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Help your heart by adding more fiber to your diet

Holding bowl of yogurt and granola against a pink background.
Blog

/ by Shorus Minella, RD, LD

The Cardio Cuisine series is written by Shorus Minella, a dietitian at the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute.

Are you getting enough fiber in your diet? It might surprise you that women need 21 to 25 grams per day, and men need 30 to 38 grams per day. Unfortunately, most Americans only consume 10 to 15 grams per day.

Fiber is important because it's beneficial for your heart and reduces your risk of heart disease.

Here's what you should know about fiber and how you can get enough of it:

What is fiber?

Fiber is the part of plant foods that our bodies can’t digest or absorb. There are two kinds: insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber aids in digestion by helping food pass though the digestive tract quicker, helping prevent constipation. It acts like a brush to help clean the colon. Soluble fiber dissolves in the digestive tract forming a gel that lowers cholesterol and controls blood sugar. Most plant-based fiber-rich foods contain a mixture of both types of fiber.

Great sources of fiber

If you're trying to incorporate more fiber in your diet, add these items to your grocery list.

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains

Why is fiber important?

Fiber reduces the risk of heart disease by improving cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. Fiber also helps you stay satisfied after you eat. It keeps you full longer, so you eat less, which helps with weight loss.

Tips to add more fiber to your diet

  • Eat five or more 1/2 cup servings of fruits or vegetables every day.
  • Purchase whole grain bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, etc.
  • Add fiber slowly to prevent gas and other digestive issues. Unless your doctor told you otherwise, drink six to eight cups of water each day.
  • Read the label: Choose foods that have fiber. High fiber foods should have five grams or more per serving.

Here is the fiber content of some common foods:

Blueberries: 1 cup = 4 grams

Orange: 1 medium = 3 grams

Apple: 1 medium with skin = 3.7 grams

Raspberries: 1 cup = 8.4 grams

Strawberries: 1 cup = 3.4 grams

Collard greens: 1 cup = 5 grams

Cooked broccoli: 1/2 cup = 2.3 grams

Pinto beans: 1/2 cup = 7 grams

Whole wheat bread: 1 slice = 2 grams

Brown rice: 1 cup = 3.5 grams

Whole wheat spaghetti: 1 cup = 2 grams

Cereal granola: 2/3 cup = 6-8 grams

Try this simple breakfast or snack that is loaded with 12 grams of fiber:

1/2 cup of strawberries: 1.5 grams

2/3 cup of granola: 7 grams

1/4 cup of almonds: 4 grams

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