Popcorn is loaded with fiber. Just be sure to stick with the healthier air-popped version. (Photo: Getty Images)
Could the fountain of youth be found in fiber?
It’s well documented that fiber— a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest — has numerous nutritional benefits, such as promoting a healthy digestive system, lowering cholesterol levels, and aiding in weight loss. And now, a recent study published in The Journals of Gerontology shows that eating the right amount of fiber from breads, cereals, and fruits can help keep diseases and disabilities at bay.
Researchers from Australia examined the data of more than 1,600 adults age 50 and older, and focused on the possible link between carbohydrate nutrition and healthy aging. Out of the five dietary habits analyzed — which included a person’s total carbohydrate intake, total fiber intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and sugar intake — they discovered that fiber made the biggest impact when it came to “successful aging” (a term defined as including an absence of disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory symptoms, and chronic diseases including cancer, coronary artery disease, and stroke).
“Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fiber or total fiber actually had an almost 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year followup,” said lead study author Bamini Gopinath, PhD, from Westmead Institute’s Center for Vision Research, in a press release. “That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disability.”
“I think the results of this study back up what dietitians have tried to tell clients for years — a high-fiber diet benefits every aspect of health,” Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies, tells Yahoo Beauty. “From helping to regulate body weight, blood-sugar levels, and appetite to improving gut flora and intestinal health, while promoting a healthy heart, there are numerous benefits tied to a diet rich in fiber. So it makes sense that a high fiber diet would have an overall positive impact on longevity.”
Palinski-Wade adds that the average adult isn’t consuming enough fiber each day. “Daily fiber intake should fall between 28-35 grams per day, yet most people on average take in only about 15 grams per day,” she states.
However, adding this healthy carb to each meal and snack is quite simple. For example, Palinski-Wade suggests starting the day with a serving of whole fruit and pairing it with a high-fiber carbohydrate, such as steel cut-oats or a 100-percent-whole-grain cereal. “Then top it with chopped nuts for an extra boost,” she says.
For lunch and dinner, she recommends filling half your plate with fiber-rich veggies (such as artichokes, spinach, broccoli, carrots, beets, or Swiss chard, as well as beans and legumes) and fruits (like apples, bananas, strawberries, oranges, or raspberries). For the other half of the dish, divide it between whole grains (including brown rice, bulgur wheat or quinoa), along with lean protein and healthy fats.
“As a snack, enjoy high-fiber options, such as raw vegetables and hummus, air-popped popcorn, whole-grain pretzels dipped in nut butter, nuts, seeds, or edamame,” says Palinski-Wade.
Here, she offers an example of fiber-rich meal plan:
1 cup steel-cut oats (8 grams) topped with 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts (1 gram) and ¾ cup fresh berries (3 grams)
1 ounce pistachios (3 grams) and 1 medium apple (4 grams)
3 cups fresh spinach topped (3 grams) with 1 tablespoon slivered almonds (1 grams), ½ cup sliced strawberries (1.5 grams), 3 ounces lean protein such as chicken breast, and 2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing
3 cups air-popped popcorn (3.5 grams)
2 cups vegetables (mix of broccoli and carrots) (8 grams) sautéed in 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2/3 cup quinoa (2.5 grams), 4 ounces lean protein (salmon fillet)
6 whole grain crackers (1 gram) with 1 ounce cheese
Total daily fiber intake: 39.5 grams