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2011-07-22

How Fiber Helps Lower Cholesterol

Author: pbint

Since cardiovascular disease is considered the number one killer of adults in North America, taking the proper steps in lowering high cholesterol is a big deal. Although doctors have known for a long time that keeping cholesterol levels lower is extremely important, only recently have health advertisements on television inundated the public with admonishments to have cholesterol levels checked regularly, and take a proactive approach, before the body sends out a potentially fatal message.

Among the list of self-help steps to preventing high cholesterol and promoting good health are increasing dietary fiber intake.

Almost everyone has heard of the importance of fiber in the diet.Fiber helps in the digestive tract, and is recommended in the prevention of colon cancer. No one disputes the physical benefits of fiber, even if the majority of people in North America probably fail to consume enough daily amounts of fiber.

However, for most people, the idea of dietary fiber being good for cardiovascular health, well the information is a stretch to the imagination. However, the fact remains, fiber is instrumental in promoting cardiovascular health by assisting in lowering high cholesterol, or preventing it in the first place.

Vegetarians probably have the lowest (bad) cholesterol readings on the planet. The reason: the diet is rich in natural fiber. Fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains are all high fiber food choices. Fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. The second type is difficult to digest, and does not generally break down. For example, apple skin is considered an insoluble fiber.

Conversely, soluble fiber can be broken down and digested. While the human body needs both types of fiber for good health, soluble fiber is the type to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. " Research has shown that consuming about 15 g of soluble fiber a day can lower LDL cholesterol by 5 to 10 percent. It works by binding with cholesterol-containing bile acids in the intestines and escorting them out of the body" (McCord).

Presently, the focus should be on food high is soluble fiber, for the purposes of lowering dangerous levels of plaque causing LDL cholesterol. In the bread, rice, and cereal category, a serving of brown rice and a serving of rolled oats are tied for 1st place. Bran cereal is still a great fiber choice, as far as digestion and colon health are concerned.

However, although the breakfast choice is extremely high in insoluble fiber, the soluble fiber content is lower than a slice of rye or French bread. For a snack, popcorn is high in fiber, both soluble and insoluble. However, eating the popcorn with lots of butter will probably defeat the purpose of increasing fiber intake to lower high cholesterol.

Remember the saying: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away"? The person who initiated the now-famous quote is definitely on to something, especially regarding fiber and cholesterol health. The fruit is the unmatchable front-runner concerning soluble fiber. In addition, the pectin in apples and other fruits has been linked to cholesterol lowering properties. For the individual who does not like apples: oranges, plums, tangerines, and grapefruit have over 1 gram of soluble fiber.

In the vegetable department, potatoes and peas have almost twice the soluble fiber of any other vegetable. In fact, peas are also extremely high in insoluble fiber. Therefore, adding peas to the diet can provide cholesterol-reducing assistance and keep other systems running smoothly. Individuals with a preference for carrots, broccoli, and squash will consume at least 1 gram of soluble fiber per serving.

Not surprisingly, legumes are extremely high in fiber. However, pinto beans have almost four times the soluble fiber of competing beans. So, if lowering high cholesterol is the ultimate goal, a recipe for vegetable chili, made with pinto beans, might be an excellent choice for a meal.

Despite the best efforts to increase soluble fiber intake for lowering high cholesterol, eating between 15-30 grams of fiber per day can be extremely difficult.

Therefore, a doctor may also recommend an over-the-counter fiber supplement. In capsule or powder form, the fiber can provide an extra boost to a heart healthy diet. Also, oftentimes people fail to get all the nutrients needed throughout the day, especially with the filling effects of fiber. So, a good multivitamin per/day is a good idea.

What individuals choose to consume has a definite impact on cholesterol levels, good and bad. The binding agents in soluble fiber actually help carry away the plaque causing cholesterol. So, before the doctor diagnoses dangerous levels of LDL cholesterol, eat healthier, and include more fiber, and a good multivitamin in the daily diet plan.

About the Author

Erol Orderland writes about aging and disease from his home in the Netherlands. Visit Aging And Disease for more information and Cholesterol Lowering Foods for related news