My cholesterol is higher than my doctor wants it to be. He told me that in addition to watching the saturated fat and cholesterol in my diet, I should add some soluble fiber. What is soluble fiber, and where do I find it?
It doesn’t sound like a very appealing addition to your diet, does it? The good news is that soluble fiber is in a whole slew of appetizing foods. Head straight to the supermarket produce, grain and bean aisles when you are shopping for this heart-friendly type of fiber.
Fiber is often classified into two categories: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber means that it doesn’t dissolve in water and, in general, is the type that helps keep you “regular.” When you are trying to increase the insoluble fiber in your diet, look to foods like wheat bran, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and veggies.
Soluble fiber, which does dissolve in water, is the type that may help reduce your blood cholesterol when it is included as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet. Foods such as oats, oat bran, beans, and certain fruits and veggies are great for soluble fiber. And here’s the best part: These plant foods are not only high in fiber, but have the other added bonus of being wickedly low in saturated fat. By beefing up the plant foods in your diet, you will be filling up on foods that are naturally low in heart-unhealthy saturated fat. (Saturated fat is the biggest dietary culprit in raising your blood cholesterol, so you don’t want a lot of it in your diet.)
While healthy adults should be consuming about 20 to 30 grams of total fiber daily, the latest from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is that some individuals on a cholesterol-lowering diet may also benefit from adding 10 to 25 grams of soluble fiber to their cholesterol-lowering regimen. You should check with your doctor to make sure that this amount of soluble fiber is appropriate for you.
Here’s a nifty list of foods high in fiber:
(1/2 cup cooked)
|Soluble fiber (grams)||Total fiber (grams)|
|Psyllium seeds**, 1 tbsp. ground||5||6|
|Fruit, 1 medium|
|Citrus fruit (orange, grapefruit)||2||2-3|
|Prunes (1/4 cup)||1.5||3|
|Legumes (1/2 cup cooked)|
|Vegetables (1/2 cup cooked)|
Psyllium seed is from a plant grown primarily in India. The husk of the psyllium seed is rich in soluble fiber. Psyllium is currently used in Kellogg’s Bran Buds and can also be part of some dietary supplements.
Watch how quickly the soluble fiber numbers can add up in your diet:
- Start off your morning with a cup of cooked oatmeal (2 grams of soluble fiber).
- Pack an orange for a mid-morning snack (2 grams).
- Toss 1/2 cup each of kidney beans and carrots into your salad at lunch (4 grams).
- Eat a pear for an afternoon snack (2 grams).
- Enjoy a cup of broccoli with dinner (2 grams).
Bingo! You have just added 12 grams of soluble fiber (22 grams of total fiber) to your diet!
Whenever you increase fiber in your diet, you may want to do it gradually in order to let your body slowly get used to it. Also, make sure to drink plenty of fluids to help avoid constipation.