A High-Fiber Diet May Reduce Your Risk Of Deadly Diseases, Study Finds
We know fiber is great for moving things through our digestive system, which is great, but what's less well-known is what lifesaving benefits it may have and how much we should be consuming. Today, we may have an answer.
In a new study published in the Lancet1, researchers found that people with a higher fiber intake had a 15 to 30 percent decrease in disease-related mortality, frequency of coronary heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. Those with a higher fiber intake also had lower body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol compared to those with a low fiber intake.
The World Health Organization analyzed research from 185 studies, 58 clinical trials, and 4,635 participants to uncover some answers. The researchers were interested in determining the ideal carbohydrate to protect against chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes mortality, and other risk factors. To do so, they compared several indicators of carbohydrate quality with these outcomes.
So how much fiber were these people consuming?
The results also showed that an intake of fiber between 25 grams and 29 grams daily was optimal for the largest reduced risk of developing the associated negative health outcomes.
This is not far off from The Institute of Medicine recommendations, which suggests females under the age of 50 consume 25 grams daily and 21 grams for females over 51. Males under 50 are recommended to consume 38 grams and for males over 51, 30 grams.
Unfortunately, it is likely Americans are not getting enough fiber in their diet, as a study in 20082 found that Americans were getting only about 16 grams of fiber a day.
Why do we need fiber?
There are many benefits to a high-fiber diet, one serious benefit being it could protect against cancer. It has to do with short-chain fatty acids that are produced when soluble fiber (found in many vegetables, fruit, chia seeds, nuts, and legumes) is fermented by gut bacteria in the large intestine. It's also great for your heart health, as it is known to regulate blood sugar and decrease clogging of arteries.
We talk a lot about crowding out refined sugar and carbohydrates with plant-based, nutrient-dense food, and including more dietary fiber is a great way to do this. When fermented in the large intestine, it produces hormones that help reduce your hunger, which could lead to less refined carbohydrates in your diet.
We know a healthy microbiome supports our immune system, regulates inflammation, and can affect mood (the list goes on), and fiber is known to support a diverse microbiome3 as it populates healthy bacteria in the gut.
So, how can we get more fiber in our diet?
An easy way to start is to try out high-fiber foods like legumes (black beans, lentils, peas) in your soups and on your salads, artichokes (also a prebiotic) with some garlic and olive oil, broccoli in a stir fry, Brussels sprouts as a side, avocados with everything, chia seeds on your morning oatmeal, and kale in your smoothies. When beginning to incorporate more fiber into your diet, you'll want to ease into increasing your fiber intake because if you're not used to a lot, it could cause gas and bloating.
With this new research and some delicious high-fiber food options, we can't wait to get fiber-filled!
Caroline Muggia has a B.A. in Environmental Studies & Psychology from Middlebury College. She received her E-RYT with Yoga Works and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. A writer and environmental advocate, she is passionate about helping people live healthier and more sustainable lives. You can usually find her drinking matcha or spending time by the ocean.