New evidence is confirming what your mom has been telling you for years: Fiber is really, really good for you. So good, in fact, that it might be able to add years to your life.
A study published in the journal BMC Medicine on Tuesday found that people who ate more whole grains and cereal fibers had a lower risk of death from chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
While this isn’t the first study to link whole grains to health benefits, it’s the largest, according to Forbes. Researchers tracked the health and eating habits of a whopping 367,442 AARP members over 14 years to get the data.
What is a whole grain, exactly? It’s the fully intact whole kernel, including the bran, endosperm and germ, so it delivers 100 percent of the plant’s nutritional benefits. Common whole grains include oats, wheat, wild rice, corn and quinoa. Cereal fiber, on the other hand, is the specific type of fiber found in whole grains and cereals.
The participants who ate the most whole grains had a 17 percent lower chance of death than those who ate the lowest amount of whole grains. Those who ate the most cereal fiber fared even better — they had a 19 percent lower risk.
But just because you’re eating grain-based foods doesn’t mean you’re getting whole grains. (Sorry, baguette lovers.) There’s a pretty wide chasm between whole grains and processed grains—the health benefits of whole grains all but disappear once they’re refined. The easiest way to make sure you’re getting whole grains is to check the nutrition labels to make sure you know what you’re eating.