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Do you know how much fiber is in your diet from day to day? If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably not consuming enough fiber. The typical American diet is high in processed foods, which are often stripped of fiber and nutritional content, despite their convenience. However, lack of dietary fiber can result in life-threatening diseases such as obesity and cancer, especially colon cancer. But what if something as simple as changing your diet could prevent colon cancer?
How much fiber is required to reduce the risk for colon cancer?
The average American eats less than 15 grams of fiber on any given day. However, bumping fiber content up to 35 grams of fiber per day can decrease your risk for developing colon cancer by up to 40 percent. Fiber also reduces the risk of precancerous growths in the colon by 27 percent.
High-quality sources of fiber
Most commercially-produced cereals found in your grocery store already have nutrients added; however, prepackaged, processed foods may not be ideal sources of fiber or other nutrients, since they also often contain preservatives and man-made ingredients. Instead, get your fiber from sources that have been processed as minimally as possible. For example, raw or steamed fresh fruits and vegetables are quite high in fiber.
Whenever possible, eat fruits and vegetables that have skin. The skins of many fruits and vegetables contain much more fiber than the actual fleshy parts of the foods. Carrots and potatoes are great when left unpeeled — just give them a thorough scrubbing under hot water and trim off any bruised or damaged areas.
Other great sources of fiber include:
- Raspberries: One cup of raspberries contains more than eight grams of fiber.
- Pears: One large pear contains five grams of fiber.
- Apples with the skin: A medium apple, including the skin, has five grams of fiber.
- Oranges: One large orange has nearly 4.5 grams of fiber.
- Broccoli: One-half cup of broccoli packs in four grams of fiber.
- Dried figs: A mere three dried figs contain a whopping 10.5 grams of fiber.
Oatmeal as a source of fiber
If you’re looking to oatmeal for fiber, purchase whole, unprocessed, dry oats — the kind that typically require longer cooking time on the stove. Instant oatmeal cups and packets may be satisfying, but they often have much of the fiber content stripped away during processing and also contain excessive amounts of sugar and sodium. Oatmeal cooked on the stove can be a hearty, satisfying breakfast, especially when you add fresh fruit such as blueberries.
Fiber content in processed foods
If processed cereals, breads, and other grain products are a regular part of your diet, make sure you understand how to read product labels. Food product labeling laws require that foods with fiber meet the following standards:
- Foods stating they are a “very high source of fiber” must have a minimum of six grams of dietary fiber per serving.
- Foods stating they are a “high source of fiber” must have at least four grams of dietary fiber per serving.
- Foods stating they are a “source of fiber” must contain at least two grams of dietary fiber per serving.
Fiber does more than just protect against colon cancer
In addition to reducing your risk of developing colon cancer, a high-fiber diet also helps regulate the digestive system. Fiber helps move waste efficiently along the gastrointestinal tract and out of the body, and also helps break down nutrients so they can be absorbed by the lining of your intestines. A high-fiber diet has also been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk for breast cancer. Additionally, fiber can help you lose weight, as it adds bulk to your diet and helps your stomach signal to your brain that you are full sooner.
Avoid discomfort and gas when increasing fiber intake
Many people cite abdominal bloating and discomfort as reasons why they don’t consume fiber. While it’s true that large amounts of fiber can cause uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms, there are steps you can take to reduce their occurrence while also ramping up fiber intake. When you start to add fiber to your diet, go slowly, and add a little fiber at a time over the course of several days or weeks. Your body will begin to adjust to its new, healthier diet, and you will likely experience fewer episodes of gas and bloating.