Adding dietary fiber to your diet is one of the best things you can do to improve your health. But even though it’s easily available and inexpensive, most people still don’t get enough. Maybe it’s because most people don’t understand fiber’s numerous benefits.
Everyone associates fiber with relief of constipation, but it’s more than that. In fact, fiber is one of the most important and beneficial nutrients in the human diet. High dietary fiber is associated with lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Because it moves more slowly through your digestive tract, it helps curb appetite and overeating.
Fiber is classified as either soluble (meaning that it partially dissolves in water) and insoluble (meaning that it does not dissolve in water and passes through the digestive tract). Both types are needed for good health. Soluble fiber can be found in legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, and berries. Insoluble fiber (also known as “roughage”) can be found in whole grains, nuts, seeds; green, leafy vegetables, and other fruits and vegetables.
Now, scientific research (Wallström, et al.) suggests that fiber affects the cardiovascular health of men and women differently.
The Malmö Diet and Cancer Cohort is a large study that tracked the eating habits of more than 20,000 residents of the city of Malmö, the third largest city in Sweden over a period of 13.5 years. Researchers analyzed the effects of 13-different macronutrients (including fiber, carbohydrates, sugars, fats, and protein) on the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD; heart disease and stroke).
The study showed that all of the nutrients studied affected a person’s risk of CVD to some degree. However, the association between dietary fiber and the risk of CVD were the most consistent and robust. In fact, women who ate a high fiber diet had a 25 percent reduction in the risk of heart disease. In men the effects were less pronounced, although a protective effect on the risk of stroke was observed. A likely explanation is that women obtained most of their fiber from fruits and vegetables, while men obtained most of their fiber from breads and cereals.