The Fiber Factor
—5 Fabulous Reasons to Eat Enough of it—
Dietitians harp on it. Cereal boxes brag about it. But WAY more than most Americans overlook fiber as a major factor in daily diet. In fact, though most believe they get enough, a mere 5 percent of people in the US actually meet daily guidelines for fiber intake. (which is roughly 21-25 grams/day for women and 30-38 grams/day for men, per the Institutes of Medicine). What people may not realize is that eating adequate amounts packs benefits beyond regular bathroom trips (which, of course, ARE a great thing!). Get this: A meta analysis of research published in The Lancet in 2019 concluded that that if 1,000 people changed from a low-fiber diet to a high-fiber one, 13 deaths and six cases of heart disease would be prevented.
So, what are these specific, impressive proven health effects of fiber? Check out the list five major benefits below. And should you decide your mission is to bump up daily consumption, do so gradually over the course of a couple of weeks, so as not to “surprise” your digestive system into temporary discomfort. Please also consult your physician if you’re dealing with any condition related to the digestive system.
Fiber not only normalizes bowel movements, it can promote bowel health.
A high fiber diet can help prevent hemorrhoids and diverticulitis, and researchers also believe it most likely plays a role in lowering risk of colorectal cancer.
Fiber decreases low density lipoproteins in the bloodstream.
In other words, fiber, especially the soluble type found in foods such as oats and beans, lowers “bad cholesterol.” Fiber has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
Fiber can help control blood sugar and lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Soluble fiber again lies at the root of this benefit. Because it slows absorption of sugar, it’s a “must” for diabetics—and honestly, for everyone (unless of course your doctor has recommended otherwise based on your specific health situation).
Fiber reduces breast cancer risk.
A large-scale 2016 study revealed that high fiber intake lowers risk of breast cancer and that this is especially important in adolescence and young adulthood. (Tell your daughters & granddaughters!)
Fiber may help you control—and possibly lose—weight.
In a reputable 2015 study, volunteers with metabolic syndrome whose only goal was to eat more fiber (given a goal of 30g/day, they averaged 19), lost weight, lowered blood pressure, and improved insulin response.
But what to eat???
The Mayo Clinic offers this excellent list of high fiber options. In general, choosing lots of fruits and veggies, beans, nuts, seeds & whole grains will bump up your intake. Eyeball food labels as well. (You may be surprised that certain foods contain fiber and others do not.) Be sure to drink plenty of water, too, to keep your digestive system running smoothly. And get ready to feel full, satisifed, and well nourished!