Do you ever wonder why our grandparents would live longer and would not get sick as we do? My grandma lived to 109 years old and she lived a happy and healthy life until the very end.
I come from a Latin American country where, luckily, fast food was not popular until 25/30 years ago.
My grandma grew up eating foods from the farm and very few, if not none, processed foods. She would get a lot of nutrients from her food and for that reason she lived long and happy.
But nowadays, the food in our society lacks one major secret ingredient that our ancestors ate in nearly all their food — fiber!
“People are so busy avoiding carbs, they forget that these foods give [them] important dietary components,” said nutritionist Julie Jones, of St. Catherine University.
Fiber is the closest thing we have to a true superfood — or super-nutrient since it’s a part of so many different foods. Eating a fiber-rich diet is associated with better gastrointestinal health and a reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes, high cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes, even some cancers. That’s because fiber is amazingly helpful in many ways: It slows the absorption of glucose — which evens out our blood sugar levels — and also lowers cholesterol and inflammation.
Today, the average American eats about 8 grams of fiber a day. But in the past, people ate 100 grams from all manner of roots, berries, leaves and plant foods. And the fiber is what helped those ancestors of ours stay healthy. Just take a look at all the good things that fiber can do for your body.
You need fiber to keep healthy from top to bottom, as well as to provide food for the healthy bacteria that work within you to promote health.
In fact, fiber can actually prevent obesity and all the chronic disease of aging. This is because fiber slows the rate at which food enters your bloodstream and increases the speed at which food exits your body through the digestive tract. That keeps your blood sugar and cholesterol in ideal balance — and quickly eliminates toxins from your gut and reduces your appetite.
As I often tell my clients, fiber is the vessel that toxins use to leave our bodies. Since we are not eating enough fiber, toxins remain in our body causing all kinds of health problems.
There’s good science to back this up. Research shows that fiber can lower blood sugar as much as some diabetes medications, lower cholesterol, and promote weight loss.
But it’s also a hero in more serious battles.
For example, one recent study showed how butyrate made by gut bacteria from certain types of fiber acts as a switching molecule that turns on an anticancer gene — and turns OFF colon cancer. In fact, fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as a third and breast cancer by almost 40 percent.
It also lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease by as much as 40 percent. And if you have diabetes, adding fiber to your diet may even help you use less insulin. Plus, it’s a great natural cure for constipation and irregularity.
Now that you know how beneficial it is, let’s look at how you can begin taking advantage of fiber’s health benefits.
You should shoot to get 30 to 50 grams of fiber into your diet every day. The type of fiber you choose is important, too.
Most people think that bran is the best type of fiber to eat. But bran (wheat fiber) is mostly insoluble and doesn’t get digested. Think of it as more of a scouring pad for your intestines. That’s good for getting you regular, but it just can’t help your health the way that soluble fiber can.
You’ll find soluble fiber in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and most whole grains. The bacteria in your gut metabolizes the soluble fiber in these foods, and that’s when the benefits start.
Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin, prevent cancer, balance hormone levels, remove excess estrogen and reduce the risk of breast cancer, make vitamins and minerals, provide food for the colon cells, and more. So it’s easy to see just how crucial soluble fiber is to good heath!
And since fiber has almost no calories but a lot of weight, adding it to your diet lowers the energy-to-weight ratio of the food that you eat. Studies show that the weight of food controls your appetite, so the fiber increases the food’s weight WITHOUT increasing calories — a critical factor in weight control.
Fiber may also control your appetite in other key ways. For example, it sends signals to your brain that there is a lot of food in your gut and tells it to slow down on stuffing food in there.
You can increase your fiber intake, just by being smart about what you eat. Here are some simple suggestions for increasing fiber in your diet.
Tips for Increasing the Fiber in Your Diet.
- Get the flax. Eat 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day. Sprinkle on salads, grains, or vegetable dishes or mix in a little unsweetened applesauce.
- Load up on legumes. Beans beat out everything else for fiber content!
- Bulk up on vegetables. With low levels of calories and high levels of antioxidants and protective phytochemicals, these excellent fiber sources should be heaped on your plate daily.
- Go with the grain. Whole grains like brown rice or quinoa are rich in fiber, too.
- Eat more fruit. Include a few servings of low-sugar fruits to your diet daily (berries are the highest in fiber and other protective phytochemicals).
- Go nuts. Include a few handfuls of almonds, walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts to your diet every day.
- Start slowly. Switching abruptly to a high-fiber diet can cause gas and bloating. Increase your fiber intake slowly until you get up to 50 grams a day.
- Consider a good fiber supplement. If you’re have trouble getting your fill of fiber, choose a supplement that contains both soluble and insoluble fiber and no sweeteners or additives.
As you can see, fiber has big benefits for your health — from encouraging weight loss to preventing chronic diseases. I hope you’ll start adding more of this important compound into your diet today!
Based on the following articles:
- “The Super Fiber that Controls your Appetite and Blood Sugar” by Dr. Mark Hyman
- “Nearly all Americans fail to eat enough of this actual superfood. While we obsess about carbs and protein, we’ve ignored fiber — at our peril.” By Julia Belluz