nutrition2

Fiber and Cholesterol

Keep Your Heart Healthy & Control Cholesterol with Food First
Heart Disease is America’s number one killer of both men and women. Regardless of gender, high cholesterol puts everyone at increased risk for heart disease. But there are some important and simple steps you can take toward keeping cholesterol in check and improving overall health.

Start with food. Your diet is an important factor in controlling cholesterol. A healthy, low-fat eating plan, combined with regular physical activity, is key to heart-health. In fact, the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines recommend that one in three Americans need to make diet changes to lower their risk for heart disease. Foods high in soluble fiber, like oatmeal, beans and peas, barley, and many fruits and vegetables (such as apples, oranges, and carrots) are now recommended to help lower cholesterol levels.

As you may know, there are two types of cholesterol – HDL or “good” cholesterol and LDL or “bad” cholesterol. To boost your HDL cholesterol, you should stay active and trim away excess pounds if you are not already at a healthy weight. For controlling LDL, your food choices are key. A heart-healthy eating pattern – a diet that’s high in soluble fiber with moderate amounts of fat and cholesterol – can make a difference and can help reduce LDL levels. To lower LDL, try eating more foods high in soluble fiber. Studies have shown that oatmeal helps to lower LDL cholesterol without lowering HDL.

Food Sources of Fiber

Food
Serving Size
Total Fiber (grams)
Soluble Fiber (grams)
Insoluble Fiber (grams)
English muffin
1
2.0
0.5
1.5
Spaghetti, cooked
1 cup
2.0
0.5
1.5
Whole-wheat bread
1 slice
2.5
0.5
2.0
White rice, cooked
1/2 cup
0.5
0
0.5
Bran flake cereal
3/4 cup
5.5
0.5
5.0
Corn flake cereal
1 cup
1.0
0
1.0
Oatmeal, cooked
3/4 cup
3.0
1.0
2.0
Banana
1 medium
2.0
0.5
1.5
Apple, with skin
1 medium
3.0
0.5
2.5
Orange
1 medium
2.0
0.5
1.5
Pear, with skin
1 medium
4.5
0.5
4.0
Strawberries
1/2 cup
1.0
0
1.0
Broccoli
1/2 cup
2.0
0
2.0
Corn
1/2 cup
1.5
0
1.5
Potato, baked with skin
1 medium
4.0
1.0
3.0
Spinach
1/2 cup
2.0
0.5
1.5

What is fiber?
Fiber is a substance found only in plants, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. The part of the plant fiber that you eat is called dietary fiber and is an important part of a healthy diet. Dietary fiber is made up of two make types – insoluble and soluble.

What is the difference between insoluble and soluble fiber?
Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber does not. Insoluble fiber passes through your digestive tract largely intact. Both types of fiber are important in the diet and provide benefits to the digestive system by helping to maintain regularity. Soluble fiber has some additional benefits to heart-health.

What are some good sources of soluble fiber?
Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, certain fruits, and psyllium. Psyllium is grain that is found in some cereal products, in certain dietary supplements, and in certain bulk fiber laxatives. Read labels carefully to check for the addition of psyllium.

What are the benefits of soluble fiber?
In addition to the digestive system benefits mentioned above, soluble fiber has been scientifically proven to reduce blood cholesterol levels, which may help reduce your risk of heart disease. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration authorized food companies to use a health claim for soluble fiber from both psyllium and oats. For example, the claim for psyllium states, “Soluble fiber from foods with psyllium husk, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Overall, how much fiber should I eat and how much soluble fiber do I need?
Americans should eat 20-35 grams of fiber each day, including both soluble and insoluble fiber. However, the average American eats 12-17 grams of fiber a day. Only about 1/4 of this is soluble fiber; therefore, the average American is eating only 3-4 grams of soluble fiber – below the recommended amount of 5-10 grams. Eating 3 grams a day of soluble fiber from oats or 7 grams a day of soluble fiber from psyllium has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Quick Ways to Fit Fiber In

  • Eat foods from all five food groups. Eat a variety of foods from each group.
  • Remember breakfast. A perfect time to enjoy fiber-rich foods and fuel your body for the day ahead. Eat oatmeal or other whole-grain cereals.
  • Pick high-fiber snacks. When you need a quick energy boost during the day, reach for a high fiber treat. Popcorn, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, or nuts are convenient and healthful choices.
  • “Fiberize” your cooking style. Substitute higher-fiber ingredients in recipes. Swap up to 1/3 of the flour with quick or old-fashioned oats when you bake. Add extra vegetables to casseroles, soups, salads, and pasta dishes. Use brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. When possible, eat the skin – it provides fiber, too!

Source: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information: www.eatright.org