Fiber, Heart Disease, And You

  • by Dave Tomar
  • January 24, 2014
Fiber, Heart Disease, And You

We are gaining a greater appreciation all the time for the importance of living a heart healthy lifestyle, especially as we advance in age. But it’s not always easy. Sometimes it can seem like your health regimen is little more than a list of things you can’t do. You can’t eat too much junk food. You can’t drink too much alcohol. You can’t spend an entire day glued to your couch watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island. Just once in awhile, it would be nice to be told there’s something you can do to improve your heart health. Well according to a study recently reported on by Healthline News, you can enjoy a delicious, fiber-rich diet while lowering your risk of heart attack.

A Bigger Menu We’ve known for years about the health benefits of whole grain fibers such as oatmeal. What is particularly exciting about this study, originally published by BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), is that it significantly expands on the list of high-fiber foods with known beneficial properties. According to the study, just 7 grams of fiber a day can markedly reduce your risk of heart disease or heart attack. This is true, the study says, whether your fiber rich diet is draw from soluble or insoluble fiber sources. This means that those of us who are dedicated to maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet now have a lot more options. The BMJ study finds that while soluble and insoluble fibers impact us differently, each carries an array of desirable health benefits.

What’s the Difference? According to WebMD, soluble fibers dissolve in water and insoluble fibers do not. Sounds simple, right? In actuality though, these distinctions lead to very different and highly complex metabolic reactions. These reactions help to explain the distinct benefits of either type of fiber source. Soluble fibers, a category which includes our trusty friend oatmeal, is shown to have a direct impact on reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the BMJ study, soluble fibers undergo a kind of fermentation in the colon that ultimately produces a “cholesterol-lowering chain reaction.” By contrast, insoluble fiber usually comprises the kinds of grain-based foods that make us feel full really quickly. That feeling is actually good thing because it can prevent you from overeating. Not only that but, according to WebMD, these insoluble fibers tend to pass through the gastrointestinal tract rapidly, improving your body’s efficiency at eliminating waste.

What To Eat? As with any nutritional strategy, balance is important. Look for variety and avoid excess. For foods that are rich in soluble fibers, you have a variety of grains, fruits, nuts and legumes to choose from.WebMD recommends, in addition to oatmeal, oat-based cereals, apples, pears, oranges, strawberries, beans, nuts, dried peas, lentils, blueberries, cucumbers, celery and carrots. A diet that intersperses a generous array of these foods can lower cholesterol and reduce the likelihood of a heart attack. As for ‘gut-healthy’ insoluble fibers, WebMD calls for a diet that includes a wide range of whole grains and vegetables. Create a diet that includes fiber sources such as wheat bran, corn bran, barley, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, green beans, leafy greens, raisins, grapes and root vegetable skins. However you decide to incorporate these foods into your diet, try to keep things interesting. Explore new recipes or try new dishes at your favorite restaurant. The beauty of the findings reported here is that they actually give you more options than ever before for maintaining a healthy, nutritious diet.