Wondering why you need to eat more fiber? Do you know why exactly fiber is so important? Dietary fiber is mostly known for its role in regulating bowel movements, but the health benefits of this indigestible carbohydrate go far beyond your digestive tract. From a reduced risk of chronic diseases to cancer prevention, there’s so much good that fiber can do. Unfortunately, research shows that only 5% of us are eating enough high-fiber foods. If you want to get motivated to eat more fiber, consider the following health benefits and you'll know exactly why you need to eat more fiber.
One of the most important reasons why you need to eat more fiber is because it helps you maintain a healthy weight. I often recommend high-fiber foods like whole grains, leafy greens, fruit, and legumes, for weight management. The fiber in these foods can keep you feeling fuller for longer by slowing down digestion. High-fiber foods are low in calories, which also helps with weight management. Since fiber inhibits the absorption of nutrients like sugar and fat, it is much easier to lose weight on a high-fiber diet. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults eat between 25 and 38 grams a day, for optimal health and weight.
Fiber is classified as either soluble or insoluble. Both types of fiber support gastrointestinal health, but in different ways. Soluble fiber prevents watery stools, while insoluble fiber prevents constipation. Most high-fiber foods contain both types of fiber, which helps normalize digestion. Soluble fiber ferments in the large intestine, which promotes the growth of good bacteria. Soluble fiber also acts as the substance through which bacteria produce long-chain fatty acids found to reduce inflammation in the gut.
Insoluble fiber interferes with the absorption of nutrients like sugar. This helps control blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber slows down digestion, which can also prevent blood sugar spikes. A meta-analysis published in Hormone and Metabolic Research found that insoluble fibers, like the ones found in whole grains, are especially effective in preventing type 2 diabetes. This makes perfect sense when you consider that diabetes-friendly diets mostly consist of plant-based foods.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. On the bright side, you can easily prevent cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, atherosclerosis, and stroke by eating healthy. Studies often link high-fiber diets to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Specifically, research has found that these diets reduce LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation – all factors that can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Numerous studies have also linked high-fiber diets to a reduced risk of digestive system cancers. The way fiber prevents cancer is by facilitating digestion, reducing inflammation of the stomach lining, and supporting the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Fiber enhances immune function, which can also contribute to a reduced risk of cancers of the digestive tract. Other than cancer, studies have also found that fiber can prevent stomach ulcers, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, and gastric reflux disease.
A diet high in fiber is a good way to take charge of your health and to control your body weight. This indigestible nutrient provides a range of health benefits, some of which I have listed here. To increase your intake of dietary fiber, make sure your diet is rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Natural sources of fiber are best, as there is a variety of different high-fiber foods.