Fiber Does Your Tummy Good. And Maybe Your Heart, Too.Posted by Medicare Made Clear
Most of us have heard that dietary fiber is good for us, yet many of us still don’t eat enough of it. Dietary fiber is found in plant foods like nuts, fruits and vegetables. Generally, there are two types of dietary fiber.
- Soluble fiber. This type of fiber helps lower cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is in foods like oats, barley, nuts, apples, blueberries, peas and other fruits and vegetables.
- Insoluble fiber. This type of fiber helps to move foods through the stomach and intestines and adds bulk to the stool. Insoluble fiber is in foods such as whole-wheat flour, nuts, beans and some vegetables, like cauliflower, carrots and green beans.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, fiber appears to reduce the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and constipation.1
A high intake of dietary fiber has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.1 Soluble fiber may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels.2 Fiber may also have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.2 In a Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals, researchers found that a high total dietary fiber intake was linked to a 40 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to a low fiber intake.1
Type 2 Diabetes
Maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and not smoking aren’t the only ways that may help reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes. Eating a high-fiber diet may help, too.1 A diet high in cereal fiber and low in high-glycemic-index foods significantly reduces the chance of getting type 2 diabetes compared to a diet low in cereal fiber and rich in high-glycemic-index food.1 In people who have diabetes, soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels.2
Constipation is a common problem for many older adults. Dietary fiber, especially cereal fiber, may help relieve or prevent constipation before it starts. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the fiber in wheat bran and oat bran seems to be more effective than similar amounts of fiber from fruits and vegetables.1
Getting Fiber from the Food You Eat is Usually Best
Most adults should eat between 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day. 3 However, that doesn’t mean you should add it to your diet all at once. Eating too much fiber too soon when your body isn’t used to it may cause intestinal gas, bloating and abdominal cramps. Start by adding fiber slowly over a period of a few weeks until your body adjusts to the change.
If you have questions about fiber or fiber supplements, schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns with your doctor at your Medicare Part B annual Wellness Visit. Schedule your Wellness Visit today.
For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.
Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet: Mayo Clinic Staff
National Agricultural Library: A Fiber resources library for consumers — USDA.gov
Medicare Made Clear: Tools and resources to help you make informed Medicare decisions — MedicareMadeClear.com
1 Fiber: Start Roughing It!, Harvard P.H. Chan, School of Public Health, February 2, 2015
2 Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet: Mayo Clinic Staff, November 17, 2012
3 Fiber, Medline Plus, August 17, 2015