Fiber is the part of plants we do not digest or absorb. Fiber is broadly classified into two categories: water-soluble and insoluble. Many foods, like fruits and vegetables, are good sources of both types.
Water-soluble fiber in particular has been shown in several studies to have a cholesterol-lowering effect. One theory proposes that the fiber binds with bile acids in the intestinal tract, and from there they are excreted. To produce more bile acids, the liver pulls cholesterol from the bloodstream, thereby lowering the blood-cholesterol level. It has also been suggested that eating foods high in water-soluble fiber does not in itself lower the cholesterol level, but prevents one from filling up instead on cholesterol-raising options. In other words, if you are having oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, you are not having bacon, eggs, and butter! Regularly including good sources in your diet is clearly beneficial. Foods high in water-soluble fiber include oatmeal and oat bran, barley, legumes (dried beans, peas, and lentils), and fruits and vegetables (especially apples, figs, and carrots). Note that these foods are also highly nutritious.
Increasing water-soluble fiber in your diet—
- Eat hot oatmeal or oat bran (or a mixture) for breakfast. Add raisins, apples, and cinnamon if you like.
- Choose a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal that contains oat bran. Look in the ingredient list for oat bran, rolled oats, or whole oat flour.
- Sprinkle a teaspoonful of oat bran on your favorite ready-to-eat cereal, on yogurt, and on top of casseroles.
- Choose bread made with oats or oat bran.
- Eat fruit –in cereal, with yogurt, or for dessert and snacks.