Want to lower your risk of disease and death? Eat enough fiber.

By Renee Cherry
January 14, 2019
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The main reason many nutrition experts take issue with low-carb diets is that avoiding a food group means limiting your range of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. (See: Why This Dietitian Is Completely Against the Keto Diet) A recent review funded by the World Health Organization and published in The Lancet gives their argument new merit. Cutting carbs seems to have health implications, especially when it comes to one type in particular: fiber.

First, a quick refresher: Besides helping food pass through your digestive system, fiber can promote healthy gut bacteria and stoke your metabolism.

WHO review spanned 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials from 2017 onward that looked at the relationship between carbohydrate quality and health. They looked at three specific quality indicators-amount of fiber, whole grains vs. refined grains, and low glycemic vs. high glycemic-to pinpoint which grouping was most useful in determining a risk of disease or death.

What did they find? The biggest discrepancy in health outcome came from studies comparing high-fiber diets with low-fiber diets.

The participants consuming the highest amount of fiber were 15 to 30 percent less likely than those consuming the lowest amount of fiber to be affected by stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. The high-fiber group also showed lower blood pressure, body weight, and cholesterol. They found that eating between 25 and 29 grams of fiber per day was the sweet spot showing the lowest risk of negative health effects. (Related: Is It Possible to Have Too Much Fiber In Your Diet?)

The review reported a parallel, though weaker, effect when it came to whole grains vs. refined grains. Eating whole grains showed a greater risk reduction for disease vs. eating refined grains, which makes sense considering whole grains are generally higher in fiber.

Finally, the review called into question the efficacy of using the glycemic index as a health indicator, finding that the GI was actually a pretty weak determinant as to whether a carb was "good" or "bad." (BTW, you seriously need to stop thinking of foods as good or bad.)

Evidence that eating carbs lower on the glycemic index will decrease health risks was deemed "low to very low." (The glycemic index ranks foods based on their effect on blood sugar, with a lower index rating being more favorable. However, the list's reliability is controversial.)

Even if you've steered clear of low-carb diets, chances are you're still not getting enough fiber. Most Americans don't, according to the FDA, which has deemed fiber a "nutrient of public health concern." What's more, the FDA's recommendation of 25 grams per day is on the low end of the range that was shown to be optimal in the review.

The good news is that fiber isn't hard to find. Add more plants-fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes-to your diet to increase your intake. You're better off getting fiber from those natural sources since you'll also receive other nutrients at the same time. (And FYI, the review results apply to natural sources specifically-researchers excluded any studies that involved supplements.)

If you're married to eating low-carb, you can still include foods that pack fiber, like berries, avocados, and leafy greens, instead of going straight-up carnivore.

Comments (13)

