Ever since your doctor told you to start eating more fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes (beans, split peas, chick peas, and lentils), you switched to eating whole wheat bread. You congratulated yourself on trading in (reluctantly) your soft white “wonder” for a 21-grain brick, but your new kind of loaf may not be as healthy and whole as you might think.
Why You Need More Dietary Fiber
There is accumulating evidence that eating more dietary fiber reduces your risk for:
• Type 2 diabetes
• Cardiovascular disease
• Certain cancers
• Weight gain
• Diverticular disease
• Functional constipation
According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, as your fiber intake goes up, your risk of metabolic syndrome goes down resulting in less inflammation and a drop in obesity risk. It was concluded that greater dietary fiber intake is associated with a lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease. (See ‘”Inflammation / Foods that Heal and Harm“)
It’s no surprise that another study concluded that for every additional 7 grams of fiber consumed, heart disease risk decreased by 9%. Seven grams of fiber really doesn’t equate to that much food. You can get 7 grams through a serving of whole grains plus beans or lentils (e.g., rice and beans), or a few servings of fruits and vegetables.
How Dietary Fiber Benefits Your Heart
The cardiovascular benefits of dietary fiber include:
- Helps get rid of excess bile (reduces LDL “bad” cholesterol)
- Reduces cholesterol production
- Feeds our “good” bacteria
- Changes our gut hormones
- Promotes eating low-calorie-density foods
- Increases satiety
- Delays gastric emptying
These effects collectively help control your cholesterol, body weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure which all reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Also, per a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dietary fiber has been shown to reduce inflammation, specifically, C-reactive protein, a sensitive inflammatory marker that can predict chronic disease.
Eat More Whole Plant Foods
Consuming more dietary fiber means eating lots of whole plant foods, such as:
- Whole grains
Soluble fiber acts like a “cholesterol sponge”. Sources include:
- Seeds (especially flaxseeds)
- Most fruits
Sources of insoluble fiber, a.k.a. “Nature’s Broom”, help prevent constipation and include:
- Whole wheat
- Wheat bran
- Brown rice
- Other whole grains
- Most vegetables
When shopping for “packaged” grain products, such as bread, crackers and ready-to-eat cereals, the first word in the ingredients list should be “whole”. However, the remaining ingredients might look like a bunch of chemicals, so how do you choose?
The “Five to One Fiber Rule”
A more reliable strategy to identify a healthy whole grain food product is to Continue reading