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Not Eating This Could Cause Heart Problems, Say Researchers

By on October 22, 2013
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 39 percent of children between the ages of 2 to 17 eat enough fiber–but carrying these bad habits into adulthood could increase your risk of heart problems later in life, according to a new study.

Examining over 23,000 volunteers from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which in part studied their overall dietary habits between 1999 and 2010, researchers say low fiber intake is consistent with an elevated risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart inflammation.

“Our findings indicate that, among a national representative sample of nonpregnant U.S. adults, in NHANES 1999-2010, the consumption of dietary fiber was consistently below the recommended total adequate intake levels across survey results,” says Cheryl. R. Clark, one of the study’s researchers. “Our study also confirms persistent differences in dietary fiber intake among socioeconomic status and racial/ethnic subpopulations over time.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, getting enough dietary fiber is necessary for a healthy digestive system–but it can do so much more. Getting enough fiber into your diet, for instance, can lower bad cholesterol levels, often a precursor to heart disease, as well as maintain healthy blood sugar levels and lower the risk of obesity–two additional factors that can protect your heart.

Men typically need 38 grams a day, whereas women only need 25 grams–but unfortunately most of the people in the study didn’t meet these requirements.

“Low dietary fiber intake from 1999-2010 in the U.S. and associations between higher dietary fiber and a lower prevalence of cardiometabolic risks suggest the need to develop new strategies and policies to increase dietary fiber intake,” says Clark, whose study was published in the American Journal of Medicine. “Additional research is needed to determine effective clinical and population-based strategies for improving fiber intake trends in diverse groups.”

As for how to help people eat more fiber, it’s easier said than done: While health initiatives in the past have emphasized the importance of dietary fiber for a healthy heart, few Americans still make it a priority to eat enough.

Instead, many Americans rely on other food favorites, such as sweets, processed foods, and easy convenience foods–foods that contain little fiber.

“Selecting tasty foods that provide fiber isn’t difficult,” says the Mayo Clinic. “Most plant-based foods, such as oatmeal and beans, contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. However, the amount of each type varies in different plant foods.”

But which foods are best for keeping your fiber intake high? For starters, beans and legumes may be your best bet, says the Mayo Clinic, which contain up to 16 grams of fiber per serving. For example, a cup of lentils or black beans carries a whopping 15 grams of fiber per serving, nearly half of your necessarily daily intake if you’re a man.

But if legumes aren’t a favorite, the Mayo Clinic says there are tastier alternatives–such as sweet corn, carrots, or potatoes. Even a bowl of oatmeal sweetened with brown sugar can provide enough fiber to help you reach your daily nutrition goals–just make sure to eat it often, though.

Readers: How do you get fiber into your diet?

Sources:
High Fiber FoodMayoClinic.com
Why Fiber is ImportantMayoClinic.com
Low Dietary Fiber Connected With Increased Cardiovascular RisksScienceWorldReport.com

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