How to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease with Fiber
February 19, 2013
Dietetic Intern Felicia Benincasa explains the role of fiber in relation to heart health and suggests some simple ways to increase your intake.
The fiber we consume is called dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk. It is made up of plant materials, which unlike other food components, cannot be digested in the human body. Fiber can be classified as soluble or insoluble, each performing different functions. The USDA recommends 25-35g of fiber per day for the average adult, however many Americans are only consuming 10-15g per day.
Soluble fiber has been top-of-mind recently as it plays a role in heart health. It has been proven to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” levels, reduce blood vessel inflammation and blood pressure. When there is an excess of cholesterol -- a soft waxy substance present in fats found in the blood stream and cells -- it can build up on the artery walls, causing detrimental effects to your health.
When food is consumed, the liver releases bile to help digest food. Soluble fiber interferes with the absorption of bile and cholesterol, decreasing the amount entering the bloodstream. This is good news for your heart: with less “bad cholesterol” floating around in your blood, less gathers on your artery walls.
How do I increase my fiber intake?
When most people hear the word “fiber” they think of products like Metamucil, Benefiber, Citrucel and fiber bars. While these products do contain fiber, there is a healthier and tastier option: from natural, whole foods. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains will allow you to consume the recommended amount of fiber each day while also providing you with healthy vitamins and minerals. A ¾ cup of oatmeal will provide you with 3 grams of fiber, whereas it will take 3 tablets of a fiber supplement in order to get the same amount. Here are a few easy ways to add fiber to your diet:
- At breakfast, try berries, nuts and chia seeds in whole grain cereal (hot or cold), smoothies or yogurt;
- Incorporate beans into meals like soups, stews, salads and grain dishes;
- Switch to whole, intact grains and opt for whole wheat bread, pasta and cereal;
- Add vegetables to your omelets, pasta, pizza or sandwiches;
- Snack on fruits, veggies and nuts.
It is important that you gradually increase your intake of fiber and remember to drink plenty of water to avoid bloating or digestive issues!
Are you getting enough fiber? Let us know some tasty ways that you increase your fiber intake in the comments below.
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