It’s a fact: Consume a lot of fiber (also call roughage or bran) each day, and you’ll lower the odds of heart disease. But while the suggestion seems simple, filling up on foods high in fiber is a challenge for many Americans.
This is because high fiber foods — found in the plant-based foods of fruits, vegetables, whole grains (such as millet, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, whole wheat, etc.), and beans and peas — aren’t typical staples in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Rather, most of us consume a diet that consists of foods virtually fiber-free, such as processed grains and dairy, poultry, meat, and fish.
To boost your fiber intake:
• CHOOSE WHOLE GRAINS and whole grain items, instead of processed, white flour items, which contain little or no fiber. Be sure the label reads “whole wheat” or “whole brown rice,” rather than just “wheat,” or “enriched.” Both words indicate the fiber (and many vitamins and minerals) have been removed. Another tip: Consider adding oat or whole wheat bran to cereals and soups.
• CONSUME SALADS made with four or more veggies. A sampling: Romaine lettuce, carrots, green peppers, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, chopped olives.
• MAKE A SMOOTHIE in the morning. Add about a cup of chopped fresh or frozen fruit (such as grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and banana) to 1/3 cup apple juice. Add 1/3 cup fat-free yogurt, then add water, based on the consistency you prefer.
Why is fiber a heart-helper? Because one type of fiber in particular, called soluble fiber, lowers your cholesterol level by keeping the cholesterol you eat (found only in animal-based foods, such as fish, poultry, and meat) from being absorbed by your body. High fiber foods also prevent triglycerides (a type of fat) from rising. To turn the tide of heart disease, these small high-fiber changes can make a big difference to your heart-health.
Larry Scherwitz, PhD, and Deborah Kesten, MPH, are international lifestyle and health researchers and Certified Wellness and Cardiac coaches. They also are the award-winning authors of Feeding the Body, Nourishing the Soul, The Healing Secrets of Food, and The Enlightened Diet.