It is important to understand the health benefits of high fiber foods.
The health benefits of high fiber foods are many. Eating a diet rich in fiber does much more than simply relieve constipation - it can lower the risk of serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. In fact, a Harvard School of Public Health, study of more than 40,000 males showed that those with a high dietary fiber intake had a 40 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease compared to those with low fiber intake. This article will define fiber, describe the health benefits of high fiber foods and outline how much fiber adult men and women need.
Fiber is the part of plant foods that the body can't digest, which means that fiber passes through the body without being absorbed. Sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans and peas, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
There are two types of dietary fiber: insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water and can help relieve constipation. Sources of insoluble fiber include vegetables, wheat bran, nuts and whole-wheat flour. Soluble fiber does dissolve in water, and sources include oats, beans, citrus fruits, barley and carrots. To maximize the health benefits of high fiber foods, it's important to include both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber in the diet.
There are many health benefits of high fiber foods. Perhaps the most commonly known benefit of a fiber-rich diet is that it can prevent and relieve constipation. Fiber makes the stool bulkier, softer and easier to pass. Eating high fiber foods also may decrease a person's risk of other digestive disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome or diverticular disease.
Another health benefit of high fiber foods - especially oats, barley, beans and psyllium - is that they may lower blood cholesterol levels. Some people who eat these high fiber foods have lowered low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol levels. For patients with high cholesterol who are taking prescription statin drugs, psyllium supplements may be recommended to help lower their dose of statins.
The health benefits of high fiber foods also extend to reducing the risk of heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in the United States. A high fiber diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, combined with physical activity, may lessen a person's risk for heart disease. Research has shown that a diet rich in high fiber foods also can help people lower their blood pressure, and consequently lower their risk of heart attack and stroke.
Diabetics can take advantage of the health benefits of high fiber foods too. Eating a high fiber diet can help slow the body's absorption of sugar, which may help improve blood sugar levels. Another health benefit of high fiber foods is that they may decrease a person's risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
Eating high fiber foods can help people lose weight and prevent obesity. Because most high fiber foods are bulky, they take longer to chew, making a person feel fuller and thus eat less. High fiber foods also can make a person feel fuller for a longer period of time. And, high fiber foods typically have fewer calories than the same volume of other foods.
In order to reap the health benefits of high fiber foods, men age 50 and younger should have 38 grams of fiber each day. The daily fiber amount for men 51 and older is 30 grams per day. Women 50 and younger should aim for 25 grams of fiber daily, and those 51 and older should consume 21 grams.
To meet these dietary guidelines, high fiber foods should be incorporated into the diet slowly over a period of several weeks. If high fiber foods are added too quickly, a person may experience symptoms like gas, bloating or stomach cramps. Drinking adequate amounts of water is essential. If a person starts eating high fiber foods but doesn't drink enough water, he or she may become constipated.