Studies show that consuming a high-fiber diet can lower your risk for heart disease. Soluble fiber reduces total and LDL cholesterol levels and improves insulin resistance. Foods containing insoluble fiber are consistently associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease.
How much dietary fiber?
There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers absorb water during digestion, increasing stool bulk and decreasing cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibers are not impacted by digestion and promote normal movement of intestinal contents. The Institute of Medicine recommends 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men if under the age of 50. For those over 50-years-old, the recommendation is 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women.
Too little dietary fiber?
A diet low in fiber increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, and constipation. Most Americans only consume about 15 grams of dietary fiber daily.
Too much dietary fiber?
Risk of consuming too much fiber is minimal. If you experience side effects, it is typically because your increased fiber intake too quickly. If you currently consume a diet low in fiber, gradually add more fiber-rich foods to your diet. Increasing fiber intake too quickly can lead to:
- Abdominal pain
- Intestinal blockage in those with Chron’s disease
- Reduced blood sugar (important to know if you have diabetes)
How to consume a high fiber diet every day
Obtaining needed nutrients in your diet is always preferable to supplements and fortunately there are many foods rich in fiber. What can you do to ensure you receive 25 to 38 grams of dietary fiber daily? Let’s navigate the grocery store to determine what departments and aisles to include on your shopping list for fiber-rich foods.
- Flax seed
- Whole grain pasta
- Bran flakes
- Steel cut oats
- Whole grain bread
- Rolled oats
- Brown rice
- Wild rice
- Pearled barley
Try a Black Bean and Brown Rice Salad providing 10 grams of fiber per 1 ½ cup serving.
- Navy beans
- Kidney beans
- Black beans
- Refried beans
- Garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)
Rinse canned vegetables in water to reduce sodium content.
- Dried figs
- Sweet potatos
- Sugar snap peas
- Russet potatos
- Artichoke hearts
- Butternut squash
- Green peas
Note: Purchasing frozen produce does not compromise fiber content.
The best benefit of high-fiber foods
Most high fiber foods fit into a “two birds with one stone” category. For example, not only are raspberries and blackberries high in fiber, they are also high in heart-healthy antioxidants. Not only is flax seed high in fiber, it is also a great source of heart-healthy omega 3’s. You cannot go wrong when you increase dietary fiber in your diet to promote heart health.