Friday, February 27, 2015

Dietary Fiber and Heart Health

February is American Heart Health Month, so we are looking at lifestyle changes you can make to be more heart healthy. So, how can you be heart healthy? 
- Eat a Healthy Diet
- Be Physically Active
- Check in with Your Doctor

Today we are focusing on healthy dietary choices to be more heart healthy. A diet high in fiber helps keep your heart healthy.

Types of Fiber
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. In the body, it serves attracts water to slow intestinal transit time. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water; it passes through the body undigested and speeds intestinal transit time. In other words, insoluble fiber has a laxative-type effect to help prevent constipation.

Food Sources of Fiber
Fiber is found in many foods. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all good sources of fiber. Sources of soluble fiber include: apples, beans, blueberries, carrots, celery, cucumber, lentils, oatmeal, oranges, pears, and strawberries to name a few. Source of insoluble fiber include corn bran, wheat bran, nuts, raisins, root vegetable skins, seeds, and whole grains. If you are unsure if your food choice is a "whole grain," look on the Nutrition Facts Label to see if the food has > or = to 3 grams of fiber. If it does, that is a great whole grain choice!

Functions of Fiber
So, what does fiber do? Fiber helps fill you up. It slows stomach emptying, which can help with weight management. Fiber also slows absorption of carbohydrates which can help aid blood glucose management. Soluble fiber can also inhibit absorption of dietary cholesterol, which helps lower blood cholesterol like LDL (low density lipoprotein) when included as part of a heart healthy diet.

How Much Fiber Is Recommended?
Adults need about 25-35 grams of fiber per day. However, most Americans only consume about 15 grams of fiber per day. That's only 50% of the recommended amount! So, how can you get more fiber? 

  • Switch to whole grain products. 
    • So instead of eating white rice, flour tortilla, or flour pasta, choose brown rice, whole grain tortillas, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, or popcorn (try 94% fat free with reduced sodium). 
  • Aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
    • Fruits and vegetables are a good source of fiber. Try eating fruits and vegetables with the skin on to get more insoluble and total fiber. 

Please note that different medications or disease states require more or less fiber. Talk with your personal RD or MD before starting a new diet or exercise regimen. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart attack (myocardial infarctions), please check in with your doctor to get a physical. Tell your doctor your family history of heart disease, your concerns for your health, and ask about what screening you should do.

We will go through each of the dietary and lifestyle topics this week to look more in depth on how you can be heart healthy. Stay tuned for more on physical activity or take a look back at cholesterol, dietary fats, and sodium in relation to heart health.

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