Why Fiber is Important for Your Gut Health and How It Can Reduce Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer

Gut Health, Plant Based Nutrition

About ninety percent of colorectal cancers and deaths are thought to be preventable. Although there is no for sure way to prevent colon cancer, there are things you can do to lower your risk. Eating foods high in fiber, avoiding overly processed foods, exercising regularly, not smoking, limiting alcohol use and cancer screenings are all factors within your control that can significantly reduce your risk for chronic diseases, including cancer. Read on to learn why adequate intake of fiber is essential to nourish your gut health and to reduce your risk for colorectal cancer.

Why Do You Need Fiber?

Fiber and gut health go hand in hand. It feeds the good bacteria in your gut therefore, the more fiber you eat, the more beneficial “good” bacteria you will have in your gut. Another important reason to consume fiber is because research has shown fiber plays a vital role in reducing the risk for colorectal cancer. You may be wondering what exactly is fiber? Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Think of fiber as your best friend when it comes to getting rid of toxins in the body. It can not be broken down so it passes through the body undigested carrying out potential toxins with it. In addition, dietary fiber can provide many health benefits from regulating blood sugar, preventing constipation, hemorrhoids, and even some types of cancers like colon, breast and prostate cancer.

Types of Fiber

There are two types of fiber both of which are beneficial to your health.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can help to lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Foods that are high in soluble fiber include :

  • oatmeal
  • chia seeds
  • blueberries
  • citrus fruits
  • carrots
  • apples
  • Brussels sprouts
  • sweet potatoes
  • beans

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps move food through your digestive system which helps to prevent constipation and promote regularity. Foods that are high in insoluble fiber include:

  • kale
  • almonds
  • cauliflower
  • quinoa
  • brown rice
  • green beans
  • vegetables

What is Fiber?

The National Academy of Medicine defines fiber as :

  • Dietary fibers that naturally occur in plants that are nondigestible carbohydrates and lignans.
  • Functional fibers that are extracted from plants or synthetically made and are not digestible to provide health benefits.

Fiber and Disease Prevention

Fiber is associated with a decreased risk of developing various health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, constipation, obesity, breast cancer, colorectal cancer and diverticular disease. In addition, fiber can benefit the gut microbiome by producing anti-inflammatory effects that alleviate chronic inflammation associated with many health conditions. Dietary fiber may decrease the risk of colorectal cancer by increasing stool bulk, diluting fecal carcinogens, and by decreasing transit time, therefore reducing the contact between carcinogens and the lining of the colon or rectum.

In addition, a high fiber intake has been linked to a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome which is a cluster of conditions that increases your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. These condition include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the midsection, and high cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?

Women should aim for 20-25 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim for 30-40 grams of fiber per day. Unfortunately, most Americans fall short of meeting their dietary fiber intake with most only consuming 15 grams per day. Consuming a whole food plant-based diet makes getting the recommended daily fiber intake easily attainable.

A plate full of high fiber crunchy colorful veggies with dip.

Tips to Increase Fiber Intake

  • Snack on raw veggies or eat a serving (1/4 cup) of almonds instead of snacking on chips and crackers.
  • Add in beans or legumes at meals to replace meats. Use extra beans or legumes in chilis or soups.
  • Be sure to eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice. It is better to blend fruit in smoothies instead of juicing in order to keep the fiber intact.
  • Eat the rainbow (colorful veggies) when making salads. Top salads or oatmeal with 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds, flaxseeds, or nuts.
  • Replace white breads, rice, and pasta with minimally processed foods such as farro, millet, whole grains, and brown rice.

One of my favorite high fiber, anti-inflammatory recipes is my Sweet Pea and Potato Curry Soup. It’s filled with anti-inflammatory spices, plant protein, fresh garlic, sweet potatoes, sweet onions, and coconut milk. It’s so delicious, easy to make, and ready to eat in 30 minutes or less.

To Sum It Up

High fiber foods are great for your overall health. However, adding too much fiber too quickly can cause unwanted digestive issues. Increase fiber gradually over time so that your digestive system can adjust to the change. Remember to drink plenty of fiber with high fiber foods as well. If you need more personalized guidance on how to add more fiber in your diet, schedule a free consultation . Visit the Colon Cancer Coalition to get the facts about colon cancer.