15 February 11 Dietary Fiber & Heart Health

Last October (10/19/11), I posted "Basics of Dietary Fiber." Today's post will focus on soluble or viscous fibers, the type that seems to be particularly helpful in reducing low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels when they are high. Soluble or viscous fibers are soluble in water and form a gel in your gastrointestinal tract. This gel-forming quality is beneficial since it helps slow down movement of food as it travels from stomach to gut. This helps us feel full after a meal and helps blunt the rise in blood glucose after a meal. The presence of gel in the gut also helps interfere with fat and cholesterol absorption, which in turn, eventually helps lower our LDL level. Lowering a high LDL level is important because it lowers our risk for heart disease. For more information on blood lipid levels, please see the American Heart Association's webpage, "What your Cholesterol Levels Mean."

If your LDL level is too high, then be sure to read "Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC (therapeutic lifestyle changes)." The soluble fiber gram goals reported here are taken from that guide.

Soluble Fiber Goal to Help Lower a High LDL Level

If you have a high LDL level, then your daily goal is to add at least 5-10 grams of soluble or viscous fiber to your current diet. This addition should drop your LDL level by about 5%, according to the guide listed above. You might be able to decrease your LDL level even further with an intake of 10-25 grams of soluble fiber, according to the same guide.

Try to increase soluble or viscous fiber from natural food sources. You'll find that choosing foods naturally high in soluble fiber will encourage intake of foods considered part of a healthful diet: legumes (dried beans and peas), whole grains/cereals (e.g. oats, barley), fruit (especially citrus fruits and pears), and vegetables (especially Brussels sprouts). Check out the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s "Food Sources of Soluble Fiber" for soluble gram values.

Here is just one example of how you might consume 10 grams of soluble fiber in a day: 1 cup cooked oatmeal (2 grams), 1 orange (2 grams), 1 pear (2 grams), 1 cup of chili with beans (3 grams) and 1/2 cup baby carrots (1 gram).

Functional Fibers & Supplements

If you find that it is too difficult to consume 5-10 grams of soluble fiber from naturally-occurring food sources, then include functional fibers and/or soluble fiber supplements to help you reach your daily goal. The Institute of Medicine defines functional fibers as "isolated, non-digestible carbohydrates that have been shown to have beneficial physiological effects in humans." Inulin added to yogurt is just one example of a functional fiber.

Ground Psyllium seed is particularly high in soluble fiber at 5 grams/tbsp. I consider this a supplement source of soluble fiber, but some argue that it is a food source. If you take prescription medication, please check with your pharmacist before adding a fiber supplement to your diet since some might interfere with absorption.

Total Fiber Intake & Heart Health

If you do not have a high LDL level, then the specific soluble fiber gram goals described above do not apply to you. An average of 25 grams of total fiber for women and 38 grams for men is the current DRI based upon average caloric intake for maintenance. Technically, the DRI is 14 grams of total fiber per 1000 calories consumed for both men and women. This intake is considered optimal for protection against heart disease. MyNetDiary members, you can track fiber along with your other nutrients!
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Nutrients/"Carbs: Fiber, Starch, & Sugar" Other Health Issues/Cardiovascular Disease

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