Looking to add more fiber to your diet? Why?
Fiber — along with adequate fluid intake — moves quickly and relatively easily through your digestive tract and helps it function properly. A high-fiber diet helps to reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Fiber can lower blood sugar, cut cholesterol, and may even prevent colon cancer and help you avoid hemorrhoids. If it were a drug, the world would be clamoring for it. But few people are getting enough.
Here’s a look at the fiber content of some common foods. Read nutrition labels to find out exactly how much fiber is in your favorite foods. Women should try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams a day.
Women should get about 25 grams a day and men at least 35 to 40, but the average person gets just 15 grams a day. Eating fiber-rich whole foods — not foods that tout “added fiber” — is the best way to increase your fiber intake, says Carolyn Brown, R.D., a nutritionist at Foodtrainers, in New York City.
People who regularly eat legumes, brown rice, cooked green vegetables and dried fruit have a reduced risk of colon polyps, a precursor to colon cancer.
That’s the finding of California researchers who analyzed data from 2,818 people who were followed for 26 years. During that time, 441 cases of rectal/colon polyps were detected among the participants.
The risk of polyps was 40 percent lower among those who ate brown rice at least once a week and 33 percent lower among those who eat legumes (a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas and lentils) at least three times a week, the Loma Linda University team found.
Eating dried fruit three times or more a week, compared to less than once a week, was associated with a 26 percent reduced risk. Eating cooked green vegetables once a day or more, vs. less than five times a week, was associated with a 24 percent reduced risk, according to the report published online in the journal Nutrition and Cancer.
“While a majority of past research has focused on broad food groups, such as fruits and vegetables, in relation to colon cancer, our study focused on specific foods, as well as more narrowed food groups, in relation to colon polyps, a precursor to colon cancer. Our study confirms the results of past studies that have been done in different populations analyzing risks for colon cancer,” Dr. Yessenia Tantamango, a postdoctoral research fellow said.
Legumes, dried fruits and brown rice all have a high content of fiber, known to dilute potential carcinogens. Additionally, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, contain detoxifying compounds, which would improve their protective function.