Eating More Fiber from Whole Grains Could Decrease Inflammation, According to New Research
Pictured recipe: Quinoa Avocado Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
There's lots to love about fiber-rich foods. Because you digest fiber slowly, it can help you stay fuller longer—that's part of the reason it's a key nutrient for weight loss. Plus, fiber has benefits for your gut, heart, digestion and type 2 diabetes risk. If that weren't enough to make you reach for a bowl of oatmeal, new research from Columbia University found that eating fiber from whole grains could also help decrease inflammation.
The study, published in JAMA Network Open, used data from the Cardiovascular Health Study, which surveyed more than 4,000 adults from 1989 to 2015. Participants logged their eating habits and had follow-up visits to assess their heart health through June 2015. The researchers used blood samples to assess inflammation.
"Higher intakes of dietary fiber is associated with lower CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk," study author Rupak Shivakoti, Ph.D., said in a media release. "A common hypothesis has been that higher fiber intakes reduce inflammation, subsequently leading to lower CVD risk. With findings from this study, we are now learning that one particular type of dietary fiber—cereal fiber—but not fruit or vegetable fiber was associated with lower inflammation."
While the study doesn't go into depth regarding which cereal-fiber-rich foods the participants ate most, you'll find cereal fiber in delicious whole grains (and products made with whole grains), like brown rice, bran, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal and popcorn. That means adding more of this beneficial fiber to your routine could be as simple as swapping in whole-wheat pasta for dinner or starting your day with a quick bowl of oatmeal.
Shivakoti added that the specific benefits of cereal fiber for inflammation still need to be confirmed by further research. But it's worth noting that other studies have found that fiber of all kinds can help tamp down inflammation. A 2020 review published in Nutrition Reviews found that fiber likely modifies the pH of your gut, which reduces inflammatory compounds. Plus, since fiber can help you maintain your weight or lose weight, eating more of it can help prevent weight-related inflammation.
If you want to reduce the inflammation in your body, eating more fiber is just one of the many things you can switch up in your routine. Eating more nutrient-dense veggies like avocado, beets and kale is a tasty way to fight inflammation. Colorful veggies, like these three examples, deliver inflammation-fighting antioxidants. And the more color and variety you include on your plate, the wider range of antioxidants you'll get. (These Vegan Superfood Grain Bowls combine all three of those nutrient-packed ingredients, plus fiber- and protein-rich quinoa, to create a delicious anti-inflammatory lunch.) And, generally, eating more plant-based foods can help tame inflammation, as plant-based foods contain little, if any, saturated fat—a nutrient mainly found in animal products that can do harm to our heart and overall body when we eat too much.
That's why sticking to an eating pattern like the Mediterranean diet, which balances whole grains, healthy fats, fruits, veggies and lean and plant-based proteins, can be a great choice. Research has found that following a Mediterranean-diet eating plan could help reduce chronic pain and inflammation. To test-drive it for yourself, look to our Anti-Inflammatory Mediterranean Diet Plan for some inspiration, from breakfast to dinner with snacks in between.
While more research needs to be done to confirm the findings, a recent study found that fiber from whole grains could decrease the level of inflammation in your body. That's a win for folks with arthritis and everyone else aiming to eat for a healthy gut and less chronic inflammation. A high-fiber recipe like our Quinoa Avocado Salad with Buttermilk Dressing is a healthy, delicious way to add some whole grains to your routine.