The impact fiber has in keeping us regulated is pretty well established, but literature highlighting the role fiber plays in preventing heart disease and certain types of cancer is pretty abundant as well.
A review of 58 clinical trials, 4,635 individuals and over 180 studies conducted by The Lancet published in January, explored the specific benefits of a diet that does not severely limit the intake of fiber. The data yielded a 15-30% risk decrease to all-cause cardiovascular-related mortality, alongside decreases of type 2 diabetes and stroke incidences. A study conducted in 2013, revealed that dietary fiber is associated with both lower weight and gut health.
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Despite this, only 5% of Americans are meeting their daily fiber requirements according to a recent study published in The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
The Institute of Medicine recommends men take in 38 grams of fiber a day, and women take in 25 grams of fiber a day- with some dietary nutritionists, like Autumn Kumlien for instance, suggesting we adjust these measurements slightly as we age. According to Kumlien, for men and women over the age of 51, the daily amount should land somewhere around 30 and 21 grams respectively.
A study published in the Journal Of Nutrition reports, “Current fiber intakes are alarmingly low, with long-term implications for public health related to risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, certain gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, and the continuum of metabolic dysfunctions including prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.”
Variations of Fiber
Before you proceed with incorporating more fiber into your diet it’s important that you have an understanding of the different variations and their role in a healthy balanced meal. For health purposes, fiber is generally categorized in these four ways: dietary/ functional fiber and soluble/insoluble fiber.
Dietary fiber is the kind of fiber found organically in foods like fruits and vegetables. Functional fiber is fiber that is extracted and then added to processed foods or dietary supplements later. Soluble fiber refers to a fiber that mixes with water in our gastrointestinal tract, while insoluble fiber refers to a fiber that does not.
Foods like flax seeds, oatmeal, nuts, and lintels are rich in soluble fibers. The gel-like substance that is born out of the water/fiber blend has been shown to help diminish spikes in blood sugar in addition to precluding cholesterol absorption and hindering movement of glucose in our blood.
Soluble fibers delay the stomach emptying process, making us feel full for much longer which, in turn, makes us consume fewer calories.
Whole grains, vegetables, and wheat bran, on the other hand, contain insoluble fibers that promote positive laxative effects. The bulking process initiated by insoluble fibers speeds up the passage of stool, effectively decreasing instances of constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis.
Many high-fiber foods also come with additional health benefits. Pears for example, which pack 5.5 grams of fiber on average, also help ward off free radicals involved with skin aging. Avocados, everyone’s favorite vitamin C/magnesium rich superfood, are additionally high in fiber and have also been linked to decreased risks for both cancer and depression.
Simply put, a balanced diet needs to incorporate a sufficient amount of fiber. Fiber keeps us regular, is instrumental in the prevention of a myriad of heart maladies, and curbs habits that lead to weight gain. Moreover, the way fiber slows down the movement of glucose in our bloodstream impedes frequent energy crashes associated with sugar spikes.
In other words, fiber does a body good.
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