A new study has linked a remarkable brain health benefit to eating a high-fiber diet.
Today we'll have a close look at this study and its implications for cognitive health. Plus, we'll review the importance of fiber for bone health.
You'll learn the best sources of fiber and will get two new recipes that feature a fiber-rich ingredient that's also a Foundation Food.
High-Fiber Diets Reduce Risk Of Dementia
A large-scale study conducted in Japan has found a link between high-fiber diets and a reduced risk of dementia.
Researchers surveyed 3,739 participants aged 40 to 64 years about their dietary intake between 1985 and 1999. Then, between 1999 and 2020 they tracked which participants developed dementia.
When they analyzed the resulting data, they found that the participants who ate the most fiber were least likely to develop dementia.1
Here is what the lead author, Professor Kazumasa Yamagishi, had to say about the potential explanations for this outcome:
“The mechanisms are currently unknown but might involve the interactions that take place between the gut and the brain,” says Professor Yamagishi. “One possibility is that soluble fiber regulates the composition of gut bacteria. This composition may affect neuroinflammation, which plays a role in the onset of dementia. It's also possible that dietary fiber may reduce other risk factors for dementia, such as body weight, blood pressure, lipids, and glucose levels.”1
In a large study in Japan, researchers associated high-fiber diets with a reduced risk of dementia.
Fiber And Bone Health
Some of the potential explanations for fiber's cognitive health benefits also contribute to bone health.
The anti-inflammatory effects of fiber that Professor Yamaguchi suggested may protect cognitive health have also been found to protect bones. Studies have observed that the chronic, low-grade systemic inflammation that often accompanies aging is characterized by an increase in the levels of inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines, such as C-reactive protein, have been directly associated with increased incidence of fracture.2
Research on the relationship between fiber intake and bone loss found that fiber from vegetables protected against spinal bone loss in women.3 Another study has confirmed that increasing fiber intake during menopause helped to build and maintain calcium in bones.4
Clearly, a high fiber diet is a powerful and effective way to protect your bones, by reducing inflammation and fracture risk.
Inflammation has been linked to increased fracture risk, while inflammation-reducing fiber has been shown to protect against bone loss.
When you hear “fiber-rich foods” you may think of whole-grain bread or prunes. And those are both correct, but there are far more foods that offer an abundance of this useful compound. The list below is more than enough for an endless array of fiber-forward dishes.
- Black beans*
- Pumpkin seeds*
- Sunflower seeds*
- Chia seeds
- Brown rice*
- Whole grain bread*, pasta, and cereal
- Baked Potatoes (with the skin)
- Brussel sprouts*
- Collard greens*
- Artichoke hearts*
Two Recipes Featuring Kale
Your total dietary fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams a day — ideally from food sources. The recipes below each contain about half your daily intake per serving, around 15 grams, in part because they both include fiber-rich kale.
These dishes are sure to leave you feeling satisfied due to their generous helpings of both bone-protective fiber and plant-based protein — not to mention their rich and complex flavors!
- 2 ripe plantains sliced into 1/2-inch rounds, previously baked or sauteed
- 1 cup cooked brown rice, cooked
- 1 cup black beans, cooked and drained
- 1½ cups chopped kale, raw
- ½ white or yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- Sea salt to taste
- Chopped cilantro to taste
- Salsa, cubed avocado, and lemon wedges for topping
- Chop the kale and the avocado. Set aside.
- Chop the onion while in a pot you heat the coconut oil.
- Once the oil is hot, saute the onion until seethrough or soft, and then saute the kale.
- Once kale is slightly soft, mix the cooked rice, plantains, and beans.
- Season to taste with sea salt and heat over medium temperature until hot.
- Serve in a bowl and top with salsa, avocado, cilantro, and lemon wedges.
Butternut Squash Surprise
- 1 cup diced raw tomatoes
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ½ white or yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 2 cups cooked butternut squash, diced
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 cup lima beans, cooked and drained
- 1½ cup chopped kale, raw
- Sea salt, smoked paprika, and chili powder to taste.
- Chopped parsley for topping (optional)
- In a pot heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic until seethrough or soft.
- Add the tomatoes and kale, then stir in the tomato paste and seasonings.
- Once kale and tomatoes are slightly soft, mix in the quinoa and butternut squash.
- Serve in a bowl and top with chopped parsley if desired.
What This Means To You
Ensuring that your diet has plenty of fiber-rich foods is essential for your long-term cognitive health and your bone health alike.
If you'd like more bone-building recipes like the ones above, check out the Save Institute's cookbook and meal planner Bone Appétit. Bone Appétit has over 200 recipes featuring all of your favorite ingredients, including the fiber-rich foods listed above.
Don't forget that a healthy diet is a powerful tool for keeping your brain sharp, your bones strong, and your future bright.