We tend to think of fiber as something that keeps us "regular," but that's only part of the picture. In fact, fiber is an overlooked anti-aging medicine.
Research on benefits of fiber
For nine years, researchers tracked more than 219,000 men and 168,000 women between the ages of 50 and 71, and found that those who ate the most fiber enjoyed longer lives. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found this:
- Men who ate 29 grams (compared to 19) of fiber daily
- Women who ate 26 grams (compared to 11) daily, were 22 percent less likely to die for any reason
How to get an extra 10-15 grams of fiber each day:
- Eat one-half cup of navy beans contains 9-10 grams
- Eat one tablespoon of chia seeds packs approximately 3-6 grams
- Take fiber supplements
Types of fiber:
Plant foods contain a combination of soluble (able to mix with water) and insoluble fiber, and while we need both, each one does a slightly different job.
- Soluble fiber binds with toxins and makes it possible for them to be eliminated from our bodies. It also reduces cholesterol.
- Insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract like a street cleaner, and helps to keep us "regular."
Soluble fiber also increases bulk in the stomach, creating a sense of fullness; and it slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates, helping stabilize blood-sugar levels and reduce cravings. Both these actions help with weight loss, especially with fat around the abdomen.
Deep belly fat that surrounds our organs is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., tracked fiber intake and measured belly fat with CT scans in more than 1,000 people, and found that eating soluble fiber significantly reduces this harmful fat.
Capsules, chewable tablets, powders, and liquid supplements offer fiber from a variety of sources, including psyllium husks, different fruits and vegetables, legumes, grains, and seeds. In supplements, amounts of fiber per serving vary from approximately 2 to 12 grams. When choosing fiber supplements, consider the amount of fiber in your diet and add enough to reach your daily requirement.
When increasing your fiber intake, do so gradually, in small amounts, and drink plenty of water to avoid digestive upset. And take fiber at a different time of day than other supplements. This will prevent nutrients from binding with fiber and being excreted.
How much fiber do you need?
Here are daily fiber requirements:
Men over 50
Women over 50
Source: Institutes of Medicine
All plant foods contain fiber, including sprouted and whole-grain nutrition bars and breads. These are some examples of fiber content.
1 serving Cereals: Mass-market “high fiber” brands may contain artificial sweeteners and preservatives and added fiber extracts, whereas health-food store brands usually contain fiber in a more natural form, from whole grains, bran, flax seed, and/or chia.
½ cup navy beans
½ cup pinto or black beans, lentils or split peas
½ cup garbanzo, kidney, lima or white beans
1 Asian pear
1 cup fresh or frozen red raspberries or blackberries
1 Tbs. chia seed (exact content of seeds differs by variety; check labels)
2 Tbs. ground flax seed (exact content of seeds differs by variety;
1 medium (3-inch diameter) apple
1 medium potato with skin
1 medium sweet potato (5 inches long, 2-inch diameter; flesh only)
1 medium banana (7 to 8 inches long)
½ cup brown rice, long grain
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database
Fiber Supplement Products
Garden of Life Raw Fiber is ideal for those who want an alternative to psyllium, which can be too harsh for some. Raw, vegan, organic, and gluten-free, RAW Fiber has soluble and insoluble fibers from sprouted seeds, grains, and legumes.
Trying to lose weight? Natural Factors PGX Ultra Matrix Plus soothe digest is a patent-pending fiber blend (water-soluble) that has been shown to reduce appetite, regulate blood sugar, and help with weight loss.
Have a little fun with your fiber supplement: Nutrition Now Fiber Gummies marry the delicious taste of fruit-flavored gummy candy with high-quality fiber (4 gm per serving). Great for travel, this product is new and just hitting health food store shelves.