You’ve probably heard that fiber is good for your colon, but you may not realize all the health benefits you get from these special carbohydrates. See how fiber can help you live a longer and more active life and learn easy ways to eat more of this vital nutrient.
Health Benefits of Fiber
1. Remember your colon. It really is true that fiber is good for your colon. A high fiber diet is associated with lower rates of colon and gastrointestinal cancer. It also seems to provide significant protection from diverticulitis, a colon disorder that becomes more common after the age of 40.
2. Protect your heart. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, but many of the risk factors are preventable. Diet plays a big role, so it’s one more good reason to start the day with whole grain cereal for breakfast.
3. Lower your risk of diabetes. Similarly, your lifestyle choices can help to keep you free from Type 2 diabetes or enable you to control your condition better. In addition to a high fiber diet, exercise regularly and follow your doctor’s recommendations concerning medication and other treatments.
4. Avoid constipation. Constipation can be unpleasant and often worsens as we grow old. Bran is a natural and safe way to stay regular. Sprinkle some flakes in your yogurt or bake muffins.
5. Manage your weight. Many plant based foods make it easy to get more nutrients with fewer calories. Plus, you feel full longer because they absorb water and allow you to consume generous portions without overdoing it.
Easy Ways to Eat More Fiber
1. Calculate your minimum needs. One good rule of thumb is to get at least 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat. Most Americans currently consume only about 15 grams a day.
2. Work your way up gradually. If your body is used to processed foods, break it in gently. Add about 5 additional grams of fiber a day. At the same time, it’s good to drink more water because fiber absorbs water.
3. Dine on a wide variety of foods. Fiber comes in two categories: soluble and insoluble. Both have slightly different benefits that complement each other. The soluble kind partially dissolves in water and is found in foods like oatmeal and nuts. The insoluble kind comes from sources like whole wheat bread and brown rice.
4. Focus on foods rather than supplements. Try to get your fiber from whole foods. They provide micronutrients that supplements may lack.
5. Switch to whole grains. Aim to select whole grains for at least half the grains you eat each day. It’s even better to replace refined grains completely.
6. Make your main dishes vegetarian. Even if you still eat some meat products, you can plan your menus around vegetarian and vegan dishes more often. Cook a pot of three bean chili or red lentil soup.
7. Change the way you snack. Use snack time as an opportunity to get more fiber. Dip raw vegetables in hummus. Munch on a handful of almonds.
8. Sample ethnic dishes. If you grew up on steak and hamburgers, it may be challenging to develop a fiber rich diet you can stick to. Check out the menus at Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants for new ideas on how to prepare balanced meals using plant based foods alone.
Adding more fiber to your daily diet can be simple. Enjoy a variety of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and fruits. A diet rich in fiber tastes delicious and helps keep your colon, heart and other vital organs in top shape.