Did you know that people who consume the most high-fiber foods are the healthiest? Fiber is a vital nutrient, essential to human health. It aids our body in absorbing nutrients from food and eliminates toxins. Fiber is nature’s “broom”; it passes through our digestive system unabsorbed by digestive enzymes within the stomach, taking with it toxins, waste, fat and cholesterol particles out of the gut.
Fiber is naturally concentrated in only one place: whole plant foods. When we eat mostly natural pant foods (beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and seeds) we get large amounts of different fiber. Fiber slows down glucose absorption and controls the rate of digestion. The complex physiological effects of fiber in the digestive tract offer a variety of benefits, such as lowering cholesterol
Fiber intake from food is a good marker of disease risk.
Fiber and brain health
Fiber helps control cholesterol and blood sugar. This reduces the amount of artery-clogging plaque in our brain’s blood vessels. High-fiber diets may also lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of brain bleeds.
Though stroke is considered an older person’s disease, risk factors may begin accumulating in childhood. It is SO important to teach our children to eat more plant foods.[su_expanding_quote_book alignment=”right” source_author=”Michael Greger MD,” source_title=”How to Not Die” full_quote=”Low fiber intake early on is associated with stiffening of the arteries leading to the brain – a key risk factor for stroke. One more apple, an extra quarter cup of broccoli, or just two tablespoons of beans a day during childhood could translate into a meaningful effect on artery health later in life.” short_quote=”Low fiber intake early on is associated with stiffening of the arteries leading to the brain”]
We can minimize stroke risk by eating a minimum of 25 grams a day of soluble fiber (fiber that dissolves in water typically found in beans, oats, nuts and berries) and 27 grams of insoluble fiber (fiber that does not dissolve in water, found primarily in whole grains, such as brown rice and whole wheat).
Fiber and heart health
High fiber foods help reduce inflammation, blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
By preventing the buildup of cholesterol in our bloodstream, we can help prevent atherosclerosis in our coronary arteries—the leading cause of death in the United States (men and women).[su_expanding_quote_book alignment=”full” source_author=”Joel Fuhrman, MD” source_title=”Eat to Live” full_quote=”High-fiber foods offer significant protection against both cancer and heart disease. I didn’t say fiber; I said high fiber foods. It has been adequately demonstrated in hundreds of observational studies that diet does offer protection from cancer at multiple sites, including the colon. A high-fiber intake is a marker of many anti-cancer properties of natural foods, especially phytochemicals.” short_quote=”High-fiber foods offer significant protection against both cancer and heart disease. “]
Fiber and Cancer
Fiber deficiency may be a risk factor for breast cancer. High fiber intake appears to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and breast, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and premature death in general. Studies demonstrate that premenopausal women on a higher fiber diet had 85 percent lower odds of that type of breast cancer.[su_expanding_quote_book alignment=”right” source_author=”Michael Greger MD” source_title=”How to Not Die” full_quote=”Analysis of a dozen beast cancer case –control studies found lower breast cancer risk associated with indicators of fruit and vegetable intake and high breast cancer risk associated with high saturated-fat intake. According to these studies, the more whole plant foods you eat, the better it is for your health. Every twenty grams of fiber intake per day was associated with 15 percent lower risk of breast cancer. A compilation of ten cohort studies on breast cancer and fiber intake came up with similar results, a 14 percent lower risk of breast cancer risk for every twenty grams of fiber intake per day.” short_quote=”Every twenty grams of fiber intake per day was associated with 15 percent lower risk of breast cancer.”]
Unfortunately the average American woman appears to eat less than 15 grams per day. The standard American diet is dangerously deficient in fiber. Americans currently consume about 25% of calories from animal foods and another 62% from highly processed refined carbohydrates. Fber deficiency can lead to many health problems such as hemorrhoids, constipation, varicose veins, and diabetes. It is also a cause of cancer. Less than 3 percent of Americans meet the minimum daily recommendation for fiber.
There are two different kinds of dietary fiber: insoluble and soluble.
- Soluble fiber slows down digestion by attracting water and forming a gel-like substance once digested. It’s found in foods like oats, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables like berries and carrots. Soluble fiber helps with weight loss because it slows the process of food emptying from our stomach and makes us feel full for longer after eating.
- Insoluble fiber tends to speed up digestion by adding bulk to stool (basically helping relieve constipation and allowing easy bowl movements). It’s found in whole grains, and most vegetables.
Rather than worry about which type of fiber we’re getting we just need to make sure we’re eating a high-fiber diet with a variety of different whole foods.
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