You know how people say, “Everything causes cancer”? There certainly are environmental landmines everywhere, but I’m thrilled to report one thing that unequivocally doesn’t cause cancer, and, in fact, prevents it.
As a registered nurse who has worked with patients for 13 years, I’ve seen my fair share of late-stage disease. My nutrition certification gives context to conditions I see regularly: cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, among others. Considering the growing prevalence of these conditions in the United States, there’s likely one degree of separation or less between you and one of these illnesses. That’s the bad news, but the good news is this: dietary fiber.
For every 8-gram daily increase in dietary fiber consumed, the total number of deaths and cases of heart disease, diabetes and colorectal cancer decrease up to 27%. Data shows only increased positive health effects as more fiber is consumed.
There is no upper limit to the benefits of fiber consumption. Unfortunately, only 5% of Americans get the minimum recommended daily value of this important nutrient, despite the fact that dietary fiber is found abundantly in all whole plant foods, with especially rich sources from lentils, berries, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Fiber consumption can help enormously with our increasing chronic disease rates, so why aren’t Americans getting enough of it?
Currently, government subsidies disproportionately incentivize the production of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, both of which are linked to increased rates of the leading types of chronic disease. Meanwhile, adjusted for food waste, our food system is delivering only half of the minimum fiber needed. To illustrate: for every subsidy dollar awarded to lentil production, $430 went to beef — which has zero fiber. We’re surrounded by fiber-less food options, making it difficult to choose healthy options.
As long as my tax dollars are being used to prop up private industry, I’d like to see more used to help prevent disease rather than cause it. I was recently able to speak with my state representative to advocate for plant-rich food policy and it resulted in his co-sponsorship of a bipartisan landmark bill that would advance plant protein production. The meeting left me wanting more.
When I heard about a draft federal legislation that aims to directly address this issue, I was delighted. The Farmer and Rancher Mobility for Sustainability (FARMS) Act would connect farmers with the resources they need when they choose to diversify into producing fiber-rich whole plant foods for human consumption.
This support is desperately needed for farmers financially pigeon-holed into food production that does not benefit public health. If enacted, this bill would make more life-saving dietary fiber available in the marketplace. To Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, and Representatives Angie Craig and Jim Hagedorn, I ask them to please support this bill for both public health and farmer prosperity.