Living well Your Health & Wellness

Eating food high in fiber delivers many benefits

Written by Diane Archer

Carbohydrates are your primary source of energy. And, many complex carbohydrates provide fiber. Eating food high in fiber delivers a variety of health benefits, especially for older people. A study in Journals of Gerontology reports that, of all food categories, fiber makes the biggest difference to “successful aging.”

The study found that older adults who eat fiber-rich diets are far more likely to avoid disability and disease as they age as well as to live longer. They are also less likely to have symptoms of depression, cognitive impairments, diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems and chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke. But, the authors caution that the study results are not strong enough to be a source of dietary advice. They also make clear that the 1,600 study participants did not consume a lot of sugary drinks, which can be harmful to health.

The National Institutes of Health reports that fiber can prevent stomach and intestinal problems, including constipation. Fiber is important for a heart healthy diet. And, there is substantial evidence that fiber can lower your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Fiber can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Eating foods with fiber fills you up faster than eating other foods, keeping you from over-eating.

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains all provide you with fiber. To increase your supply of fiber, eat whole fruits and vegetables and leave the skins on. Whole fruits and vegetables have far higher fiber content than fruit and vegetable juice. Raspberries, artichokes, green peas, lentils, barley, pears and split peas are particularly rich in fiber. The Mayo Clinic advises that to maximize the benefits of fiber, drink a good amount of water. (Processed foods are lower in fiber than whole foods.)

Keep in mind that if you want to increase the amount of fiber in your diet, you should do it slowly so that the bacteria in your digestive system adapt to this diet change. Otherwise, you may end up with intestinal gas, stomach bloating and cramping. Increase fiber in your diet gradually over a period of a few weeks.

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