Fiber foods

How a High Fiber Diet Can Benefit Your Health

Now that I’m getting older, I’ve started having conversations about the benefits of a high fiber diet, colonoscopies, and regularity. However, all age groups will benefit from eating fiber-rich foods or adding a fiber supplement to their diet. Fiber can help fight diabetes, heart health, and even some cancers.

I got in good health after my first colonoscopy. I didn’t have any bowel issues, so my doctor asked me if I was a vegetarian. I have long eaten a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, but I am also a meat eater in my own right (beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc.).

It was good to see that moderation (meat, fruits, vegetables, grains and even alcohol) was helpful in producing a clean digestive health check. The doctor made a final remark; he told me he didn’t need to see me again for 10 years: “Keep taking your fiber.”

What is fiber and how much do we need?

Fiber belongs to the category of complex carbohydrates and is of two types: soluble and insoluble. Both are healthy for humans. We should aim for 20-30 grams of fiber each day.

It may not seem like much, but an apple contains only four grams of fiber. Most Americans don’t meet the recommended daily fiber intake, and it shows. A diet high in fiber will reduce the risk of many major diseases that plague older Americans each year.

You can find high amounts of fiber in the following delicious foods: beans, blackberries, raspberries, pears, nuts, peas, brown rice, whole-grain breads and pastas, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, and broccoli.

If you can mix and match the ways you get your 20-30 grams of fiber a day, you’ll begin to see the benefits and reduce the risk of many life-changing diseases.

Along with making your bowel movements more regular (1-2 times a day), you’ll experience many other health benefits, largely by improving your digestive health issues through fiber.

Lower cholesterol, reduced inflammation in the body, and lower blood pressure are the immediate benefits of consistent fiber in your diet. It will also create a foundation for better heart health and better cardiovascular function.

All of these benefits come from eating your daily apple (and broccoli, nuts, and berries) to get the daily fiber your body needs.

A drop in blood sugar can also be a benefit by eating fiber-rich foods. This will reduce energy highs and lows throughout the day and prevent major problems like metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and diabetes.

More fiber in the diet helps reduce body weight, reduces the risk of many cancers, and improves the functioning of the digestive system to absorb all the nutrients you consume. Simple fibrous foods like carrots and apples were a helpful snack throughout my SEAL training. They provided enough sugar to help with energy, but the fiber helped me sustain that energy instead of crashing quickly after eating high sugar foods with no fiber.

If you need more energy for long performance days or your blood tests weren’t optimal after a recent doctor’s visit, start adding more fiber to your day and see what happens. You may find you have the energy to move more, and since the fiber fills your stomach, you’ll reduce the urge to snack throughout the day.

A way to get all your fiber

A recent change to my daily health routine has been to make a shake or smoothie with super greens and collagen protein (whey has irritated my stomach in the past) mixed with almond milk (vanilla) and a fiber ball (Metamucil nature).

A shake can provide 8-9 grams of fiber, so I’m about halfway there with a drink. Then I eat an apple for a snack, a salad with fish for lunch, nuts for a snack, and rice and broccoli for dinner. This puts me in the upper range of 20 grams for the day. You may find that when you watch your fiber intake, you’ll eat less during the day and later see numbers drop on the scale.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author Certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit her Fitness e-book store if you are looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to [email protected]

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