Wellness and Prevention Part I Chapter 8

Fiber Helps Lower Cholesterol


You probably know that fiber is great for keeping you regular, but you might not know that it's good for you in other important ways. Just 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day decreases your total LDL-cholesterol levels by slowing absorption of cholesterol. And fiber may even fight cancer. Fiber discourages the growth of unhealthy bacteria in intestines, which secrete cancer-causing enzymes. And it encourages the growth of health-promoting bacteria that crowd out the dangerous kind.

Foods with Fiber

Animal products contain no fiber, only plant products do. For people with high cholesterol, a switch to a low-fat, high-fiber diet often causes cholesterol levels to drop dramatically. Your best choices for fiber are

  • Whole grains (like oats, barley, brown rice, whole wheat)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans, dried peas, lentils
  • Many vegetables (like broccoli, avocados, carrots, peppers, dark leafy greens)
  • Many fruits (like apples, bananas, berries, guava, dried fruits)

Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Both are good for you. Insoluble doesn't dissolve in water but absorbs it, increasing bulk in your stool and shortening transit time through the intestine. Soluble fiber ferments in the large intestine and the end products of this fermentation are very beneficial for your health. What's more, soluble fiber acts like a sponge and soaks up LDL-cholesterol. It lowers your total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels and your triglyceride levels as well. It even suppresses cholesterol synthesis by the liver.

Food sources of soluble fiber include oats, dried peas and beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables, barley, rye, flax, and psyllium husks. Food sources of insoluble fiber include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, brown rice, popcorn, wheat bran, and corn bran.

Whole Grains

What Is a Whole Grain?

Grains consist of three parts: the bran and the germ, which are the outer portions of the grain seed, and the endosperm, which is the interior. Whole-grain foods retain all three parts and all the nutrients of the entire grain seed. The bran and germ are rich in fiber, vitamins (especially B vitamins), minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants. These are the parts milled away in the refining process. What's left behind is the endosperm, which contains mostly carbohydrates and some protein.

It's well known that whole grains contain important fiber, vitamins, and minerals (like iron, magnesium, and selenium). But there's more to the story. Like vegetables and fruits, whole grains contain thousands of phytochemicals that interact with each other and work synergistically in your body. These chemicals include antioxidants, lignans, phenolic acids, phytoestrogens, and many others. All these nutrients acting together help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

How Much Whole-Grain Food Should You Eat?

It's recommended that adults eat at least half their grains as whole grain, which equals at least 3-5 servings of whole grains each day. Children need 2-3 servings or more per day. It's easy to follow this recommendation if you just make sure to have some source of whole grain at every meal.

What Are Some Whole-Grain Foods?

  • All oat products, including oatmeal
  • Brown rice and wild rice
  • Corn, including whole cornmeal and popcorn
  • Millet
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Rye
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat, including varieties like spelt and durum and forms such as bulgur and cracked wheat

When checking product contents, make sure the labels include the word "whole" before the name of the grain to ensure that the grain hasn't been refined.

More on this topic

Understanding Wellness (VIDEO)

What Is Wellness?

Quit Smoking

Smoking & Your Arteries

Eat Healthy

Foods to Avoid

Foods to Enjoy

Fiber Helps Lower Cholesterol

Good Fats: Omegas 3 & 6

The Daily Nutrition You Need

Portion Control

Daily Exercise

Aerobic Exercise

Speed Up Your Metabolism

Benefits of Exercise

Lose Weight

Measuring Fat

Related Health Centers:

The 9 Visual Rules of Wellness, Wellness and Prevention Part I, Wellness and Prevention Part II, Reverse Aging

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.