TAG | Whole Grains
Most people know that fiber is helpful for regularity and digestive health, but could fiber also be one of the keys to a nutritional fountain of youth? According to a report that was published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, fiber may be just what the doctor ordered for a longer, healthier life. The report found that a diet rich in fiber, particularly from whole grains, may cut the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases.
The National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study gathered food frequency questionnaires from over 300,000 men and women that revealed their approximate daily fiber intake. The study participants were broken up into groups, one group included those who consumed the most fiber (up to 25 grams per day) and another group consisted of people who consumed the least amount of fiber (less than 13 grams per day). The study participants in the group that ate the most fiber were 22% less likely to die than those in the group who ate the least amount of fiber. The study also revealed that higher dietary fiber intake specifically lowered the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases by up to 56% in men and up to 59% in women. Plus, for the men in the study, consuming more fiber also meant they had a lower risk of death from cancer.
American dietary guidelines advise us to strive for at least 25 grams of fiber per day or about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories. However many health professionals, like Brenda Watson, say that the daily recommendation should be 35 grams of fiber per day or more. Unfortunately, with the growing prevalence of low fiber diets high in processed and fast foods, many Americans struggle to reach that number. In fact, most people consume just 12-15 grams of fiber per day!
We’re still learning about the many functions of fiber in the body, but what we do know is that fiber binds to toxins and other wastes and improves elimination. Fiber also has a favorable effect on blood sugar, inflammation and cholesterol levels and is helpful for overall cardiovascular health and maintaining a healthy weight.
Consumers should examine the labels of foods for fiber content, but also challenge themselves to skip the stuff in the bags and packages and opt for whole foods whenever possible. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes contain fiber and they’re usually low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Even with improved dietary choices and vigilant label-watching, getting to 35 grams of fiber per day can be difficult. That’s why it’s smart to add a high quality fiber supplement to your daily routine. Fiber supplements made from natural ingredients like flax seed, acacia and chia can be taken daily and provide antioxidants, minerals and even healthy fats in addition to fiber. So while the search is still on for more secrets to longevity, we can be sure that a healthy diet, rich in fiber is a good step in the right direction.
By now many of you have heard about the remarkable health benefits of probiotics. In fact, the good-for-you bacteria seem to be making headlines everywhere these days—especially as we head into another cold and flu season. And as awareness increases about just how good probiotics are for optimal digestion and immunity, there’s another “p” word you might be wondering about: prebiotics.
In technical terms, prebiotics are often defined as “non-digestible food ingredients” that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. So what does that mean? Quite simply, prebiotics are a food source for probiotics. So as they travel through the digestive system, they nourish all those good bacteria along the way and help them grow and multiply. The result? More good bacteria in the gut, which means better digestion and a stronger natural defense system.
So where do prebiotics come from? Well, mostly from soluble fiber sources such as oats, legumes, flax and almonds—and that’s where the “non-digestible” part comes into play. Dietary fiber—including both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber—really just refers to the parts of plant foods that our bodies are unable to digest and absorb, which is why it’s sometimes called “roughage”. Because prebiotics are not digested, they remain in the digestive tract where they can do their job of feeding their probiotic partners.
In addition to obtaining prebiotics through the diet, nowadays many probiotic supplements will actually include prebiotics to help you get the benefit of this dynamic duo (i.e. probiotics and prebiotics). For example, you may see something called FOS on the label. Short for fructooligosaccharide, FOS is extracted from soluble fiber foods such as chicory root and will help to feed and stimulate the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
So there you have it! Two powerful “p” words that can go a long way toward better digestion and a stronger natural immune system—talk about a winning combination!
Prebiotic Food Sources:
- Chicory Root
- Whole Grains