Scientists have long known that keeping a diet high in fiber goes a long way to protecting the body from chronic diseases. It is most powerful in protecting all areas of the digestive tract from problems. And those problems include cancer.
A brand new study in the journal Gastroenterology has found an added benefit to eating lots of fiber and foods made with whole grains. We had known that eating this way could help prevent colon cancer. But they also found that these dietary habits could prevent cancer from developing in the small intestine as well.
Of the entire digestive tract, the small intestine comprises about three-quarters. Cancers are less common in the small intestine, however, when compared to the large intestine or colon. (Colorectal cancers are among the most common and most fatal tumors.)
A team from the National Cancer Institute analyzed data to gauge fiber’s cancer protection in the small bowel. Over the span of one year in the mid-1990s, they looked at data from nearly 300,000 men and 200,000 women. It was called the Diet and Health Study. Over the course of seven years, they discovered that 165 patients had developed cancer of the small intestine.
Researchers found that people with the highest intake of fiber from grains had a 49% reduced risk of such a cancer. (That is compared to people with the lowest intake.) And for whole grains? There was a 41% reduced risk of small bowel cancer for people eating the most to people eating the least amount.
Experts call for adults to consume between 20 g and 35 g of fiber per day through food. Unfortunately, the average adult gets only 12 g to 18 g — in some cases, far below what is recommended. Dietary fiber comes in a variety of foods and it’s not that hard to stock up on it. It will also contribute to you feeling full faster, so you are not tempted to overeat (important for people trying to shed pounds).
Here is the best of the lot for finding fiber in foods:
- Fruit: raspberries, pears and apples (with skin), figs
- Grains: whole wheat spaghetti, barley oat bran, bran flakes, oatmeal
- Legumes, nuts: split peas, lentils, black beans, lima beans, baked beans, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, pistachios, flaxseeds, pecans
- Veggies: artichoke, peas, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, potato (with skin), tomato paste, carrots, Brussels sprouts
And keep your eyes peeled at the grocery store, because brands are pushing their fiber content a lot these days. Stock up on this cancer protection.