We live in an age of extremes where body image issues, obesity and malnutrition are the norm rather than the exception. The importance of following a good diet cannot be emphasized enough. But what exactly is a “good” diet? There are many diets that are popular ranging from the South Beach diet, the Zone diet, Paleo diet and fad diets like the cabbage soup diet. While the combination of the food groups might vary in every diet, no diet can be considered healthy if it does not include adequate fiber. Why is fiber so important? Fiber does not help you build up your body like proteins do, prevent diseases like vitamins or make your heart healthy like unsaturated, but fiber does have many important health benefits.
Here are a few health benefits of adding more fiber to your diet:
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that when dieters took at least 30 grams of fiber on a daily basis, they lost weight when all other parameters remained the same. They lost as much weight as another group that followed a more rigid diet which involved reducing calories, sugar, salt intake while increasing consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Foods that are rich in fiber not only make you feel full at a faster rate, but they also bind with the fat and sugar molecules in other foods you consume to reduce the total number of calories that you consume every day. In fact taking in 30 grams of fiber every day can help you reduce your weight by 9 to 13 pounds every year.
One problem that dieters have is yo-yo dieting. Even if you manage to lose the weight in the first place, you end up putting it all back on. Recent studies at the medical University of South Carolina and Georgia State University proved that taking in more fiber can help you stay leaner. Thus, consuming more fiber can help you resist weight gain.
It is well known that the more fiber you consume, the less is the risk of Type 2 diabetes. A recent analysis of 19 studies, revealed that people who ate more than 26 grams of fiber a day reduced their risk of Type 2 diabetes by 18 percent, when compared to those who consumed less than 19 grams of fiber daily. The researchers attributed this to the fact that fibers not only keep blood sugar levels steady but also help reduce the weight as obesity is another risk factor for diabetes.
A review of 22 studies that were published in the British Medical Journal found that for every 7 grams of fiber consumed every day, a person’s risk of cardiac disease decreases by 9 percent. That is because fiber easily binds to the excess cholesterol in the blood and removes it from the body
Good bacteria in our gut feed off fiber and flourish thus procing more short-chain fatty acids which can lower systemic inflammation. It is this inflammation that causes a host of health issues like arthritis and IBS. The key is to consume fiber consistently in order to reap the benefits.
Every 10 grams of fiber that you consume reduces your risk for colorectal cancer by 10 per cent and for breast cancer by 5 per cent, according to a study published in the Annals of Oncology. Foods that contain fiber like vegetables and fruits are also rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals which again reduce your risk of cancer.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who ate fiber-rich cereals and whole grains had a 19 and 17 percent, respectively, reduced risk of death compared to those who didn’t.
Constipation is embarrassing to talk about but it is a common issue. Fiber makes bowel movements softer, bulkier and more regular.
Taking in more fiber helps your body detox by promoting the elimination of toxins from your G.I. tract. Soluble fiber absorbs potentially harmful compounds, like excess estrogen and unhealthy fats, before they are absorbed by the body. As insoluble fiber speeds up the movement of food through the digestive etract, it limits the amount of time that chemicals like BPA, mercury and pesticides stay in your system.
Some types of soluble fiber—dubbed “prebiotics”, which are found in soyabeans, asparagus, leeks, 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.
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