Most of us know by now that including enough fiber in your daily diet can help keep your digestive system regular, balanced and happy, but this component of countless plant-based foods comes with a ton of additional health perks.
According to a new study published in the Lancet, people with a higher fiber intake have a 15 to 30 percent lower disease-related mortality risk. What’s more, they experience coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer a lot less frequently than people who don’t eat enough fiber. And in the short term, they maintain lower body weights, blood pressure and cholesterol levels more easily. Basically, fiber can do no wrong.
In the new report, researchers from the World Health Organization analyzed data from a whopping 185 studies, 58 clinical trials and 4,635 participants to determine whether there is an ideal carbohydrate in the human diet that has the power to protect against chronic diseases. In doing so, they found that consuming between 25 and 29 grams of fiber each day was the best preventative health measure participants could take with their diets.
The bad news is that most Americans hit well below this target with their fiber consumption each day. But the good news is that’s an easy problem to remedy, and it involves putting (healthy) carbs back on the table. Plenty of trendy diets today swear off the consumption of this macronutrient and heavily favor fat and protein instead. However, this collection of data proves that when you pick the right complex carbohydrates, you’re also picking fiber-rich, plant-based foods that have the inherent ability to protect your body.
When soluble fiber is broken down by your digestive system, you end up with short-chain fatty acids that are known for their abilities to both regulate blood sugar and reduce the clogging of arteries. This digestion process also releases hunger-satiating hormones, which can prevent strong cravings for foods that have little nutritional value (like refined carbohydrates and sugars).
And if you’re not interested in stocking up on beans and legumes to get the fiber you need in your diet, don’t worry — there are plenty of other tasty options that can be added to any meal of the day. At breakfast time, we’re partial to steel-cut oats and chia seeds. For lunch, we love adding avocado and artichokes to virtually any salad. And when the evening rolls around, toss some broccoli and Brussels sprouts into your favorite stir-fry combo!