Getting the right amount of dietary fiber from fresh fruits, legumes, whole grains and vegetables is good for your gut health as it can help to relieve constipation safely and naturally.

However, you may not know eating dietary fiber — the portions of plant-based foods that can’t be digested — offers additional healthy benefits, thanks to a pair of recent studies that link good eating habits to a lower risk of heart disease and losing weight.

Dropping pounds may be easier with a dietary fiber focus

Eating dietary fiber does more than relieve constipationWhich is a more effective dietary approach: Following a basic diet with few rules or a more complex, restrictive eating strategy?

Based on a study featured in the Annals of Internal Medicine, following a simple diet of eating more fiber-filled foods may be just as effective for losing extra weight as the more rigorous American Heart Association (AHA) diet.

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts tested their theory by splitting 240 adults considered to be at-risk of developing Type 2 diabetes into two groups. One patient group followed a simple goal of increasing their dietary fiber intake by at least 30 grams a day, while the other followed the more complex 13-step AHA plan that restricted calories, sugar and salt while balancing cholesterol, proteins, carbohydrates and fats to specific ratios.

A year later, high-fiber patients lost an average of 4.6 pounds, while those who followed the AHA diet dropped 6 pounds. Patients in both groups also experienced improved insulin resistance and fasting insulin as well as lower blood pressure numbers.

“We found that increasing dietary fiber was accompanied by a host of other healthy dietary changes, likely because high-fiber foods displaced unhealthy foods in the diet. Asking people to make one dietary change can have collateral effects on the rest of their diet,” said study co-author Dr. Sherry Pagoto in a press release.

Reduce cardiovascular problems by increasing dietary fiber intake

Declines in coronary heart disease (CHD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) prompted scientists at the University of Leeds to review health data collected from the U.S., Japan, Australia and Europe to uncover any links to the consumption of dietary fiber (soluble, insoluble and total intake).

The good news: Based on a number of categories (insoluble, fruit, vegetable and total intake), the chances of a CHD or CVD event drop steadily as the intake of dietary fiber increases. In fact, the risks of cardiovascular or coronary problems drop by 9 percent with every additional 7 grams of total fiber consumed, according to the study published in the British Medical Journal.

Adding 7 grams of fiber to one’s diet can be as easy as eating a portion of whole grains (pasta, bread, cereal or rice) along with a serving of beans or lentils or two to four servings of fruits and vegetables.

But that’s not all of the good news. The combination of taking a probiotic and eating foods high in dietary fiber provide even greater benefits.

A high fiber diet provides nourishment for the healthy intestinal bacteria. Bacteria in the gut ferment the resistant starches in the fiber and use it for energy. In the process of fermentation, metabolites like butyrate provides nourishment for the colon lining cells.

The result is that the intestinal tract is healthier and functions more effectively. Adding probiotics increases the fermentation process of the fiber and lessen symptoms of various diseases.

Protect your health and heart with probiotics

Considering how important fiber is to your health and heart, based on these studies, it seems like a no-brainer to add fruits and vegetables to your daily diet.

Unfortunately, our on-the-go lifestyles often force us to eat on the run, prompting us to choose high-fat, fast foods that clog our arteries and slowly but surely, harm our health.

Recent studies have shown how gut health — greater amounts of beneficial bacteria and the diversity of those species — offers more protection from cardiovascular diseases and can help you lose weight, too.

The best thing you can do to protect your family’s health from the damage done by cardiovascular disease and obesity: Give them a multi-strain probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic or EndoMune Advanced Junior (for kids) that protects the healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.