Fiber and cholesterol have an inverse relationship. By consuming more foods that are high in fiber, you can lower your blood cholesterol level.
This is great news if you are concerned about your heart health and even better news if you love to eat because high-fiber foods are tasty and filling.
In this article, you will learn what foods are high in fiber. Plus 1 simple change in eating fiber-rich foods will help lower cholesterol. Finally, you will discover how much fiber you really need to eat daily.
Understanding the Fiber and Cholesterol Connection
You get fiber by eating plant foods. Your parents may have referred to fiber as roughage; it is the indigestible part of a plant. You eat fiber, yet fiber is not broken down by your body and instead passes through virtually unchanged.
Because fiber does not change as it passes through your digestive tract, it has the ability to change how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed and handled during the digestive process. This fact is important for your understanding of how fiber and cholesterol are tied together, but first, we need to discuss the types of fiber.
Soluble & Insoluble Fibers – Both Help Differently
Your diet contains both soluble and insoluble fiber and each type plays a different role in your health. Insoluble fiber pushes food through your digestive tract faster helping to promote regular bowel movements. When you eat foods such as whole grains, wheat bread, vegetables, and fresh fruits, you are eating insoluble fiber.
When you eat foods such as oats, peas, beans, apples, and citrus fruits you are consuming soluble fiber, sometimes called viscous fiber. Soluble fiber mixes with water when it enters your digestive tract forming a gel-like substance that helps soften stool. However, you get an added benefit from soluble fiber because this type of fiber and cholesterol-lowering are linked.
According to the American Heart Association, by adding soluble or viscous fiber to your diet you can modestly reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol better than you could be consuming a diet low in saturated fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol alone. (1)
How Fiber and Cholesterol Lowering Works
When you consume soluble fiber, your body handles nutrients and chemicals differently. For instance, when soluble fiber is in your digestive tract, you reduce the amount of bile reabsorbed in your intestines. The bile is carried out of your body in your stool.
Your liver makes bile salts and an important ingredient in bile salts is cholesterol. Therefore, to replenish the lost bile in you stool, your liver must take cholesterol out of your body to manufacture new bile salts. You benefit from less cholesterol floating around your bloodstream.
Fiber and Cholesterol – How Much Fiber Do You Need?
You should consume about 25 grams of fiber each day for the most heart health benefits (based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet). To meet this goal you should eat:
• six to eight servings of grains (consume whole grains for half of your servings) and
• eight to ten servings of vegetables and fruits (one serving equals about ½ cup).
You can increase the amount of fiber in your diet by adding fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks throughout the day.
Read that again – Fruits as Snacks. If there’s a simple change that will provide large benefits for your cholesterol is this, again:
Eat fruits as snacks (not the junk, packed food)
You can also incorporate high-fiber foods into your favorite recipes. You can sneak beans into soups and oats into homemade muffins and add to the flavor as well as the nutrient value of the food.
And fiber and cholesterol-lowering benefits will come. Yet, adding fiber is only one of the many ways to lower cholesterol. You can make small changes in your diet and lifestyle that lead to big changes in your blood cholesterol levels.