Many of us associate fiber with digestive health and bodily functions we'd rather not think about. However, eating foods high in dietary fiber can do so much more than keep you regular. It can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, improve the health of your skin, and help you lose weight. It may even help prevent colon cancer. However, most of us aren't eating nearly enough. By using these tips to add more fiber to your diet, you can help prevent serious disease and look and feel your best.
Benefits in fiber: The latest figures show that nine out of ten Americans are not eating enough fiber; and people in other parts of the world are also falling well short. Part of the problem may be due to the association between fiber and bathroom habits. Yes, fiber offers a healthy and effective way to stay regular. But that's not the only reason why we should be including more in our diets. Many different studies have highlighted how eating a diet high in fiber can boost your immune system and overall health, and improve how you look and feel. Some of the benefits include -
* Digestive health. Let's get this one out of the way first. Dietary fiber normalizes bowel movements by bulking up stools and making them easier to pass. This can help relieve and prevent both constipation and diarrhea. Eating plenty of fiber can also reduce your risk for diverticulitis (inflammation of the intestine), hemorrhoids, gallstones, kidney stones, and provide some relief for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Some studies have also indicated that a high-fiber diet may help to lower gastric acid and reduce your risk for gastro esophageal reflux disorder (GERD) and ulcers.
* Heart disease. Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, is an important element of any heart-healthy diet. Eating a diet high in fiber can improve cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. A high fiber intake can also reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors linked to coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Fiber can also help to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, and shed excess weight around the abdomen.
* Diabetes. A diet high in fiber-particularly insoluble fiber from cereals-can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes, eating soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and improve your blood sugar levels.
* Cancer. There is some research that suggests eating a high-fiber diet can help prevent colorectal cancer, although the evidence is not yet conclusive. Diets rich in high-fiber foods are also linked to a lower risk for other common digestive system cancers, including stomach, mouth, and pharynx.
* Skin health. When yeast and fungus are excreted through the skin, they can trigger outbreaks or acne. Eating fiber, especially psyllium husk (a type of plant seed), can flush toxins out of your body, improving the health and appearance of your skin.
ips for adding fiber to your diet: Depending on your age and gender, nutrition experts recommend you eat at least 21 to 38 grams of fiber per day for optimal health. Research suggests that most of us aren't eating half that amount. While hitting your daily target may seem overwhelming at first, by filling up on whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains you can get the fiber you need to start reaping the health benefits.
Fiber from whole grains: Refined or processed foods are lower in fiber content, so try to make whole grains an integral part of your diet. There are many simple ways to add whole grains to your meals.
* Start your day with fiber. Look for whole grain cereals to boost your fiber intake at breakfast. Simply switching your breakfast cereal from Corn Flakes to Bran Flakes can add an extra 6 grams of fiber to your diet; switching to All-Bran or Fiber-One will boost it even more. If those cereals aren't to your liking, try adding a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
* Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products. Experiment with wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta, and bulgur. These alternatives are higher in fiber than their more mainstream counterparts-and you may find you love their tastes. Choose whole grain bread for toast and sandwiches.
Fiber from fruit and vegetables: Most fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, another good reason to include more in your daily diet. Here are some simple strategies that can help -
* Add fruit to your breakfast. Berries are high in fiber, so try adding fresh blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries to your morning cereal or yoghurt
* Replace dessert with fruit. Eat a piece of fruit, such as a banana, apple, or pear, at the end of a meal instead of dessert. Top with cream or frozen yogurt for a delicious treat.
* Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice. You'll get more fiber and consume fewer calories. An 8oz. glass of orange juice, for example, contains almost no fiber and about 110 calories, while one medium fresh orange contains about 3g of fiber and only 60 calories.
* Eat the peel. Peeling can reduce the amount of fiber in fruits and vegetables, so eat the peel of fruits such as apples and pears. (excerpt)
The write-up has also appeared on www.helpguide.org