Eating just 7 more grams of fiber every day can reduce your risk of stroke and improve your health. Here are simple ways to get more in your diet
You probably know that fiber is an important ingredient in a healthy diet. But if you’re like most Americans, you’re not getting enough.
Although it is best known as the nutrient that helps maintain regularity, fiber has other important health benefits. That’s why doctors and nutritionists urge people to prioritize it.
“I always joke that fiber is my favorite f-word,” says Caroline Susie, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A high-fiber diet can help with weight control, blood sugar regulation, and cholesterol and blood pressure levels, he notes, all of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes. of death among American adults.
People who ate the most fiber were 15% to 30% less likely to die from cardiovascular events compared with those who ate the least, according to a 2019 meta-analysis published in the lancet. And a 2013 study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke found that a person’s first-time stroke risk was reduced by 7% for every 7-gram increase in fiber in their daily diet.
In addition to reducing disease risk, adequate fiber intake can improve your quality of life through better gastrointestinal health and improved energy levels, says Mona Bahouth, MD, a stroke neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Fortune. “A balanced diet that includes healthy fiber has the potential to influence long-term well-being and brain health for everyone,” she says.
Here’s what you need to know to make the transition to a high-fiber diet.
What is fiber?
Fiber is a carbohydrate found in plant-based foods that cannot be fully digested by the body. Generally speaking, there are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. They are found in different sources, but both are good for you and do similar jobs in your body.
- Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and helps stabilize blood sugar and lower cholesterol. It is found in beans, avocado and pears.
- Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water and helps move food through the digestive tract; can prevent or relieve constipation. Insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat flour, cauliflower, and potatoes.
How much fiber do I need?
Only 5% of Americans get enough fiber, studies show. Most of us are falling short, consuming only around 10-15 grams per day.
The American Heart Association recommends that most adults get at least 25 grams of fiber per day, or 8 to 10 grams per meal.
These guidelines don’t take into account body differences like height and weight or health history, but your doctor or nutritionist can help you determine the right amount of fiber for you.
What are some high fiber foods?
High-fiber food groups include legumes, nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Here are some high-fiber favorites Susie recommends:
- Fresh fruits like strawberries, oranges, blueberries, apples, and pears with the skin on
- Fresh vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas, and potatoes with skin on
- split peas
- chia seeds
Should I take fiber supplements?
There are dozens of fiber supplements on the market. But Bahouth says it’s best to look for whole foods. Studies have shown that supplements may not offer the same benefits, such as the feeling of fullness that comes from eating high-fiber foods. Supplements can also be lacking in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that come from food, and such supplements can also cause gas and bloating.
Still, there are some situations where supplements can be helpful. “Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a fiber supplement, as there could be an interaction with certain medications,” Susie warns.
How can I add more fiber to my diet without supplements?
Here are three simple ways to add more fiber to your diet, according to Susie:
- For breakfast: Add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to your yogurt (extra 10 grams of fiber).
- For lunch: Add 1/2 cup of green peas to your salad (additional 4.5 grams of fiber).
- For the snack: Add 1 cup of berries (additional 8 grams of fiber).
“That’s 22.5 grams of fiber on top of what you’re already getting, and all before dinner,” she says.
How fast should I increase my fiber intake?
When you increase your fiber intake, go slowly; you’ll want to give your body a chance to adjust. “Adding too much fiber too quickly can lead to gastric upset (gas, bloating, and cramps),” advises Susie.
Try adding just one more daily serving of a high-fiber food to your diet for a week or two. If you feel good, add another serving daily for a week until you reach your goal. “Increase your water intake as your fiber intake increases,” he recommends. “Fiber works best when it absorbs water. This will help to have a more comfortable bathroom experience.”