In case we weren't already aware of fiber's health benefits, a new study shows that high-fiber diets can lower our risk of dying from a variety of diseases by 20 percent. People in the study who ate the highest amount of fiber had a 22 percent better chance of survival when diagnosed with any disease than those who ate the least fiber.
Fiber works to lower blood pressure, balance cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and lower blood-sugar levels. It is thought to fasten to toxins and help them slide out of the body more rapidly. So it looks like chowing down on apples, leafy greens, and whole-grain bread can help you avoid not only heart attacks but also respiratory and infectious diseases like pneumonia and the flu. In fact, men who eat high-fiber diets from grains seem to have the added benefit of a far better chance at avoiding cancer. Of course, this may be in part because men tend to eat more junk food and are more likely to get diet-related types of cancer.
Fiber, as most of us know, is found exclusively in plants, including fruit, vegetables, and beans, but it is the kind found in grains that seems to be most effective in lowering health risks. The bad news is that Americans don't eat enough fiber—only about 15 grams a day, which is not even close to the 25 grams per day recommended for women or the 38 recommended for men. As a way to gauge your intake, think about the fact that a single slice of whole-wheat bread contains only 2 to 4 grams of fiber.
Are You Getting Enough?
Oddly, even people who smoke, are overweight, or have other health problems live longer when they consume more fiber than do people who consume less fiber. Consuming more fiber can even promote weight loss by giving people the sensation of a full stomach. And many vitamins and minerals found in whole grains are more effective than vitamin supplements. So one place to start would be with a slice of whole-wheat bread in place of your usual white bread. Next, why not pour out a bowl of bran cereal instead of fruit loops? Eat more beans, mixed vegetables, and fruit over time, and you'll be on your way to a healthier, longer life.