Why is Fiber Important for Heart Health?
There are a lot of foods that impact heart health and lower calcium build-up. As cardiologists, we talk a lot about heart-healthy diets, and one of the keys is fiber. Today, we look at why fiber is important to your heart health.
Fiber Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
Fiber is a complex carbohydrate and is considered a part of the plant that cannot be digested. As a result, it contributes no calories to your diet. When it comes to fiber, there are two types:
- Soluble Fiber – This Fiber can be dissolved in water. Most fruits, legumes, and seeds contain soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and manage blood glucose. Eating 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day can help lower total and LDL-cholesterol by 5 to 11 points, and sometimes more
- Insoluble Fiber – This fiber does not entirely dissolve in water. Foods like wheat bran, corn bran, whole-grain bread & cereals, vegetables, and nuts all contain insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps control appetites and enables you to feel satisfied longer – helping prevent overeating and unnecessary weight gain. Also, insoluble fiber keeps your digestive tract clean and healthy.
As high cholesterol and weight are contributing factors to heart disease, a diet high in fiber can naturally help lower both. Not to mention, it will help control blood sugar levels if you have diabetes or prediabetes. And, it will help keep your digestive system healthy, making fiber a true superfood for overall health.
- Most nutritionists recommend about 25 to 40 grams of fiber every day. This is about 15 to 20 grams per 1,000 calories. However, most Americans do not take in nearly that much fiber. The national average is only 11 to 13 grams per day. Adding more fruits and vegetables would do the trick for most Americans. Eat a minimum of three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit every day, the five-a-day recommended by the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. What does that look like? In general, one serving is a single piece of fruit or a half-cup of raw fruits or cooked vegetables, or a cup of leafy greens or raw vegetables.
To help you get enough fiber, use our Fiber Calculator.
Tips to Add Fiber to Your Diet
- Breakfast – Find a cereal that contains five or more grams of fiber in a serving. Ideally, look for cereals that have “whole grain,” “bran,” or “fiber” in their name. As an alternative, you can add a few tablespoons of wheat bran to your current cereal.
- Substitute Flour – If you do a lot of baking, instead of using white flour, use whole-grain flour.
- Whole Grain Bread – Try and consume at least half of your grains as whole grains. A good source for whole grain is bread; look for bread that lists “whole grain” as the first ingredient. Other great sources of whole grains are quinoa, brown rice, and oats.
- More Fruits and Vegetables – A nutrition fact as old as time, eat more fruits and vegetables. If possible, try and consume up to five or more servings daily.
- Eat ½ cup cooked legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas, at least three times a week. You can include them either as a plant-based protein in meatless dishes or as the starch side in place of grains. For example, you could have fish on a bed of lentils rather than rice. Or add garbanzo beans to your salad or black beans to your vegetable soup.
- Upgrade Your Snack Habits – We all get the munchies, so find high fiber snacks such as fruit and vegetables and nuts and seeds. An apple and a small handful of almonds or walnuts make a great snack. But, you can also have popcorn (no butter) or even whole-grain crackers and hummus. Many of these snacks will also keep you feeling filled, making you less prone to over-snacking.
Switching to fiber is a process. You do not need to make a sudden shift. Instead, gradually add more fiber to your diet. Doing too much too soon can promote intestinal gas, bloating, and cramping. And, when adding fiber, be sure to drink plenty of water.
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As with any health concerns, your specific treatment program should be discussed thoroughly with your primary care physician as well as any specialists who may need to be consulted – like a cardiologist.Sign Up