This Is How Eating Fiber Protects Your Heart
What Is Fiber?
There are two types of it: soluble and insoluble, although most fiber-rich foods contain some of both.
Fiber is also considered either “dietary” or “functional.” The dietary kind is the indigestible part of plants that we eat, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts. You get it naturally in whole foods. The functional kind is extracted or made in a lab — it’s the type of fiber you’ll find in supplements or fiber-enriched foods.
Still, experts say you don’t need to overthink it. They say it’s best to aim for a balanced diet rich with plenty of fiber-laden foods.
“It’s the whole pattern that seems to have the effect,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont. “It’s hard to tease out exact foods. Food is a complex thing.”
Most people associate fiber with a healthy digestive system, but research has shown it can do a lot more than just keep you regular. Scientists are still working to figure out how exactly it works in the body, though. Some of the ways it helps your heart include:
Lowers cholesterol. Soluble fiber can reduce both “bad” LDL and overall cholesterol, perhaps by binding with cholesterol particles in your digestive system and moving them out of the body before they’re absorbed.
Protects against strokes and diabetes. Replace refined grains with fiber-rich whole grains in your diet, and you might lower the risk of a stroke by up to 36% and the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 30%, research shows. Both conditions are tied to an increased risk of getting heart disease.