If you’re like most people, the answer is probably no. While experts recommend that we consume no fewer than 20 and no more than 35 grams of fiber a day, the typical American diet provides only about 15 grams a day!
When it comes to guarding against colon cancer, fiber is an important defensive player. Studies suggest that including it in your diet helps prevent this common cancer in two ways: First, it draws water into the intestine, diluting bile acids and inactivating cancer-causing chemicals. Second, it speeds digestion and elimination so waste—and any cancer-causing agents it contains—spends less time in the bowel.
What’s more, fruits and vegetables—terrific sources of dietary fiber—are rich in antioxidants, substances that help disarm cancer-causing free radicals in the body.
Fortunately, fiber is found in foods far more exciting than bland oat bran. Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, is found in dried peas, beans, barley, oats and fruits. Insoluble fiber, which remains more or less intact as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract, is found in vegetables and whole grains, especially wheat bran. (See Get Your Day’s Worth for high-fiber choices.)
Be inventive in your use of fiber: Add beans to pasta dishes, add dried prunes to bread and muffin recipes, and enjoy brown rice and veggies as a main dish. Caution: If your current diet is low in fiber, increase your intake slowly. Suddenly overloading your system with high-fiber foods can cause bloating, cramps, gassiness and other intestinal discomfort.