Why Is Fiber Important? Lower Cholesterol, Prevent Disease, and Live Longer by Eating More Fiber

Fiber moves quickly through the digestive system and offers a whole host of health benefits.

Fiber is defined as the indigestible parts of plants that we eat for food.

© Keith Bell | Dreamstime.com

There are many small ways to boost your fiber intake. For example, I like to make smoothies as opposed to juicing, because blending preserves the fiber content of my fruits and vegetables. Choosing whole grains and eating fiber-rich foods like lentils are other simple strategies that I use. These are just a few choices you can make to increase the fiber content in your diet.

Why Is Fiber Good for You?

While you may already know that you’re supposed to eat more fiber, do you know the reason? Why is fiber important, and how does it benefit our health? 

Fiber is defined as the indigestible parts of plants that we eat for food. Because we don’t digest or absorb it, fiber moves quickly through the digestive system and actually offers a whole host of health benefits that include the following:

  • Preventing constipation and promoting healthy bowel movements
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Stabilizing blood sugar and improving glycemic control in diabetes
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Lowering cholesterol. [1]

Fiber Can Prevent Disease

Increasing your fiber intake can help protect you from a variety of diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

  1. Heart disease. A recently published study showed that for each 10 g increase in fiber per day, you will have a 20 percent lower risk for dying from cardiovascular disease and a 34 percent lower risk for dying from ischemic heart disease (coronary heart disease).[2] Another study found that increasing your fiber consumption can significantly improve your chances of surviving a heart attack.[3]
  2. Prostate cancer. High dietary fiber consumption is associated with a lower risk for prostate cancer.[4] In particular, legume fiber has a strong association with prostate health.[5] Fiber improves insulin functioning, which may play a role in cancer development, and it also may influence certain sex hormones that are associated with prostate cancer.[4] Additionally, it has anti-inflammatory properties which may help to fight cancer as well.[5]
  3. Breast cancer. One study reviewed data from over 700,000 women, finding that higher fiber intakes were associated with a lower risk for breast cancer. They concluded that for every 10 g per day increase in fiber, there was a 7 percent reduction in risk for breast cancer. Dietary fiber might exert these protective effects by decreasing circulating estrogen levels, impacting insulin functioning, and more.[6]
  4. Stroke. Fiber-rich foods may be able to protect against stroke, as well. People who eat the most fiber have a 17 percent lower risk for stroke compared to those who eat the least amount of fiber.[7,8]

Eat More Fiber, Live Longer

Studies show that eating more fiber can lower your risk for all-cause mortality, meaning that those people who eat enough fiber have a lower chance of dying from any cause, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.[1,2] People who eat an average of about 27 g of fiber per day have a 23 percent lower risk of mortality than those who eat much less, an average of 15 g per day.[1]

The recommended daily intake of fiber is around 28 to 36 g per day, but most people eat only about 15 g per day. By increasing your fiber intake, you might just be helping yourself to live a longer, healthier life. Try eating more fiber-rich foods like pears, bananas, oatmeal, brown rice, lentils, split peas, broccoli, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, whole grains, or artichokes.

Share Your Experience

Why is fiber important in your diet? What health benefits do you notice when you increase your fiber intake? Share your tips for eating a healthy, fiber-rich diet in the comments section below.

[1] Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Sep 15;180(6):565-73.
[2] Mol Nutr Food Res. 2015 Jan;59(1):139-46.
[3] BMJ. 2014 Apr 29;348:g2659.
[4] Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jan;101(1):118-25.
[5] J Nutr. 2014 Apr;144(4):504-10.
[6] Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;94(3):900-5.
[7] J Nutr. 2014 Dec;144(12):1952-5.
[8] Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jan;67(1):96-100.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chelsea Clark

Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience … Read More

View all posts by Chelsea Clark

Comments Comments Policy

    Leave a Reply

    You must be logged in to post a comment.

    Enter Your Login Credentials
    This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.