If a miracle ingredient found in many tasty, inexpensive foods helped you lose weight, live longer, and avoid dangerous diseases, wouldn’t you eat it every day?
Actually, there is such a food ingredient—dietary fiber—and most of us eat too little of it, putting ourselves at increased risk for heart problems and other health woes, according to a new study published in the December issue of The American Journal of Medicine (AJM).
In fact, the study found that more than 80 percent of the 23,168 people studied consumed far less than the recommended amount of fiber—and most men averaged less than half of the amount needed to keep their hearts healthy.
The researchers reported that compared to people who eat the most fiber, those who ate the least had a much higher rate of heart disease risk factors, such as obesity, chronic inflammation, and metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a dangerous gang of five metabolic villains that doubles risk for heart attack and quintuples it for type 2 diabetes, as I reported in a recent article. Here’s a closer look at the study.
What’s the link between fiber and heart disease risk?
The researchers reported that previous studies suggest that dietary fiber protects against heart disease by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, and biomarkers of inflammation, all of which play a major role in the development of heart disease, the leading killer of Americans.
In addition, a diet that is rich in fiber has been linked to weight loss (by helping people feel full) and improved insulin sensitivity. Obesity and insulin resistance can contribute to risk for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes, which in turn, also increases the threat of developing heart disease.
What are the other health benefits of fiber?
In a 2011 study of nearly 400,000 older adults, conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and American Association of Retired People (AARP), those who ate a fiber-rich diet had the lowest death rates during the 9-year study.
The study found that men ages 50 or older who ate the most fiber had an up to 56 percent lower risk for dying from cardiovascular disease, respiratory illnesses, or infectious diseases, compared to men who ate the least fiber. In women ages 50 and up, a high-fiber diet reduced fatalities from those conditions by up to 59 percent.
Another 2011 report, by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), concluded that more than 64,000 cases of colon cancer could be prevented if Americans ate more fiber-rich plant foods, cut down on red meat and alcohol, exercised more, and stayed lean.
After analyzing hundreds of scientific papers, the group’s experts concluded that the evidence that foods containing fiber reduce colon cancer risk is now “convincing.”
How much fiber should you eat?
The Institute of Medicine recommends 38 grams of fiber daily for men ages 19 to 50, and 30 grams daily for men over 50. Women ages 19 to 50 should eat 25 grams daily, while the goal for women over 50 is 21 grams daily.
In the AJM study, which analyzed dietary data from participants in a national health survey, daily fiber intake only averaged 15.7 to 17 grams, less than half the amount advised for men ages 50 or younger.
Which foods contain the most fiber?
The AICR recommends a plant-based diet that is high in such fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
Their experts also advise limiting red meat to 18 ounces (cooked weight) per week. That’s equivalent to 5 to 6 small portions of beef, lamb, or pork.
Also be aware that fiber comes in two varieties, as I reported recently. Insoluble fiber helps food move through the digestive system more quickly, helping cut risk for colon cancer. This type of fiber is found in whole wheat, bran, nuts, and many vegetables.
Soluble fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol and blood sugar, is found in such foods as oats, peas, apples, beans, citrus fruits, carrots, and psylium, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s best to increase the amount of fiber in your diet gradually, to help your digestive system adjust to the change.
I honestly would not be too concerned about that! Just try to be eating raw nuts, and you should be okay. You’re getting a bunch of protein at least!
If you really are super worried about it- although I wouldn’t because nuts are soo good for you!- then I would try occupying my mind with something when you feel the urge to just eat and eat and eat. Go eat a handful of nuts when you want them, but then stop there and go do a puzzle or call a friend or do homework or go on tumblr or something and just get your mind off it! If in 15 minutes you still want more nuts- go for it! I’d also drink more water because you might just be thirsty and interpreting that as hunger!
How do you recover from 3 1/2 months of restricted eating disorder and getting your metabolism in check without getting overweight?
First, I just want to warn you that your perception of “overweight” might be a little skewed if you’re recovering from an eating disorder- goodness knows I still have trouble with this sometimes! So it’ll be okay if and when you gain weight back- it’s healthy and good for you!
Second, I just want you to try to eat as healthy as possible. I know this might sound counter-intuitive to some people because they might think that this would be too obsessive but honestly through my personal experiences eating obsessively healthy is better than not eating at all and is a good first step. I know at least for me when I first started overcoming anorexia that was the struggle- to eat- because I thought everything was going to make myself “even more obese” when I was already very underweight. I went from thinking I shouldn’t eat more than 100 calories a day to actually eating vegetables and fruits, so yes that was being obsessive but at least I was eating. I worked with my dietitian to make lists of things I thought were healthy and to just stick to trying to eat as much of those as I could. And it is so hard, because honestly my stomach wasn’t used to all that food and I was constantly feeling nauseous from “all the food” I was eating even though it wasn’t very much.
It’s a really hard transition so you really want to make it easier on yourself both mentally and physically by trying to stick to vegetables first and then adding fruits in and then grains and then nuts and beans- these were pretty hard on my stomach at least but honestly just do vegetables and then add fruits and then just play it by ear and see what your stomach can handle.
It’s amazing how much your appetite grows the more you eat- even though each bite makes you want to throw up in the beginning. Just stick with it though doll! It’s worth it, because you are worth it! X
Hi. Can you list some helpful healthy and low calorie Thanksgivings recipes please? My mother's letting me decide and recently she has been very willing to make whatever I would like to eat instead of traditional fattier ones. I'm thinking of roasted fennel or brussell sprouts and maybe baked sweet potato.
Hey! Yes those sound fantastic!! And of course the turkey! Lean meat is so good for you- and has so much protein! Unless of course you’re vegan or vegetarian.. Then maybe not so much the turkey haha.
I would definitely try making your own baked sweet potato fries- I’m literally obsessed with those!
And just try to incorporate more veggies and fruits! From what it sounds like, you have the right idea!
Have you heard of ASPARTAME? People say it's super bad for you (it's in like Yoplait Light), but, the FDA and some others said if you don't eat more than a certain amout (I forgot what it was, but it's equivalent to 15-22 diet sodas), then its okay. I'm guessing a cup if yoghurt a day isn't equal to that? Thanks for putting up with my questions about yogurt. I'm just SO careful. :)
It sounds familiar, so I googled it.
From what I found:
The acceptable daily intake for aspartame is 50 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) body weight.
I also found that there have been many many studies conducted in order to show that aspartame is indeed a safe, no calorie sweetener. It is even acceptable for mothers when breastfeeding, so it can’t be very harmful if you stay within the acceptable daily intake amounts.