Perhaps you saw the headlines last week about a new analysis finding that people who consumed a lot of fiber are significantly less likely to die from heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer.

How could such a frumpy nutrient make such a big difference in our health? After all, fiber is, by definition, indigestible by humans. It provides no vitamins, minerals, or energy. And yet, fiber intake is consistently linked with lower disease risk.

There are a number of possible explanations.

How Fiber Keeps Us Healthier

First, fiber has the charming habit of taking out the trash. Insoluble fiber acts as a sort of broom, sweeping waste material out of the large intestine and lowering the risk of colon cancer. Soluble fiber acts more like a sponge, sopping up cholesterol, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease.

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