When you think of high fiber foods, what comes to mind? Your favorite breakfast bar? A supplement?
Think again. The best source of this important nutrient is unprocessed, plant-based foods. That means vegetables, fruit and whole grains.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, plant-based foods high in dietary fiber may reduce your cancer risk.
“High fiber foods may help reduce your overall calorie intake and help you maintain a healthy weight, which is vital to reducing cancer risk,” says Erma Levy, research dietitian in Behavioral Science at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The benefits of fiber
There are many benefits to adding high fiber foods to your diet besides helping to lower your cancer risk. Other benefits of a diet high in fiber include:
- Feeling full longer. Dietary fiber includes a form of carbohydrate that people can’t digest. The fiber slows the speed at which food and drink leave your stomach. So, you stay full longer after each meal or snack.
- Weight control. Many high-fiber foods are low-calorie and packed with nutrients. That’s good news, since maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important factors in reducing your risk of cancer and other diseases.
- Lower cholesterol. Some fibers help prevent fat and cholesterol absorption, helping you lower your cholesterol over time.
- Stabilized blood sugar levels. Diabetic? Or at risk of becoming diabetic? Fiber can positively influence blood sugar levels by slowing how quickly sugar gets into your blood stream.
- Bowel management. Have digestive problems? Adding fiber to your diet can help protect your intestinal lining and make bowel movements easier or more frequent.
A high-fiber diet may help reduce your overall calorie intake and help you maintain a healthy weight, which is vital to reducing cancer risk.
Sources of fiber
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both are a part of a healthy diet that can help lower your cancer risk.
Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion, slowing the digestive process. Foods high in soluble fiber include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Brussels sprouts
- Whole grains
- Wheat bran
Juice is not a good source of fiber. Even if juice is made from fresh fruits and vegetables, the fiber is often removed in the juicing process.
“Ideally, you want fiber to come from whole food sources, not supplements or juices,” Levy says.
Foods with at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving are considered good sources of fiber. And foods with at least 5 grams or more per serving of fiber are considered excellent sources of fiber.
How to add fiber to your diet
Be sure to increase your fiber intake gradually. Adding large amounts of fiber to your diet too quickly can cause discomfort or gas. Instead, try adding a little more fiber to each meal by including a piece of fruit or switching processed or refined grains for whole grains.
“And be sure to get plenty of water,” Levy says. “Staying hydrated will help ensure that the additional fiber doesn’t cause stomach problems.”