Many of us associate fiber with digestive health and bodily functions we’d rather not think about. However, eating foods high in dietary fiber can do so much more than keep you regular. It can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, improve the health of your skin, and help you lose weight. It may even help prevent colon cancer. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t eating nearly enough in our diets. By using these tips to add more fiber to your diet, you can help prevent serious disease and look and feel your best.Fiber is something the body needs but never actually digests—in fact, it remains more or less the same from plate to toilet. It comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble, and most plant-based foods contain a mixture of the two. Soluble fiber turns to gel in the stomach and slows digestion, which helps lower cholesterol and blood glucose.
The latest figures show that nine out of ten Americans are not eating enough fiber; and people in other parts of the world are also falling well short. Part of the problem may be due to the association between fiber and bathroom habits. Yes, fiber offers a healthy and effective way to stay regular. But that’s not the only reason why we should be including more in our diets. Many different studies have highlighted how eating a diet high in fiber can boost your immune system and overall health, and help you look and feel your best. Some of the benefits include:
Let’s get this one out of the way first. Dietary fiber normalizes bowel movements by bulking up stools and making them easier to pass. This can help relieve and prevent both constipation and diarrhea. Eating plenty of fiber can also reduce your risk for diverticulitis (inflammation of the intestine), hemorrhoids, gallstones, kidney stones, and provide some relief for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Some studies have also indicated that a high-fiber diet may help to lower gastric acid and reduce your risk for gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) and ulcers.
Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, is an important element of any heart-healthy diet. Eating a diet high in fiber can improve cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. A high fiber intake can also reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors linked to coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Fiber can help to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, and shed excess weight around the abdomen.
A diet high in fiber—particularly insoluble fiber from cereals—can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes, eating soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and improve your blood sugar levels.
There is some research that suggests eating a high-fiber diet can help prevent colorectal cancer, although the evidence is not yet conclusive. Diets rich in high-fiber foods are also linked to a lower risk for other common digestive system cancers, including stomach, mouth, and pharynx.
When yeast and fungus are excreted through the skin, they can trigger outbreaks or acne. Eating fiber, especially psyllium husk (a type of plant seed), can flush toxins out of your body, improving the health and appearance of your skin.
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