Back in the 1940s, Dr. Denis Burkitt began to notice the importance of diet to good health. Working as a surgeon in East Africa, he rarely saw conditions,
like constipation, hemorrhoids, and appendicitis, that were widespread in the Western world. He came to believe the amount of fiber, or roughage, people eat
could explain why.
Fiber is the part of fruits, vegetables, and grains your body canntt digest. There are basically two kinds, both important in keeping you healthy. Soluble
fiber which dissolves easily in water and becomes a soft gel in your intestines. Insoluble fiber which remains unchanged as it speeds up your food’s trip
through your digestive system.
In his book, Eat Right – To Stay Healthy and Enjoy Life More, published over 20 years ago, Burkitt pointed out that people in developing nations tended to
eat about 60 grams of fiber a day. In Western countries, the average amount was about 20 grams.
Today fiber intake is even lower. According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans eat only 5 to 20 grams of fiber a day. If you are among those
eating the lowest amounts, you fall far short of the recommended 20 to 35 grams. Many nutritionists believe you’d be healthier with the higher amounts
10 conditions you can fight with fiber
Increasing the fiber in your diet can help you avoid these conditions – or deal with them in a healthier way.
Fiber helps improve the way your body manages insulin and glucose. That means you can lower your risk of diabetes by eating whole grains rather than refined
carbohydrates. Dark rye bread, whole-wheat crackers, multi-grain bagels, and bran muffins are good choices.
Heart attacks and strokes.
The soluble fiber in foods like oatmeal, okra, and oranges helps eliminate a good deal of the cholesterol that can clog your arteries and cause a stroke or
Constipation and hemorrhoids.
“If fiber intake were adequate, laxatives would seldom be required,” said Burkitt. Apples, sweet potatoes, barley, and pinto beans provide this roughage.
Burkitt thought “softage” would be a better name for fiber, because it keeps the stool moist, soft, and easy to eliminate.
“Keeping bowel content soft,” said Burkitt, “seems to provide the best safeguard against the development of appendicitis.” Treats like apricots and peaches
are a tasty way to do this.
As your body processes fibrous foods, like peas, spinach, and corn, it tones up and strengthens your intestinal muscles. This helps prevent pouches, called
diverticula, which can cause abdominal pain if they become inflamed.
The best and simplest way to lose weight is to eat low-fat, lowcalorie vegetables and grains. “The more bulky fiber-rich foods you eat,” said Burkitt, “the
less fat you will be consuming, and vice versa.” And since the fiber swells, you’ll feel satisfied faster. If you have room for dessert, choose fruits like
plums or strawberries.
It’s probably never been imagined that navy beans, brussels spouts, and zucchini squash could improve your love life. But these fiber-filled vegetables help
maintain strong blood flow to the penis by lowering your cholesterol and keeping your blood vessels unclogged. The beans, in addition, contain L-arginine, a
protein that also helps improve potency.
Burkitt believed a high-fiber diet defends against colon and rectal cancers in two ways. His cultural studies showed the more animal fat in a diet, the
higher the incidence of bowel cancer. Eventually, he realized that the more bulky, fiber-rich foods people eat, the less unhealthy fat they consume.
Not only that, but a healthy portion of fiber speeds cancercausing compounds out of the digestive system more quickly – before they have a chance to make
Even if experts debate how all this really works, anyone who loads their plate with whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits, and vegetables will say there’s no
arguing with natural success.
Burkitt also considered fiber a protector against other conditions, like gallbladder disease, varicose veins, and hiatal hernia.