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Why Fiber and How to Get More of It


Why Fiber & How To Get More Of It

Physicians have been studying the high-fiber diets of African and Indonesian cultures for decades now, and for one very good reason: the occurrence of colorectal cancer—cancer of the colon or rectum­—in those cultures is incredibly low compared to Westernized nations.

North Americans, especially, don’t get enough fiber in their diets, typically preferring high-fat, animal products that are low in roughage. While healthy fats certainly play a role in a well-balanced diet, adding in whole fibers can be an important preventative step when combating colorectal cancer.

The good news? Adding fiber to your diet isn’t difficult. Fiber is found in common foods such as oats and other grains, beans, fruits and crunchy vegetables, pasta, whole wheat products, cereal and more.

The following are some of the highest-fiber foods across the major food groups:

fruits; grains, cereals and pasta; legumes, nuts and seeds; and vegetables.

  • Raspberries, fresh: 1 cup has about 8 grams of fiber
  • Spaghetti, whole wheat, cooked: 1 cup has about 6.3 grams of fiber
  • Splitpeas, boiled: 1 cup has about 16.3 grams of fiber
  • Artichoke, boiled: 1, medium, has about 10.3 grams of fiber

Most North Americans only take in about 10–15 grams of fiber, but studies show that optimal intake for cancer prevention is around 30–35 grams a day. Choose a comforting bowl of warm oatmeal in the morning, or aim to add a crunchy kale salad tossed with chicken and avocado to your dinner menu. Look for minimally processed breads and grains, like brown rice instead of white rice. Toss the peeler; many vegetable and fruit skins are much more fiber-rich than their fleshy counterparts. And, lastly, while supplements can provide some fiber, getting fiber from whole foods is the best way to get the most out of its cancer-fighting compounds.

Colorectal cancer appears most often in adults over 50 and is often asymptomatic, although some signs and symptoms may include a change in bowel habits or bleeding. Colon cancer can be detected by a colonoscopy, recommended for all adults 50 and up. Talk to your doctor today to learn more.