Fiber does more than just keep you regular. In fact, it may have a dramatic positive effect on your health.
It may have even more benefits, according to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association, which is cited on the American Cancer Society website.
“Researchers report that eating a high-fiber diet reduces the risk of dying at an early age from a variety of causes, including heart disease, respiratory and infectious diseases, and among men, cancer,” the study found.
For healthy adults, the recommended daily fiber intake is 25-35 grams, Short said. You can find good sources of fiber in whole wheat bread and pasta, whole grain cereals, brown rice and oatmeal. Beans, nuts, high-fiber bars and fruits and vegetables also are excellent sources.
Two kinds of fiber
Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water. Oats, apples, peas, beans, citrus fruits, carrots and barley are examples.
“Soluble fiber may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels,” Short said. “This fiber binds cholesterol in your digestive track, and the cholesterol is naturally eliminated from your body.”
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and has benefits of its own. It helps with normalizing bowel movements and feeling full. It is found in vegetables such as cauliflower and green beans, nuts, whole wheat flour and wheat bran.
How to incorporate more fiber
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables with the skin on, such as eating raw apples verses pealing them or having applesauce.
- Choose whole wheat bread over white bread.
- Mix flaxseed or chia seeds into yogurt or smoothies.
- Read nutrition labels and aim for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
A fiber-rich diet is not right for everyone
Individuals with gastroparesis, a condition where the stomach empties slowly, need to be on a low-fiber diet. Other medical conditions also may require a low-fiber diet.
Short said anyone needing more fiber in their diet should add it slowly. Adding too much fiber to your diet too quickly may cause abdominal bloating, cramping or gas. Drink enough water as you increase your fiber intake. In general, Short recommends adults drink 64 ounces of water per day unless requiring a fluid restriction for medical reasons.