Studies show a synergistic effect of fiber and phytochemicals, such as antioxidants, found in plant foods. A review of numerous studies indicates that antioxidants get a boost in effectiveness by dietary fiber. This has been found to be particularly true of polyphenols, a large group of phytochemicals with antioxidant properties found in fruits and other plant foods. This may be at least one of the reasons why fiber has been found to be protective against colon cancer. Fiber acts like a train to help transport beneficial phytochemicals to the colon. Also, fiber contains butyrate, a metabolic by-product that has been found to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. This is probably why whole grains have been linked to lower risk of colon cancer, because they contain significant amounts of both fiber and phytochemicals.
Another way in which whole grains may confer health benefits is in their ability to lower visceral fat (fat in mid-section and around vital organs). Visceral fat has been found to increase certain cancers, cause insulin resistance leading to diabetes, and increase triglycerides and LDL (the bad type of cholesterol). Conversely, studies show that those who consumed more processed grains (white bread, pasta, English muffins, pizza dough, and rice as opposed to their whole-grain versions) had higher levels of visceral fat. Whole grains have also been linked to a healthy weight in people that consume them. So, get on the fiber train today and let it transform you into a healthier, slimmer passenger!
(Source: American Institute for Cancer Research’s Expert Panel, 2011)
“Fiber Figuring” examples (based on 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories):
If you eat 1,500 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight:
14 grams fiber (per 1000 calories) x 1.5 = 21 grams fiber for 1500 calories
If you eat 2,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight:
14 grams (per 1,000 calories) x 2 = 28 grams fiber for 2000 calories
Remember, this is the minimal recommended amount. The more fiber you get, the healthier you’ll be. And don’t forget to fill your “tank” with plenty of fluids; your digestive “track” will love you for it!
Coming in next week’s blog: The different types of fiber, their functions and diet sources.