Roughing It: The Importance of Fiber—Everyday
You hear it… You read it… Your doctor tells you… eat more fiber, take more fiber, supplement with fiber. But do you really know why fiber is so important? Fiber reduces the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease and constipation.
Current recommendations suggest that adults consume 20-35 grams of dietary fiber a day. Children over the age of 4 should consume an amount equal to or greater than their age plus 5 grams per day. Yet, the average American eats only 14-15 grams of dietary fiber a day – falling quite short of where we should be when it comes to our fiber intake. Fortunately, we can and should supplement with fiber. (See chart below).
High intake of dietary fiber has been linked to lowering the risk of heart disease. In a Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals, researchers found that a high total dietary fiber intake was linked to a 40% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to a low fiber intake. Studies have also indicated that a diet high in cereal fiber was linked to a lower rise of type 2 diabetes.
In North America, diverticulitis, an inflammation of the intestines (very painful), occurs in one-third of all those over the age of 45 and in two-thirds of those over age 85. Among male health professionals in a long-term follow-up study, eating dietary fiber, particularly insoluble fiber, was associated with about a 40% lower risk of diverticular disease.
Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the U.S. The gastrointestinal tract is highly sensitive to dietary fiber, and consumption of fiber seems to relieve and reduce constipation.
The benefits of fiber are numerous, but getting enough is difficult. Be sure you’re getting yours through your diet and supplementation – everyday.