As a health and wellness coach, I'm a big fan of fiber. If you look at the facts, fiber is a basic component for good health and here's why: fiber is associated with a healthy weight, preventing disease, and promoting optimal health. The goal is at least 25 grams/day for women and 38 grams/day for men according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM). These numbers are based on scientific evidence that these amounts when consumed daily, reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent and manage type 2 diabetes, as well as some forms of cancer, among many other things. Let's dig a little deeper.
When you increase fiber in your diet, the foods that start to show up in your meals and snacks are beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies. And if people ate more of these foods this is what you would see:
- Healthy Weight: Studies have repeatedly shown that when people hit the recommended targets of 25 grams/day for women and 38 grams/day for men, they lose weight and then maintain a healthy weight. Fiber rich foods not only fills us up faster but they provide satiety signals so are self-limiting. After all, how many beans and veggies can you eat before you feel full? Not a lot, and that's the key; people stop before they've eaten too many calories. You can actually eat more volume but weigh less when you eat this way. People feel satisfied on fewer calories.
- Reduce your risk of disease. There is plenty of research to support that people who hit the recommended daily targets decrease their risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. For every 7 grams of fiber eaten daily, your risk of disease drops by 9% found a review of 22 studies published in the British Medical Journal. That's significant!
- Healthier gut bacteria. Gut bacteria seems to be the topic de jour recently. Fiber is food for the good bacteria that live in your gut so we call them pre-biotics and the more you eat, the more you increase your healthy gut microbiome. This helps improve health in many ways including stronger bones, better digestive health and preventlng bad bacteria from moving in, which can cause illness. Think about the conditions that you get when on a round of antibiotics. Often, women will develop yeast infections when their healthy bacteria are killed by antibiotics.
- Stable Blood Sugars. Fiber slows down the entrance of sugars into the blood stream thus keeping your blood sugars nice and steady and preventing the crazy cravings and energy swings that come from peaks and valleys. This may also stave off type 2 diabetes in the long run as it prevents overloading the pancreas which has to manage blood sugars by repeatedly releasing more and more insulin.
- Live Longer Healthier. The Harvard School of Public health released a study showing that those who frequently ate fiber-rich whole grains had a 17% reduced risk of death from any cause, compared to low fiber foods. That's impressive! If you are going to live a long life, it might as well be in a healthy way as dealing with chronic disease is a bummer.
An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure when it comes to fiber. Including fiber in your diet and striving for the recommended guidelines has numerous health benefits. And the other bonus? Most of these foods are inexpensive. Pass the lentils please!!