Fiber: the food that can improve and lengthen your life. Are you eating enough?

Fiber: the food that can improve and lengthen your life. Are you eating enough?

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Do you have something in your kitchen cupboard that can extend your life?

If I offered you a super food that could extend your life, would you be interested?

This reduces the chances of suffering heart attacks and debilitating strokes, as well as chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

In addition, it helps keep your weight , blood pressure and cholesterol levels low.

I must also say that it is cheap and easy to find in the supermarket.

What is it?

The fiber .

It is not the most attractive thing in the world, but a large study has been investigating how much we really have to eat and discovered that it has great health benefits.

“Now, the evidence is overwhelming and this is a turning point for people to start doing something about it,” one of the researchers, John Cummings.

Fiber is known for its ability to fight constipation , but it has many more health benefits.

Illustration of bacteria in the body
Image caption Our body is home to millions of bacteria.

How much fiber do we need?

Scientists at the University of Otago in New Zealand and the University of Dundee in Scotland say people should eat a minimum of 25 grams of fiber a day.

But they call this an “adequate” amount to improve health and say that it would have benefits exceeding 30 grams per day.

That is all?

Well, a banana in itself weighs around 120 grams but it is not pure fiber. If you take away everything else, including natural sugars and water, you only have about 3 grams of fiber left.

Most people around the world eat less than 20 grams of fiber a day.

In the United Kingdom, for example, one in 10 adults ingests 30 grams of fiber daily.

On average, women consume about 17 grams and men consume about 21 grams a day.

Bread, pasta, fruits and grains
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Fruits, vegetables, wholemeal bread, pasta and lentils contain fiber.

What other foods are rich in fiber?

You can find fiber in fruits and vegetables , in breakfast cereals , in wholemeal bread and pasta , legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas, as well as nuts and seeds.

How do I know if they are 30 grams?

Elaine Rush, professor of nutrition at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, gives this example to those who want to eat 25 grams of fiber in a day:

  • half a cup of oat flakes: 9 grams
  • a thick slice of whole wheat bread: 2 grams
  • a cup of lentils: 4 grams
  • a boiled potato with a shell: 2 grams
  • half cup chard: 1 gram
  • one carrot: 3 grams
  • an apple with a shell: 4 grams

But he says: “It is not easy to increase fiber in our diet.”

Cummings agrees: “It’s a big change for people.”

“It’s a challenge .”

Elderly men sitting in a park
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Fiber could help us have longer lives.

Are there some quick and easy tips?

The National Health Service of the United Kingdom (NHS) has a full page of recommendations.

They are between them:

  • cook the potatoes without peeling them
  • change white bread, pasta and rice for their full versions
  • opt for high-fiber breakfast cereals such as porridge
  • add some chickpeas, beans or lentils to the salads
  • Peck or eat dessert nuts or fresh fruits
  • consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day

What will be the benefits?

Well, after analyzing 185 studies and 58 clinical trials, the results were published in the British medical journal The Lancet.

They suggest that if 1,000 people move from a diet low in fiber (less than 15 grams a day) to high (25 to 29 grams), will prevent 13 deaths and six cases of heart disease .

It is the conclusion drawn during the conduct of these investigations, which tended to track individuals for one or two decades.

They also yielded lower levels of type 2 diabetes and colon cancer, and also of weight, blood pressure and cholesterol.

The more fiber people ate, the better.

Woman and man in underwear with the digestive system drawn on the body
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Bacteria in our thick intestines feed on fiber.

What does fiber do to the body?

It used to be thought that the fiber did not do much, that the human body did not digest it and that it simply navigated through our organism.

But fiber makes us feel fuller and affects the way fat is absorbed in the small intestine and what happens in the thick is even more interesting.

The large intestine in the home of billions of bacteria that feed on fiber.

It resembles a brewery, but one in which you would not want to drink. There, the bacteria ferment fiber to turn it into a bunch of chemicals.

Among them, short chain fatty acids, which are absorbed and act throughout the body.

“We have this organ programmed to digest fiber and many people do not use it very much,” says Cummings.

Grain
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Low-carbohydrate diets are in vogue, but you should keep in mind what you lose by stopping to eat whole foods.

Why does this matter now?

It is not a surprise that fiber, whole grain products, fruits and vegetables are healthy.

But there are concerns that people are turning their backs on fiber because of the popularity of low-carb diets.

Nita Forouhi, from the University of Cambridge, says: “We need to take this study seriously.”

“Their findings do imply that, despite their popularity growing, any regimen that recommends low-carb diets should take into account the opportunity cost of leaving out the fiber provided by whole- grain products.”

“This research confirms that the consumption of fiber and whole products are clearly important for long-term health.”

The study was done to help the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop official guidelines on the amount of fiber people should eat to improve their health. They are expected to be released next year.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.

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