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Soluble Fiber and Heart Disease

Sensational Seniors

What is fiber?

Fiber is a substance found only in plants, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. The part of the plant fiber that you eat is called dietary fiber and is an important part of a healthy diet. Dietary fiber is made up of two main types--insoluble and soluble.

Soluble Fiber and Heart Disease

What is the difference between insoluble and soluble fiber?
Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber does not. Insoluble fiber passes through your digestive tract largely intact. Both types of fiber are important in the diet and provide benefits to the digestive system by helping to maintain regularity. Soluble fiber has some additional benefits to heart health.

What are some good sources of soluble fiber?

Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, certain fruits, and psyllium (pronounced sil'e-um). Psyllium is a grain that is found in some cereal products, in certain dietary supplements, and in certain bulk fiber laxatives. Read labels carefully to check for the addition of psyllium.

What are the benefits of soluble fiber?
In additional to the digestive system benefits mentioned above, soluble fiber has been scientifically proven to reduce blood cholesterol levels, which may help reduce your risk of heart disease. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration recently authorized food companies to use a health claim for soluble fiber from both psyllium and oats. For example, the new claim for psyllium states, "Soluble fiber from foods with psyllium husk, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."

"Food Sources of Fiber" Chart. (Will open in a new window).

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Overall, how much fiber should I eat and how much soluble fiber do I need?
Americans should eat 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day, including both soluble and insoluble fiber. The average American currently eats 12 to 17 grams of fiber a day. Only about one-fourth of this is soluble fiber; therefore, the average American is eating only 3 to 4 grams of soluble fiber -- below the recommended amount of 5 to 10 grams. Eating 3 grams a day of soluble fiber from oats or 7 grams a day of soluble fiber from psyllium has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Elevated levels of blood cholesterol may increase your risk of heart disease. Your doctor is familiar with your family history and other possible risk factors, can assess your overall health, and help you set goals to reduce your risk, including reducing cholesterol. Below is a bonus recipe containing heart-healthy soluble fiber.

Frozen Hawaiian Tropical Drink

1/4 cup low-fat milk
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract/flavoring
1 tablespoon orange-flavored smooth psyllium-based powder

Add 1 teaspoon sugar or to taste. Mix all ingredients in a blender with ice.
Makes 1 serving.

Calories: 167; Protein: 2.7g; Fat: 0.8g; Carbohydrate: 38g; Total Fiber: 3.2g; Soluble Fiber: 2.3; Cholesterol: 2.5g

Print this Recipe (A new window will open).

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