Consumption of dietary fiber can prevent obesity, metabolic syndrome and adverse changes in the intestine by promoting growth of “good” bacteria in the colon, according to a study led by Georgia State University.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions closely linked to obesity that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. When these conditions occur together, they increase a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Obesity and metabolic syndrome are associated with alterations in gut microbiota, the microorganism population that lives in the intestine. This study found the fermentable fiber inulin restored gut health by restoring gut microbiota levels, increasing the production of intestinal epithelial cells and restoring expression of the protein interleukin-22 (IL-22), which prevented gut microbiota from invading epithelial cells.
To increase your daily fiber intake, start by adding a few grams from a wide range of food sources and gradually increase the amount. Loading up on fiber too quickly can cause gas, bloating and abdominal pain. Be sure to increase your fluid intake accordingly to replace water that fiber soaks up.
You can add in plenty of fiber in your diet from whole grains, bran, apricots, prunes, apples, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils, peas and vegetables (especially beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, dark-green leafy vegetables).
A simple way to get more fiber from your food is to increase your intake of raw foods. Eating the skin membranes of vegetables and fruits ensures that you get every bit of fiber.