Have You Had Your Roughage Today?

Fiber in your diet can help prevent disease and improve health

(RxWiki News) A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, but a review of studies on dietary fiber shows including enough of it in your diet might mean avoiding medicine in the first place.

A group of researchers in India reviewed studies on dietary fiber conducted worldwide over the past several decades and determined people need a regular amount of it to maintain good health.

"Include high-fiber foods in your diet for overall health."

Lead author Vikas Rana, of the Rain Forest Research Institute in Assam, India, and his team concluded that lower levels of dietary fiber in modern diets may be contributing to major health issues like obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Part of the problem is that highly processed foods with higher levels of sugars and saturated fats, along with beef and dairy products, have replaced higher fiber foods like fruits and vegetables in many nations, Rana's group said.

"We've been saying this for years," Eve Pearson, a registered and licensed dietitian, told dailyRx. "Bottom line - quit eating processed foods."

Pearson said some people may not realize that having the word "fiber" in the name of a processed food means little when the best fiber is around the corner in the produce aisle.

"When you hear increase your fiber, that doesn't mean go buy Fiber One or Raisin Bran," Pearson said. "It means eat apples, oranges, pears, prunes, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and leafy greens. Another easy way to increase fiber is eat the skin on potatoes."

High fiber foods recommended in the paper echo Pearson's suggestions: fruits and vegetables, beans and whole-grain foods like The researchers added that adding fiber does not necessarily require making any other changes to a person's diet. Just add the good stuff.

Pearson added that it's important to be sure people consume enough water while increasing their fiber intake.

Fiber, which can be soluble or insoluble, is essentially the parts of plant foods that cannot be digested.

Soluble fiber breaks down into gas in the large intestine while insoluble fiber absorbs water throughout the digestive system on its path to exiting the body and facilitates bowel movements.

The health review study appears in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health. No information was available regarding potential financial conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 20, 2012