April 20, 2009

Fiber & Your Heart


You hear a lot today about fiber. What is fiber? Dietary fiber is the part of the plant food source that your body cannot break down - it is not digested. There are many health benefits associated with eating a diet rich in fiber. This article will focus on the benefits associated with heart disease prevention.

Diet & Blood Cholesterol --
How you eat greatly affects your blood cholesterol. A diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat is one nutritional change you should make. Another important change to make is to eat foods high in fiber.

Types of Dietary Fiber --
There are two kinds of dietary fiber: (1) soluble fiber, and (2) insoluble fiber.

Insoluble fiber (also known as "roughage"):
Found in whole grains, vegetables, wheat bran, nuts, and beans. This type of fiber is not absorbed by the body. Insoluble fiber's health benefits include aiding digestion and promoting regularity by adding bulk. The "bulk" keeps other foods moving through the digestive tract.

Soluble fiber:
Offers the real heart disease benefit by reducing blood cholesterol levels. Food sources include oats, barley, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, apples and other types of fruits, and vegetables. Soluble fiber helps lower blood cholesterol by binding to cholesterol in the digestive tract. Basically, it locks up the cholesterol causing it to be eliminated from the body naturally.

How much fiber should you be getting through your diet?
Try to eat between 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. On average, most of us eat less than half the fiber we should be eating - 10 to 15 grams per day.

How can you increase your fiber intake?
* Substitute high-fiber foods such as whole-grain bread, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables for low-fiber foods such as white bread, white rice, candy, and chips.
* Eat more vegetables and fruits WITH their skins on, when appropriate. The skins are a good source of fiber.
* For breakfast, eat cereal made from whole grains, bran, or oats. Include a tasty fruit with your morning cereal.
* Include 2 servings of vegetables at lunch and dinner, again with skins on when appropriate.
* Consider eating cooked oatmeal. Eating just 1-1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal (about 3/4 cup uncooked) per day has shown to help reduce blood cholesterol levels.
* All the above, of course, is best when also eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

One final note on adding fiber into your diet: Do it GRADUALLY!! Too much too soon can cause bloating and abdominal cramps. Try adding about one serving of a fiber-rich food source every 3 days. AND, be sure to drink plenty of WATER!!
------------------
Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD -- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer --Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with"Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at: http://www.NutrActive.com