Growing up, did your mom tell you to eat more fiber in order to "stay regular?" Mine did. For those of you who are blissfully in the dark, "staying regular" refers to a structured pooping schedule. Fun stuff, right?
A lot of us think that eating fiber is only important to keep your bowel movements on track, but there are actually many more benefits that impact your health!
1. It helps you lose weight.
Even if you don't change up much else, adding fiber to your diet can help you lose weight. A recent study conducted by the Annals of Internal Medicine saw dieters who ate at least 30 grams of fiber a day lose "a significant amount of weight." Furthermore, they lost nearly as much as people who limited calories, fat, sugar, and upped their veggie intake.
"Fiber binds with fat and sugar molecules as they travel through your digestive tract, which reduces the number of calories you actually get," explained Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D. to Eating Well.
2. It reduces your risk of diabetes.
Because fiber can help your weight stay at a healthy level, as well as keep your blood sugar levels steady, the more fiber you eat then the less likely you are to develop type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that eating more than 26 grams of fiber a day can lower your odds of getting the metabolic disease by 18%.
3. It protects your heart.
When you eat enough fiber, you're helping your heart stay healthier, longer. One study conducted saw 233 people's blood pressure drop after 12 weeks on a high-fiber diet. Eating fiber can also help you lower your cholesterol.
4. It gives you healthier gut bacteria.
It's not something we often think about, gut bacteria, but it's a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. A study in Italy showed that eating a high-fiber diet was associated with higher levels of short-chain fatty acids, which can lower systemic inflammation.
"And you can start to see the changes in gut bacteria within just a few days [of eating a high-fiber diet]," says Kelly Swanson, Ph.D.
5. It can reduce your risk of cancer.
Studies have shown that eating enough fiber can reduce the risk of developing colorectal and breast cancer. Dietary fat is often linked to the risk of breast cancer, and since high-fiber diets are inherently low-fat, this can help reduce your risk. As for colorectal cancer, it's believed that since high-fiber diets move through your body more quickly, there's less time for carcinogens found in your body's waste to affect the colon. Fiber has also shown evidence of reducing esophageal, throat, and mouth cancer as well.
6. It can help you live longer.
The Harvard School of Public Health conducted research which proved that eating a high-fiber diet can help you live longer. The study showed that those who ate fiber-rich cereals had a 19% reduced risk of death, while those who ate whole grains had a 17% reduced risk of death.
7. It naturally detoxes you.
Detox diets are all the rage, with people consuming warm water mixed with cayenne pepper for days on end to "clear out" their systems. Why do that when you can just eat more fiber?
"Soluble fiber soaks up potentially harmful compounds, such as excess estrogen and unhealthy fats, before they can be absorbed by the body," Zuckerbot explained.
Because fiber helps things move efficiently through your body, the chemicals that may be present in your food don't stay in your body for as long.
8. It decreases your chance of stroke.
Research has shown that for every seven grams more fiber you eat, your risk of stroke is reduced by 7%.
9. It gives you healthier skin.
Certain types of fiber, such as psyllium husk, can actually help your skin look better and more clear. It helps to remove yeast and fungus from your body, which prevents them from excreting through your skin, which can trigger acne and rashes.
10. It reduces your risk of gallstones and kidney stones.
Because your blood sugar will be more regulated, a high-fiber diet can help decrease your risk of gallstones and kidney stones.
Women over the age of 50 should get aiming for 25g of fiber a day, while men of the same age should be looking at 38g. However, it's easier said than done.
“I think it’s tough. I really do,” says cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum. “But I think it’s a crucial part of a heart-healthy diet.”
Lisa Cimperman, a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, says it's important the people understand why they need fiber.
“I think it’s important to keep in mind that fiber is important," she said. "Understanding the big picture helps."