Per Harvard, 2016: Women who eat more high-fiber foods during adolescence and young adulthood—especially lots of fruits and vegetables—may have significantly lower breast cancer risk than those who eat less dietary fiber when young, according to a new large-scale study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Breast cancer risk was 12%-19% lower among women who ate more dietary fiber in early adulthood, depending on how much more they ate. High intake of fiber during adolescence was also associated with 16% lower risk of overall breast cancer and 24% lower risk of breast cancer before menopause.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber cannot be broken down into sugar molecules, and instead it passes through the body undigested. Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check. Children and adults need at least 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day for good health, but most Americans get only about 15 grams a day. Great sources are whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
1. Start the day with whole grains.
Try a hot cereal, like steel cut or old fashioned oats (not instant oatmeal), or a cold cereal that lists a whole grain first on the ingredient list and is low in sugar. A good rule of thumb: Choose a cereal that has at least 4 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar per serving.
2. Use whole grain breads for lunch or snacks.
Confused about how to find a whole-grain bread? Look for bread that lists as the first ingredient whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain —and even better, one that is made with only whole grains, such as 100 percent whole wheat bread.
3. Also look beyond the bread aisle.
Whole wheat bread is often made with finely ground flour, and bread products are often high in sodium. Instead of bread, try a whole grain in salad form such as brown rice or quinoa.
4. Choose whole fruit instead of juice.
An orange has two times as much fiber and half as much sugar as a 12-ounce glass of orange juice.
5. Pass on potatoes, and instead bring on the beans.
Rather than fill up on potatoes – which have been found to promote weight gain – choose beans for an excellent source of slowly digested carbohydrates. Beans and other legumes such as chickpeas also provide a healthy dose of protein.
6. Keep fruit where you can see it. That way you’ll be more likely to eat it.
7. Explore the produce aisle and choose something new. Variety is the key to a healthy diet.
8. Skip the potatoes. Choose other vegetables that are packed with more nutrients and more slowly digested carbohydrates.
9. Make it a meal. Try cooking new recipes that include more vegetables. Salads and stir fries are two ideas for getting tasty vegetables on your plate.
10. Be careful when choosing whole grains: “Whole grain” doesn’t always mean healthy.
One study revealed that inconsistent food labeling means that foods identified as “whole grain” are not always healthy.
- The study assessed five USDA guidelines that appear on labels of whole grain foods: any whole grain as the first ingredient, any whole grain as the first ingredient without added sugars in the first three ingredients, the word “whole” before any grain ingredient, a carbohydrate to fiber ratio of less than 10:1, and the Whole Grain Stamp.
- The Whole Grain Stamp is a widely used marker on food products. The stamp, while designed to steer consumers towards healthy whole grains, actually identified products that were low in trans fats but higher in sugar and calories than whole grain foods without the stamp.
- The other three USDA guidelines had mixed results in identifying healthier whole grain products, but the carbohydrate to fiber ratio of less than 10:1 proved to be the most effective measure of healthfulness. Foods that met this criterion were low in trans fats, sodium, sugar, and calories.