I recently read an article on how to look 10 years younger and #4 on the list was wear a ponytail! Ha! I love this. Along with some very fundamental and basic suggestions, exercise, hydration and nutrition did not make the list. I tend to disagree with any idea that this type of self-care, especially when it comes to your lifestyle, has on your appearance. When we take a closer look at specific macronutrients and aging, fiber plays a very big role in our overall health and how we look and feel.
A high-fiber diet helps reduce the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, constipation and colon cancer. Fiber is important for the health of the digestive system and microbiome balance. It’s an important nutrient when it comes to aging well, because it greatly benefits your skin as well. Fiber helps fight inflammation, which helps prevent (or even reverse) everything from acne to rosacea to eczema to visible signs of aging (such as wrinkles and sagging skin).
In a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, people who consumed the most fiber were 19 percent less likely to die during study periods ranging up to a decade, compared with people who consumed the least amount of fiber. Researchers analyzed 17 studies comprised of more than 980,000 participants and found that every 10 grams of fiber consumed cuts mortality risk by 10 percent. The trouble is, few Americans consume the amount they should. For people age 51 and older, government guidelines recommend at least 28 grams per day for men and 22 grams for women. But the Department of Agriculture says adults in this age group average just about 16 grams per day.
How Fiber Keeps You Young
Those who have "aged successfully" after a decade (meaning they were free of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, and had good overall cognitive, physical, and cardiovascular function) consumed an average of 29 grams of fiber per day. The general recommendation for adults is 25-30/day. It's important to note that increasing fiber intake should be done gradually, as sudden increases in fiber intake can cause gastrointestinal discomfort. It's also important to drink plenty of water when consuming fiber, as water helps to soften and bulk up stools and prevent constipation.
How is it that this simple substance can have such a powerful effect on health and longevity? It turns out there are many ways that fiber works its anti-aging magic.
Cutting cholesterol. Soluble fiber binds to bile acids, substances produced by the liver that aid in digestion and fat absorption, and it helps your body excrete them.
Protecting against diabetes. Eating a food that's high in fiber slows the absorption of carbohydrates into your bloodstream so blood sugar levels rise more slowly and the pancreas has more time to react and produce insulin.
Controlling weight. Fiber adds bulk, so you feel full faster and stay full longer. And many high-fiber foods are low in calories.
Lowering colorectal cancer risk. The World Cancer Research Fund International/American Institute for Cancer Research found that eating 90 grams of fiber-rich whole grains daily could lower colorectal cancer risk by 17 percent.
Reducing inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases, such as arthritis, certain cancers, and even Alzheimer’s. Many studies have shown that increased insoluble fiber intake leads to reduced inflammation.
Protecting joints. If fiber can reduce inflammation, it stands to reason that it may help reduce the risk of arthritis.
Boosting good bacteria in the gut. Fiber doesn't digest, it ferments. By the time it reaches the colon, the fermented material supplies food to help those good bacteria multiply and thrive. A healthy supply of good bacteria can have far-reaching health effects, such as strengthening the immune system and helping to control inflammation.
Here are some nutrient-dense high fiber foods to consider:
Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas) - Legumes are high in fiber and protein, as well as vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and folate.
Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley) - Whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium.
Berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries) - Berries are low in calories and high in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins C and K.
Nuts and seeds (chia seeds, flaxseeds, almonds, pistachios) - Nuts and seeds are a good source of fiber, protein, healthy fats, and micronutrients like vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc.
Vegetables (broccoli, artichokes, brussels sprouts, carrots) - Vegetables are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium.
Fruits (apples, pears, avocados, oranges) - Fruits are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals like vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Avocados are especially rich in fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Dark chocolate - Dark chocolate is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, and antioxidants like flavonoids. Look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content for maximum benefits.