When looking to create or maintain a healthy balanced diet, it is important to include sufficient amounts of the 5 major food groups, which are: Protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and fiber. Each of these key nutrients play their own role in keeping your body as healthy as it can be, and helping it function to its maximum ability. None of these nutrients should be disregarded from our diets, but when it comes to looking after our cholesterol levels and our hearts health, there is one which should be given special consideration.
Fiber is essential for maintaining a healthy colon and digestive system, and a diet which is low in fiber can leave you feeling constantly tired, always hungry, and constipated. Not only does fiber do wonders for your digestive system, it can also be a life saver for those who suffer with high cholesterol levels. Scientific research has proven that consuming just 25 grams of soluble fiber per day can help reduce cholesterol levels by up to 20%.
When we talk about fiber, we are talking about the nutrient as a whole, but there are actually 2 different types of fiber, and one is more effective than the other when using it as an aid to reduce cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber and soluble fiber are both found in the foods we eat, and they both do well for our digestive systems, the only difference being is that one is easily digested and broken down, whilst the other one isn’t. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve when in contact with water, flushing through our bodies largely intact, helping to speed up foods movement through our digestive system. Soluble fiber, is the opposite, and when in contact with water, soluble fiber does dissolve, helping slow down the movement of food through our digestive system. Both types of fiber are essential parts of our diet, and most foods are built up of both, but when it comes to heart health, soluble fiber takes the upper hand.
The way in which soluble fiber can help lower your body’s cholesterol levels is by helping the liver to extract LDL (the bad cholesterol) from your blood stream, in order to create more bile salts. When we consume soluble fiber, the fibers interfere with the production of bile salts, extracting them from the blood stream and excreting them through feces. To compensate for this loss of bile salts, our liver works hard to create more bile salts, and to do so, the liver needs cholesterol to make the salts, leading to more cholesterol being extracted from the bloodstream, ultimately leading to lower LDL levels!
Soluble fibers can be found in many foods, and these foods can be bought for a very little expense, so not being able to consume the recommended daily amount should not be a problem. The most popular sources of soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, apples, and citrus fruits, but almost all foods will contain some form of soluble fiber, so be sure to read the nutritional labels.