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Fiber May Foil Disease — and Relieve Chronic Conditions

A high-fiber diet not only helps you feel satiated and aids your digestion, but evidence suggests it's also a powerful disease fighter. Fiber may reduce your risk for illness, including:

  • High Cholesterol /Heart Disease: Studies show that a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in produce and whole grains can lower bloodcholesterol by 0.5% to 2% for every gram of soluble fiber eaten daily.
    That's because soluble fiber binds to dietary cholesterol, helping to eliminate it from the digestive system. This in turn lowers blood cholesterol, which reduces cholesterol deposits in the arteries. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. Sources of soluble fiber are oats, legumes (beans, peas, and soybeans), apples, bananas, berries, barley, some vegetables, and psylluim.
  • Diabetes: Fiber not only helps with diabetes management, but it may also be a powerful preventative.
    Studies suggest that a diet rich in cereal fiber may reduce your risk for diabetes by 28%. By contrast, research shows that a high-sugar, low-fiber diet can more than double a woman's risk of contracting type 2 diabetes.
  • Cancer: About one-third of cancer deaths may be diet-related, according to the National Cancer Institute.
    Research has shown, however, that diets low in fat and high in fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables may reduce the risk of some cancers, including those of the colon and rectum.
  • Hemorrhoids : Hemorrhoids, swollen veins near the anus and lower rectum, can develop when pushing or straining to have a bowel movement.
    Eating a high-fiber diet packed with produce and whole grains, and drinking plenty of liquids, can help prevent and relieve hemorrhoids by keeping stools soft so they pass through the digestive systems more easily. (Remember to consult your doctor if you have blood in your stools or bleeding from your rectum. These may be signs of a more serious condition.)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) : With IBS, the nerves and muscles in the large intestine are extra-sensitive to certain foods -- or lack of them -- resulting in cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.
    Though IBS has no cure, symptom relief can be found through medicine, stress reduction, and by avoiding triggers such as fatty foods, alcohol, and carbonated beverages. Fiber, like that in bran, whole grains, and produce, reduces IBS symptoms -- especially constipation -- by making stools soft, bulky, and easier to pass.

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