Fiber for Health’s Sake!

Summarized from my notes on fiber from the books Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD and How to Not Die, by Michael Greger MD.

Did you know that fiber is a critical nutrient? That people who eat the most high-fiber foods are the healthiest?

  • Fiber aids our body in absorbing nutrients from food
  • Fiber slows down glucose (blood sugar) absorption
  • It controls the rate of digestion
  • It lowers cholesterol
  • It feeds the healthy bacteria in our gut
  • Fiber is also nature’s “broom”. It passes through our digestive system taking with it toxins, waste, unhealthy fat and cholesterol particles out of our body
  • Fiber intake from food is a good marker of disease risk.

Fiber is naturally concentrated in only one place: whole plant foods. When we eat mostly natural plant foods (beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and seeds) we get large amounts of different fiber.

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=”full” 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”]

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.

[su_expanding_quote_book alignment=”right” 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

High fiber intake appears to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and breast, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and premature death in general.

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. Fiber 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% of Americans meet the minimum daily recommendation for fiber.

[su_expanding_quote_book alignment=”full” source_author=”Michael Greger, MD” source_title=”How to Not Die” full_quote=”Analysis of a dozen beast cancer 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, the more whole plant foods you eat, the better it is for your health”]

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 tostool (basically helping relieve constipation and allowing easy bowl movements). It’s found in whole grains and most vegetables.

What to Do?

Eat a wide variety plant foods (beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and seeds)

For More Empowerment

Why Is Fiber Good For You? And How To Get Enough Fiber!

9 Tips You Can Begin Using Today to Get More Fiber in Your Diet

Are You Eating a High-Fiber Diet?

20 Ultimate High-Fiber Foods + the Benefits of Each

34 High Fiber Foods

Give Me Berries!

Berries are one of nature’s most nutrient-dense foods. I try to get berries into our meals regularly during the summer months, and store up on frozen berries for the months when they are not in season. Because strawberries are #1 on the EWG Dirty Dozen list,  I don’t use them often. During fall and the winter months, I stock up on cranberries.

Berries provide powerful benefits to our health. Here is what I learned from SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life, Steven Pratt MD, and supplemented by other sources.

  • Heart health: Blueberry’s fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and phytonutrient content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol all support heart health. The fiber in blueberries helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease. A recent study, suggests that berries may reduce the risk of heart disease, due to their high content of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are part of a sub-class of flavonoids (natural plant chemicals), which may help counter plaque buildup and improve cardiovascular health. According to the study, women who eat three or more servings a week of blueberries or strawberries may reduce their risk of heart disease
  • Mental health: Population-based studies have shown that consumption of blueberries can reduce the risk of cognitive declineas well as Parkinson’s disease. Blueberries in particular may improve motor skills and  reverse age-related short-term memory loss, and may also protect the brain from stroke damage.
  • Digestive health; rich in pectin (a soluble fiber) blueberries relieve both diarrhea and constipation.
  • Anti-aging benefits: Berries seemed to slow and even reverse many of the degenerative diseases associated with an aging brain.
  • Research suggests berries have anti-cancer properties.   Blueberries provide another antioxidant known as ellagic acid. Research suggests this antioxidant blocks the metabolic pathways that can promote cancer. Various studies demonstrated that people who consume fruits with the most ellagic acid were three times less likely to develop cancer than those who consume little or no dietary ellagic acid. Increased blood levels of antioxidants have been shown to favorably modify incidences of blood cancer

Blueberries combine more powerful disease-fighting antioxidants than any other fruit or vegetables. Just one serving of blueberries provides as many antioxidants as five servings of carrots, apples, broccoli or squash.

The power of blueberries is in their incredibly high levels of antioxidant phytonutrients (plant chemicals). Blueberries, particularly wild blueberries, have at least five different anthocyanins (a plant chemical) giving blueberries powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. Anthocyanin also works synergistically with vitamin C and other key antioxidants. They strengthen the capillary system by promoting the production of quality collagen – the building block of tissues. This subclass of flavonoids also promotes vasodilatation and has an aspirin-like effect on blood clot formation, making berries important for heart health.

Scientific studies reaffirm the basis for many remedies known from traditional therapeutic use of grapes and berry products in folk medicine.

For more health empowerment:

Dr. Fuhrman: Eating Berries Reduces Your Risk of Heart Attack

Nutrition Facts: Berries Can Improve Memory and Cognitive Function

The consumption of blueberries and strawberries is associated with delayed cognitive aging by as much as 2.5 years

Nutrition Facts: Berries and Cancer

Blueberry consumption may double the population of our cancer fighting immune cells, and the spices cardamom and black pepper may boost their activity

GreenMedInfo: Blueberries Protect Against the Top Two Killer Diseases


Some of my “berry” favorite recipes

Berries and Nut Pancakes

Baked Blueberry French Toast

Arugula Salad with Strawberry Dressing

Peach and Blackberry Crisp