Editor’s Note: I have long started my day with high-fiber cereal, acknowledging the need we all have for more fiber in our diets. That’s why I accepted this guest post from Nichole, I think it has some very useful information for you.
Less than five percent of Americans get the recommended amount of fiber each day. If you’re experiencing digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, sugar cravings, weight gain or an array of other health-related complications, it could be due to inadequate fiber intake.
The case for fiber is strong and the list of benefits can be long. I’ve narrowed it down below to 10 good reasons to eat more fiber.
1. Fiber is the foundation for a healthy gut. There are trillions of bacteria in our gut that help to keep it functioning at its best. The gut can dictate the fate of the immune system, inflammation, and neurotransmitters, which is why you often hear a healthy gut leads to a healthy mind.
2. Lack of fiber can lead to digestive issues and constipation. Receiving the minimum amount of fiber each day (25 grams a day for women and 38 grams a day for men) plus plenty of water to keep the fiber moving can help to keep things flowing smoothly through the digestive system.
3. Fiber helps to balance hormones (including estrogen and hunger hormones). If you’re experiencing symptoms of excess estrogen or often feel hungry right after you eat, chances are you may not be receiving enough fiber. Excess estrogen in the body is removed by fiber and fiber triggers hormones that signal you’re full.
4. Fiber helps you fill up quickly and keeps you full longer resulting in less empty calories consumed at that meal and in subsequent meals. This helps you naturally stop eating when you’re full and can help minimize overeating and excess caloric intake at that meal and in subsequent meals.
5. Fiber helps to control blood sugar. Fiber also helps to allow for a slow release of blood sugar into the blood stream. Picture fiber as holding onto the carbohydrates in that meal and slowly releasing just a little bit at a time over the period of 2-3 hours. This results in a steady stream of blood sugar that can be used by our cells for energy (i.e. sustained, steady energy!) as opposed to a meal that has no fiber.
6. Fiber may reduce risk of lifestyle diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. Soluble fiber can lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and may help food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines decreasing the risk of colon cancer. High-fiber diets may also reduce brain inflammation.
7. Fiber may protect against breast cancer. Researchers believe that fiber may reduce breast cancer risk by controlling blood sugar and decreasing estrogen levels.
8. Studies show that eating high fiber foods may help to boost mood and cognition, and reduce anxiety. A possible mechanism is fiber’s ability to alter the gut microbiota to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
9. Fiber helps produce short chain fatty acids in the colon through feeding healthy bacteria in our gut. Short chain fatty acids can help to regulate metabolism, enhance mineral absorption, and improve mood to name a few.
10. Fiber is only found in plant-based foods. For example like beans, peas, lentils, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Eating a wide variety of plant-based foods has been shown to create a healthier gut.
About the Author
Nichole Dandrea-Russert, MS, RDN, has been a registered dietitian nutritionist for 25 years, specializing in heart disease, diabetes, sports nutrition and women’s health. For the past ten years, she has focused on plant-based lifestyles through inspiring and educating people about plant-based eating to optimize their health and the health of the planet. Nichole has been featured in Eating Well, Business Insider and Atlanta Journal Constitution. She is also a media spokesperson for The Weather Channel and local Atlanta television networks. A former triathlete and current yoga instructor, she shares her passion through her website Purely Planted. She lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband and rescue dog, Mariposa.