Are You Getting the Right Kind of Fiber in Your Diet?

Research suggests it's not just how much fiber you get, but which kind. Eating certain kinds of fiber might help fight inflammation and improve your heart health.

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You already know you’re likely not getting enough fiber. But I’m not just here to remind you to eat plenty of this powerhouse nutrient that shapes everything from your mental health to your weight to your gut health. I’m here to tell you that it just might be the key to common chronic health concerns – and certain types of good fiber may offer more benefits than others.

However, research now suggests that it’s not just soluble versus insoluble you need to keep an eye out for. The source of your fiber might matter, too. Here’s what scientists have discovered, and how it might be able to help you combat inflammation, lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and better your overall health.

There appear to be certain types of good fiber that offer extra health benefits

Research conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and published in JAMA Network Open examined how different kinds of fiber might impact both inflammation and adults’ risk level for cardiovascular disease. 

Scientists used data from a large cohort of 4,125 elderly individuals, taking a close look at details like dietary intake, inflammation and incidence of cardiovascular disease. They examined food frequency questionnaire responses from participants completed between 1989 and 1990, all of whom didn’t have cardiovascular disease when they joined the study. Follow-up visits were then conducted through June 2015, focusing on those who developed cardiovascular disease or risk factors like strokes and heart attacks. 

The results suggested that total fiber was associated with a decrease in inflammation and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Specifically, researchers noted that eating plenty of cereal fiber was consistently associated with lower inflammation and less of a cardiovascular disease risk – and that’s in comparison to fiber from fruits and vegetables.

So, while it’s easy to assume that the fiber you’re getting from fruits and vegetables is the best kind you can eat, it might not be the key to reducing inflammation and bettering your heart health, specifically in connection to cardiovascular disease. Cereal fiber, or the fiber you take in when you eat grain-rich cereals, may be more beneficial for these health concerns. 

While this study’s findings suggest that cereal fiber might be the preferred source of fiber if you’re concerned about inflammation or your heart health, it’s the first of its kind. 

Prior research has suggested that in general, fiber can have an anti-inflammatory effect. Its impact on the gut, weight and even hunger and satiety may make it so beneficial for chronic inflammation. But that earlier data doesn’t really delve into whether or not fruit and veggie fiber or cereal fiber matters more. More research is needed to better understand how each type of fiber might play a role. 

Additionally, this initial study doesn’t delve into what, exactly, it is about cereal fiber that may make it so great for the heart and inflammation. More research is needed to determine whether it’s cereal fiber alone or perhaps other nutrients present in these cereals that have the biggest impact.

So, should you start pouring yourself a bowl of fiber-rich cereal each morning? It certainly won’t hurt, especially if it’s a food you enjoy eating! 

It’s a smart idea to keep tabs on your fiber intake in general. Whether you’re hoping to reduce inflammation, improve your heart health or simply eat a well-balanced diet, fiber is key. Ultimately, higher fiber intake is associated with lower health risks, including your risk for cardiovascular disease. And when you aren’t getting the proper amount of fiber, you can put yourself at risk for a variety of health concerns.


RELATED: The Best Anti-Inflammation Diet Tips, According to Top Nutrition Experts

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