Diets high in fiber can help prevent chronic disease and extend your life, according to a recent study.
In a study of nearly a million people, researchers found that people who consumed diets high in fiber had the lowest incidence of death. The people with high-fiber diets were 16 percent less likely to die than people who consumed the least amount of fiber.
Researchers said the findings could be explained by fiber’s ability to lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some types of cancer.
In their analysis, researchers gathered data from 17 previous studies conducted between 1997-2014 that included 982,411 participants and 67,260 deaths.
For every 10-gram increase in dietary fiber, there was a 10 percent drop in risk from death by any cause, eight of the studies analyzed showed.
“Having an adequate intake, or high intake, of fiber can help lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol levels, improve sugar control and even aid in weight loss,” said Dana Plummer, a registered dietitian at Novant Health in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends adults include 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories they consume.
“A woman should aim for about 25 grams a day, while a man should take in 38 grams a day,” Plummer said.
Plummer acknowledged that it can be hard to track dietary fiber intake if you’re eating foods that don’t come with a label. Generally, to meet fiber intake goals, she recommends increasing your consumption of plant-base foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
“Oatmeal, whole grain cereal, whole grain bread, beans, legumes such as lentils and nuts and seeds are also good sources of fiber,” she said.
Eating a diet rich in fiber can also help in weight loss by making you feel fuller longer, Plummer explained. “Foods like fruit and vegetables while high in fiber are low in calories,” she said. “You still get the volume and yet your calories are controlled.”
It’s not hard to increase fiber consumption by 10 grams a day, Plummer said. Just adding two servings of vegetables or a bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit will boost your dietary intake by that amount.
She warns to take it slow if you are adding more fiber into your diet to avoid gastro-intestinal issues.
“Drink plenty of water especially if you’re having more fiber than usual and take time incorporating fiber into your diet,” Plummer said. “Your body will adjust and become more regular.”
Plummer said she thinks that people should get their fiber from food rather than supplements in order to maximize on the nutrients provided by food. However, if you cannot get enough fiber in your food or struggle with constipation, a supplement might help. “Check with your doctor to make sure that the supplement won’t interfere with any medications you take,” Plummer said. ‘A supplement is an addition. It shouldn’t be your only source of fiber.”
Click below to see a sample daily meal plan high in fiber. Find additional health and wellness tips at NovantHealth.org/RemarkableYou .