13 Health Benefits of Eating More Fiber

13 Health Benefits of Eating More Fiber

Let’s learn about the great things fiber does for your health and how to easily add more to your diet.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods that can’t be fully digested. It passes through the digestive tract without getting absorbed. There are two kinds of fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a kind of gel, and insoluble fiber which doesn’t dissolve. Both types are important for health (Soliman, 2019).

But what makes a food considered “high fiber”?

You may have noticed that some foods are labeled “high fiber” and some as “a good source of fiber”. Foods must have at least 20% of the daily recommended amount or 5 grams of fiber per serving to be considered high fiber. And to be labeled as a good source of fiber, they must have at least 10% of the daily recommended amount or 2.5 grams per serving (Calorie Control Council, 2016). To put this in perspective, adult women should eat at least 25 grams of fiber per day and men should have at least 38 grams per day (Quagliani & Felt-Gunderson, 2017).

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
― Michael Pollan

Benefits of High Fiber Foods

Studies show fiber helps protect us from several chronic diseases and health issues. These include:

Diabetes: Fiber helps control blood sugar levels, which is crucial for those with diabetes. Soluble fiber, found in oats, legumes, and fruits, slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. With these foods you don’t get that sudden spike in blood glucose level (Manetti, 2022).

Colon Cancer: The indigestible fibers act as a kind of “nature’s broom” to clean your intestines removing the bad stuff from your colon like bacteria and other buildup. This reduces your risk of colon cancer, a leading cause of death.

Breast Cancer: A study found that women who eat the highest amounts of fiber were 8 times less likely to develop breast cancer than women who consumed the lowest amounts. Researchers believe this is due to the fiber’s ability to lower blood sugar and decrease estrogenlevels (HSPH, 2020).

Stomach Cancer: Studies show that fiber is inversely related tostomach cancer. So the higher your fiber intake, the lower your likelihood of stomach cancer (Zhang et al., 2013).

Heart Disease: Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and worldwide. Eating a diet rich in fiber lowers LDL cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease (Soiman, 2019).

Metabolic syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and abdominal obesity. A high-fiber diet helps with all of these.

Diverticulosis: Diverticulosis is when small bulges develop in the large intestine and become inflamed and infected. Studies show a link between diverticulosis and not eating enough fiber (Crowe et al., 2014)

Constipation: Perhaps fiber’s best-known benefit, it’s the insoluble fiber that helps relieve constipation. This is found in foods like wheat bran, nuts, beans, cauliflower, and green beans.

Hemorrhoids: Eating more fiber lowers the chances of getting hemorrhoids.

Other benefits of eating more fiber include:

Healthy gut microbiome: Certain types of fiber act as prebiotics, providing nourishment to beneficial bacteria in our digestive system. Having a diverse and thriving gut microbiome strengthens your immune system and protects against chronic diseases like diabetes and metabolic syndrome (Cronin et al., 2021)

Mental health: Studies suggest that a high fiber diet lowers the risk of depression and anxiety. It’s believed this is because fiber improves gut health and lowers inflammation in the digestive system, which in turn influences mood due to the link between your gut and your brain (Swann et al., 2020).

Weight control: Eating fiber makes you feel full faster and for longer and reduces cravings, so you’re more likely to eat less (Manetti, 2022).

Saves money: Not only is constipation uncomfortable and unhealthy, but it can also be expensive. One study found that eating more fiber can save Americans $12.7 billion on healthcare costs and medication related to constipation (Quagliani & Felt-Gunderson, 2017).

Examples of High Fiber Foods

Fiber is found exclusively in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Here are a few examples:

Fruit: Apples, bananas, and berries are some of the highest-fiber fruits.

Vegetables: A good rule of thumb is the darker or brighter the vegetable, the higher the fiber content. Examples are broccoli, beets, and carrots. And if you like salads, include darker leafy greens like spinach or kale to up the fiber. An exception to this rule is cauliflower which is also high in fiber.

Beans: Pretty much all beans have good fiber content. But some of the highest are navy beans, kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans. All are great in a bean and veggie chili or soups.

Whole grains: Some examples of good sources of fiber are oats, barley, rye, wheat, bulgur, and corn.

See the next section for a more extensive list organized by category.

In Sum

High-fiber foods are crucial for good health. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to have yet another thing to consider for good health. But with so many high-fiber options, it’s not hard to find ways to easily add more fiber-rich foods to your diet. It usually just takes a few simple food switch outs and additions. Whether you’re looking to boost your fiber intake, improve digestion, manage your weight, or enhance overall health, hopefully, the information here will serve as a resource to help get you started.

References

● Calorie Control Council. (2016, August 26). Dietary fiber on the Food label. Fiber Facts. https://www.fiberfacts.org/dietary-fiber-food-label/

● Cronin, P., Joyce, S. A., O’Toole, P. W., & O’Connor, E. M. (2021). Dietary fibre modulates the gut microbiota. Nutrients, 13(5), 1655.

● Crowe, F. L., Balkwill, A., Cairns, B. J., Appleby, P. N., Green, J., Reeves, G. K., … & Beral, V. (2014). Source of dietary fibre and diverticular disease incidence: a prospective study of UK women. Gut, 63(9), 1450-1456.

● HSPH. (2020, May 15). High-fiber diet linked with reduced breast cancer risk. Harvard School of Public Health.

● Manetti, S. (2022). High-Fiber Foods: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000193.htm

● Quagliani, D., & Felt-Gunderson, P. (2017). Closing America’s fiber intake gap: communication strategies from a food and fiber summit. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 11(1), 80-85.

● Soliman, G. A. (2019). Dietary fiber, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease. Nutrients, 11(5), 1155.

● Swann, O. G., Kilpatrick, M., Breslin, M., & Oddy, W. H. (2020). Dietary fiber and its associations with depression and inflammation. Nutrition reviews, 78(5), 394-411.

● Zhang, Z., Xu, G., Ma, M., Yang, J., & Liu, X. (2013). Dietary fiber intake reduces risk for gastric cancer: a meta-analysis. Gastroenterology, 145(1), 113-120