Our cardiovascular health can be directly impacted by the foods we eat. We frequently hear that the best diet is one that is high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low in saturated fats and cholesterol. This is actually an excellent diet that can benefit our hearts. Blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol are three factors that affect our heart health.
- Over time, high cholesterol levels might accumulate throughout our blood vessels, obstructing blood flow through our arteries.
- Our arteries can become less elastic due to high blood pressure damage, which can reduce the amount of blood and oxygen reaching our hearts.
- Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the heart's arteries.
Diet can play a role in controlling these levels.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that our body does not digest. Normally, when we think of carbohydrates, we picture them being converted into glucose. However, fiber is not converted into glucose and moves through the body undigested. Soluble fiber and insoluble fiber are the two types of fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and reduces the body's ability to absorb fat, lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, helps the body process waste and lowers the risk of GI problems.
When soluble fiber and water interact, a gel is formed, and this formation slows down digestion. Slower digestion prevents blood glucose spikes after eating. We want to make sure to incorporate fiber into our meals because it helps control our blood sugar levels and makes us feel satisfied longer. Soluble fiber can also lower blood cholesterol by interfering with bile acid production. Cholesterol is used to make bile acid in the liver. Soluble fiber binds to the bile acid in our GI track and removes it from the body. This results in a reduced amount of bile available. In response to the reduced amount of bile the liver pulls cholesterol from the blood to make new bile. Less cholesterol is found in the blood as a result of this process.
The recommended fiber intake varies but the average recommended intake is 25-35 g/day.
Fiber is found in your plant foods: grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
- Barley, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread, oatmeal
- Legumes, nuts, seeds
- Split peas, lentils, black beans, chia seeds, almonds, chickpeas, flax seed, pumpkin seeds
- Raspberries, blackberries, pear, apple, banana, strawberries
- Green peas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, potatoes, corn, carrots, egg plant
How To Meet Daily Recommendations
You could focus on consuming 10g of fiber with each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), or you could focus on consuming 5-8g of fiber with each meal plus your snacks (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner).
Here's an example of a day with 30 grams of fiber:
Breakfast: ~10g fiber
- 1 cup oatmeal: 4g fiber
- 1 oz almonds: 3.5g fiber
- 1 cup blueberries: 4g fiber
Lunch: ~10g fiber
- 1 cup quinoa: 5g fiber
- ¼ cup chickpeas: 8g fiber
- 1 tbsp feta cheese
- 1 tbsp black olives
Dinner: ~10g fiber
- 1 cup whole wheat pasta: 6g fiber
- 3oz chicken
- Parmesan cheese
- Marinara sauce
- 1 cup broccoli: 5g fiber
High Fiber Snack Ideas:
- Handful of almonds: 4g fiber
- 2 oz popcorn: 8g fiber
- Whole grain toast w/ avocado: 8g fiber
- ¼ cup roasted chickpeas: 8g fiber
- 1 cup berries: 5-10g fiber
- Whole grain crackers with hummus: 5-10g fiber
*Written by Cassidy Rhoads, an FLN Intern