reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 18 percent.

> 26 grams of fiber helped reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes 18 percent.

A quick word on fiber

As beneficial as fiber may be, a high-fiber diet should be approached cautiously, according to Men's Health. Suddenly increasing your fiber intake may cause intestinal distress; increase fiber gradually. Note that fiber may help to slow the digestion of carbohydrates, possibly reducing spikes in blood sugar. Though not always advertised, a single gram of fiber can contain up to four calories; experts often explain that fiber has no calories because of how the molecules pass directly through the small intestine. Fiber should also be eaten with other foods, namely carbohydrates. These carbs, notes nutrition researcher Dr. Jeff Volek, can modify how well sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. Finally, be aware of "functional" fiber that is sometimes added to food and beverages to boost their fiber content. As Today's Dietitian notes, it's important to carefully monitor the intake of all types of fiber.

For more on type 2 diabetes:

My Family's Got It — Type 2 Diabetes
Is Type 2 Diabetes an Autoimmune Disease?
Genetics Prove Protective Against Type 2 Diabetes