Anonymous
April 6, 2019
I tried every diet in the book in an effort to lose weight. My life consisted of lots of cardio and eating like a bird. Soon, I was totally burned out. I felt like a failure. When I finally put the puzzle together, within a short amount of time I was losing stubborn fat while building lean muscle. A new, improved version of me was emerging. Now in my mid-thirties, I’m in the best shape of my life. My story is here ==> https://bit.ly/mydietstory
Anonymous
January 17, 2019
You CAN drop a ton of weight in record time. But should you? Is it safe? A long term approach to diet and training is obviously your best choice. But let’s face it, there are LEGITIMATE times in your life when you need to make rapid body changes. Maybe you and your spouse just booked a romantic last minute vacation deal, and you want to look your best for the beach. Or maybe you’ve got a high school reunion on the horizon, and you want the entire room to watch with envy when you walk in the door. Whatever your personal situation may be, those “special moments” call for more aggressive fatloss methods. But it has to be SAFE, effective, and without the risk of “inevitable” rebound weight gain. And that’s exactly what I’ve found. A brand new diet that’ll strip 10 lbs from your body in the next 12 days: https://bit.ly/burnfathowto
Anonymous
January 15, 2019
Keto diet can be very beneficial if done right. What worked for me was this amazing guide on Keto Diet. http://bit.ly/2FlvH0Y Tells the right way of doing Keto along with recipes and diet plan.
Anonymous
January 15, 2019
Following a Keto Diet has given me great results. I found this recipe book very useful. https://bit.ly/2EBANEY Contains lots of recipes and meal plans.
Anonymous
January 15, 2019
I'll be the oddball. In July of 2018 I went from a SAD WOE to only eating meat. I only eat meat. I only drink water. I will have some cheese on burgers but for the most part steaks and bacon every night or chicken wings. I do not have any issues doctors fear or warn you about. Ive lost 94.5 lbs last I checked and feel better than ever. The science is out there and were learning more about nutrition everyday, dont take my word. try it for 30 days. When hungry eat meat, when thirsty drink water. that simple.
Anonymous
January 15, 2019
While I am on a role. My other pet peeve is how so called "nutritionists" don't know the difference between soluble and non soluble fiber. They are different and do different things for you. You need non soluble fiber for cardio health.
Anonymous
January 15, 2019
Just about every article I have ever read about diet and nutrition is wrong and written by idiots who regurgitate wild claims made by incompetent fools who conduct studies based on irrelevant objectives. There is pretty much two constant diet rules that everyone should know. Don't eat too much processed sugar. Avoid fake fat and oxidized oils. Natural fat is fine. Sugar in fruit is always fine and good for you. Bring on the bacon. Bring on the butter. Bring on the cheese, red meat, and potatoes. Even french fries are actually very good for you if they are fried in good oil that has not been used multiple times. The trouble is most restaurants use cheap and therefore unhealthy oils and they use it multiple times which causes oxidation. Make your own fries at home and eat them every day and you will not have any negative health effects. Potatoes are very healthy. Just don't eat them with a soda and don't eat a twinkie for desert.
Anonymous
January 15, 2019
I’ve been on keto for about two years now. I lost 65 lbs and maintain perfect numbers at the doctors office. I really hate when people who have never read up on this lifestyle fail to understand how it really works. This isn’t a fad diet.. people that see it that way do it for a month and quit. This is a lifestyle change that takes a ridiculous commitment. That being said, we’re not just a bunch of rabid carnivores lol. Like others have said, the diet hinges on eating the right food and leafy greens are a huge part. I eat more fiber then most others I know on normal or so called balanced diets. The fact is that the sugar industry has now taken aim at keto and hard. It’s recent gain in popularity with Hollywood has cause all kinds of people to give it a shot. Now I’m seeing all kinds of studies.. more then likely funding by the sugar industry showing how the keto diet is unhealthy and some even say it will harm you. The funny thing is, all of my close friends and family who have moved to keto and following it correctly have had astonishing results. Not only weight loss, but at the doctors office. Lower blood presume, lower blood sugar, higher HDL. All good things even though their doctors informed them not to do keto at first. I no longer read this “Studies” as they’ve been shown to be heavily influenced by the backer. I mean hell, the studies done in the 50s that linked fat to heart attacks has been shown to be garbage. Paid for by you know who. Look into it. Stop being a sheep and try it for yourself. Check your numbers at the doctors office then make up your mind. The only folks I know who the lifestyle has not benefited where those not following it correctly. Just my two cents.
Anonymous
January 15, 2019
What chris1736452 and ariont said. I eat more kale, spinach, broccoli, cauli, than ever before and lost 25 lbs and the leanest I've been in 30 years. Up the research Renee.
Anonymous
January 15, 2019
Interesting. The article speaks well of avoiding a diet full of over processed foods. I have often read fiber is a good tool to regulate digestion. It somewhat reminds me of the international study that showed certain foods effected health. That study didn't necessarily push a Mediterranean diet, but did seem to focus lifestyle and ecemonic developement. As I recall, people in Eastern Europe were healthier than those in France. It was speculated potatoes, and safford oil we're found as being varibles in cardiac health The study looked at about twenty five UN countries food consumption and reported medical expenses. It was interesting more developed countries suffered more cardiac expense but no definitely answer could be proven. To me, it was "use the gycemic index, get fit and just lay off the hash browns!" But, there's always another study?🤔
Anonymous
January 15, 2019
What garbage! I am growing wary of the uneducated assumption that those on a keto diet don't eat vegetables or get enough fiber. I have been on a keto diet for nearly a year and eat 10x more vegetables than I ever did on the standard American diet, and my daily fiber intake is in the so-called "sweet spot" of disease prevention. Instead of grains, pasta, bread, and sugar--how most Americans get their carbs-I eat plate fulls of broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, kale, and spinach. I eat nuts and seeds and avocados. I've also lost 35+ pounds and seen my blood pressure and cholesterol plummet. This is a garbage article.
Anonymous
January 14, 2019
Why do so many articles about low carb diets assume that all there is to is eating more meat and little to no carbs? I eat keto and I intake more fiber carbs than most people I know. Low carb diets, albeit Atkins or keto, etc., always say that fiber carbs dont count towards your daily carb goal. They call it net carbs which is total carbs minus fiber carbs( and minus certain sugar alcohols, ie erythritol, stevia). By eating higher healthy fats, higher fiber, moderate protein, and low sugary and starchy carbs, our bodies glycemic levels are more healthy(which the studies above say is healthy) and our hearts, digestion, and body fat levels all naturally find incredible balance. I started a food business over here in Seattle called Best of Both Worlds(bbwsfoodrevolution.com) that specifically uses high fiber carb foods to help hit our healthy macros but still let's us eat fun food. Heck, I make a Lasanga using a homemade "noodle" made of mostly psyllium husk(pure fiber). Please learn more about what your writing about before putting down keto/low carb diets. Two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. Keto isn't the only answer but science backs that (done right) it's a darn good one. Writer, please take a shot at educating on proper low carb dieting. And business people, let's transform fast food and our children's school foods etc. Cheers