The Effects Of High-Fiber Foods On Blood Cholesterol
An increased consumption of whole-grain foods has been linked to improvements in cardiovascular health, according to recent studies.
In fact, researchers at Harvard University say that eating just one bowl of whole-grain cereal every day – Total, for example (or most cereals made from bran, oats, barley or wheat) – could reduce the risk of heart failure by more than 25 per cent.
Characterized by a buildup of cholesterol-filled plaque in the coronary arteries – the channels that feed the heart – coronary heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Coronary heart disease, caused by high blood cholesterol, claimed more than 450,000 lives in 2004 alone.
But there’s good news: Studies are now showing strong evidence that individuals with slightly high cholesterol levels may actually benefit from including plenty of whole grains in their diets.
A growing number of metabolic research studies have reported total cholesterol reductions of 10-15% with diets enriched with fiber from oats, beans, or psyllium.
Other studies have looked at adding supplements of pectin and guar gum with subsequent cholesterol reductions of 10 per cent or more.
The reason fiber (particularly soluble fiber) is so successful in assisting the reduction of cholesterol levels is simple: It sweeps the fat out of the body before it can enter the bloodstream, where it can narrow and harden the walls of the arteries.
Fiber-rich foods rich in soluble fiber include oat bran, dried beans and peas, many fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, oranges, most vegetables and psyllium seeds.
Pectin has a similar effect in that it, too, can lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
Foods containing fiber are also good sources of several other essential heart health nutrients, and, depending on the method of preparation, these foods generally contain less fat, saturated fatty acids, and cholesterol.
The American Heart Association recommends a total dietary fiber intake of 25 to 30 grams from food (not supplements) each day to ensure nutrient adequacy and to maximize the cholesterol-lowering impact of a fat-modified diet.
Experts say breakfast is a great opportunity to bulk up on dietary fiber and studies indicate that skipping breakfast is significantly associated with high cholesterol levels because those who skimp on food in the morning are more likely to consume more fat throughout the day, ultimately contributing to increased cholesterol levels and heart disease.
It’s best to opt for cereals containing at least five grams of fiber per serving. Oat bran and rice bran are considered to be the most effective.