Did you know fiber lowers cholesterol? Dietitians dish out favorite ways to get more in your diet
- 2 Minutes Read
You know that fiber is healthy but did you know fiber lowers cholesterol? How does fiber lower cholesterol and improve heart health? Learn about the secrets of soluble fiber and which foods you should eat for more fiber.
Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is found in plant foods. It is unique because your body cannot digest or extract any energy from it. There are two types of fiber--soluble and insoluble, but we'll only cover soluble fiber here.
Soluble or viscous fibers are soluble in water and form a gel in your gastrointestinal tract. Gel-forming helps slow down movement of food as it travels from your stomach to your gut. It also helps you feel full after a meal and reduces the rise in blood glucose after eating.
The gel formed by soluble fiber interferes with fat and cholesterol absorption. Less cholesterol being absorbed means less lingering in your body. This translates to a lower LDL or bad cholesterol which means a lower risk for heart disease.
For more information on cholesterol check out: Cholesterol: The good and the bad
If your LDL level is high, then your daily goal is to add at least 5-10 grams of soluble or viscous fiber to your current diet. Meeting this goal should drop your LDL cholesterol.
Try to get more soluble fiber from natural food sources. Choosing foods that are naturally high in soluble fiber makes for a healthy overall diet. Good sources of soluble fiber include legumes (dried beans and peas), whole grains/cereals (e.g. oats, barley), fruit (especially citrus fruits and pears), and vegetables (especially Brussels sprouts).
If you do not have a high LDL level, then you don't need to worry about a daily soluble fiber goal, though keep including whole-fiber sources in your diet. Simply follow the Institute of Medicine's fiber guidelines for the general public: 14 grams of total fiber per 1,000 calories consumed or 25g/day for women and 38g/day for men. For more information: How much fiber do you need each day?
If you are struggling to eat 5-10 grams of soluble fiber/day from whole foods, then you may consider adding a supplement.
Ground psyllium seed is a good source of soluble fiber at 5 grams/tablespoon. Make sure to check with your doctor before adding psyllium or any other fiber supplement to your routine. Some supplements interfere with medication absorption.
You can easily track your fiber intake on MyNetDiary's web or mobile apps. It is easy to adjust your fiber target under the Plan tab.
In the end, making a point of eating a variety of plant-based foods containing heart-healthy fibers will not only lower your cholesterol, it will also help you to feel full and prevent post-meal blood sugar spikes. Just a few reasons to start eating more fiber, today!
Adapted from original content by Kathy Isacks MPS, RDN, CDCES
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