When do you think of fiber as exciting? Yeah, that would be never. But this research will help change your mind. Eating more fiber delivers a slew of health benefits. Here are 10 health benefits of fiber to encourage you to get your fill.
- You’ll lose weight—even if increasing your fiber intake is the only dietary change you make. Dieters who were told to get at least 30 grams of fiber a day, but given no other dietary parameters, lost a significant amount of weight, found a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Fiber-rich foods not only fill you up faster and keep you satisfied longer, they also prevent your body from absorbing some of the calories in the foods you eat. That’s because fiber binds with fat and sugar molecules as they travel through your digestive tract, which reduces the number of calories you actually get. Another study found that people who doubled their fiber intake to the recommended amount knocked off between 90 and 130 calories from their daily intake—that’s equal to a 9- to 13-pound weight loss over the course of a year.
- Maintain a healthier weight over time. When it comes to losing weight, one simple piece of advice may be more helpful than all the diet books, calorie counting, and portion measuring put together: Eat more fiber. A recent study found that people who added more of it to their diets — without changing anything else — lost almost as much weight as people who followed the heart-healthy, low-fat eating plan recommended by the American Heart Association. Fiber has no magical fat-burning properties. It simply helps you feel full without adding a lot of extra calories to your diet. When you have a baked potato (with skin) instead of a bag of potato chips, for example, you’re not only eating fewer calories — you’re less likely to feel hungry again an hour later.
- Cut your type 2 diabetes risk. It’s a well-established fact. A recent analysis of 19 studies, for example, found that people who ate the most fiber—more than 26 grams a day—lowered their odds of the disease by 18 percent, compared to those who consumed the least (less than 19 grams daily). The researchers believe that it’s fiber’s one-two punch of keeping blood sugar levels steady and keeping you at a healthy weight that may help stave off the development of diabetes.
- Lower your odds of heart disease. For every 7 grams of fiber eaten daily, your risk of heart disease drops by 9 percent. That’s partly due to fiber’s ability to sop up excess cholesterol in your system and ferry it out .
- Have healthier gut bacteria. The good bugs that make up your microbiome feed off fiber—and flourish. As your gut bacteria gobble up fiber that has fermented in your G.I. tract (delish), they produce short-chain fatty acids that have a host of benefits—including lowering systemic inflammation, which has been linked to obesity and nearly every major chronic health problem. The catch: You’ve got to consistently get enough grams—ideally every day, if not most days of the week—to keep getting the benefits. Skimping on fiber shifts bacteria populations in a way that increases inflammation in the body.
- Reduce your risk of certain cancers. Every 10 grams of fiber you eat is associated with a 10 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer and a 5 percent fall in breast cancer risk, says a study published in the Annals of Oncology. In addition to the anti-cancer effects of fiber, the foods that contain it—like veggies and fruits—are also rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that could further reduce your odds.
- Live longer, period. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health recently found that people who often ate fiber-rich cereals and whole grains had a 19 and 17 percent, respectively, reduced risk of death—from any cause—compared to those who ate less fiber-heavy fare.
- Be more, well, regular. Snicker all you like, but constipation is one of the most common G.I. complaints in the United States. And you don’t need us to tell you it’s no fun. Fiber makes your poop softer and bulkier—both of which speed its passage from your body.
- Get an all-natural detox. Fiber naturally scrubs and promotes the elimination of toxins from your G.I. tract. Soluble fiber soaks up potentially harmful compounds, such as excess estrogen and unhealthy fats, before they can be absorbed by the body. Insoluble fiber makes things move along more quickly, limiting the amount of time that chemicals like BPA, mercury and pesticides stay in your system. The faster they go through you, the less chance they have to cause harm.
- Have healthier bones. Some types of soluble fiber—dubbed “prebiotics” and found in asparagus, leeks, soybeans, wheat and oats—have been shown to increase the bioavailability of minerals like calcium in the foods you eat, which may help maintain bone density.
If your diet could use more fiber, try increasing your intake of vegetables, nuts and seeds as these are good sources of both soluble and insoluble fibers.