Earlier this year the health benefits of fiber became more than just a talking point when the results of the World Health Organization (WHO) released their study in The Lancet.
This study was a meta-analysis of 40 years’ worth of research on the health benefits of fiber. Specifically it was an attempt to determine the ideal amount of fiber you need to consume daily to prevent chronic disease and premature death.
The chronic diseases were:
Chronic Respiratory Diseases
This study included 185 observational studies that accounted for 135 million person-years as well as 58 clinical trials that recruited over 4600 people. And the result was this:
Daily Intake of 25 – 29 Grams of Fiber is Ideal
The researchers found the following statistical advantage to those who consumed this level of fiber on a daily basis:
- 15 – 30% less likely to die prematurely from any cause or a cardiovascular condition
- 16 – 24% lower incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer.
So how does this ideal daily intake of 25 -29 grams of fiber compare to the average American adult?
Well, here in America the average adult consumes 15 grams of fiber daily. This is about 40 to 48% less than the ideal about of fiber.
Professor Jim Mann, the lead author of the study, made this comment,
“Our findings provide convincing evidence for nutrition guidelines to focus on increasing dietary fiber and on replacing refined grains with whole grains. This reduces incidence risk and mortality from a broad range of important diseases.”
Health Benefits of Fiber – The Basics
Dietary fiber is found only in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts, and legumes (dried beans, lentils and peas). Although there are several forms of fiber, they are usually classified into two groups:
- Soluble fiber can dissolve in water to form a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. This soluble fiber is beneficial in lowering the “BAD” cholesterol. Clinical studies have shown that diets containing 10 to 25 grams of soluble fiber per day can lower LDL cholesterol by 18%. Sources of good soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, apples, and citrus fruits. Typically one serving of any of these foods will provide about one to three grams of soluble fiber.
- Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water so it passes through the digestive tract relatively unchanged. This insoluble fiber helps to make your stools softer and bulkier and speeds elimination. Sources of insoluble fiber would include whole-grain foods, wheat bran, most vegetables and fruit with skin.
Typically, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables contain just as much fiber as raw ones. However, some types of refining processes may reduce the fiber content.
Current food labeling requires the amount of dietary fiber to be listed. It’s listed just below the “Total Carbohydrate” portion of the Nutrition Facts section of the product label. For a manufacturer to make fiber claims it must meet the following guidelines:
High Fiber: 5 grams or more per serving
Good Source of Fiber: 2.5 – 4.9 grams per serving
More or Added Fiber: At least 2.5 grams more per serving than the reference food
Health Benefits of Fiber – According to the Mayo Clinic
The Mayo Clinic has a healthy amount of material as it regards the health benefits of fiber. Here is their list:
- Normalizes Bowel Movements
- Helps Maintain Bowel Health
- Lowers Cholesterol Levels
- Helps Control Blood Sugar Levels
- Aids in Achieving Healthy Weight
- Helps You Live Longer
They especially note that increasing your dietary fiber intake “is associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers.”
Now if you want to take steps to increase your fiber intake, then I would suggest reading my blog post titled “Fiber Intake and Cholesterol Reduction Part 2” as it contains 3 simple steps to increasing your fiber intake.
Your goal is to make sure you’re consuming 25 – 29 grams of fiber each day. If you do, then you can enjoy the health benefits of fiber while decreasing your risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes.
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