Eating for a Healthy Heart {Part 2: Fun with Fiber}

{Part 2 in Eating for a Healthy Heart, first mentioned here.}

Hi there, Mamas!  Today’s post is on fiber.  I know we often think about fiber as being for gut health, but it can also be a big component in a heart healthy diet.

 

First, let’s talk about the types of fiber: soluble, insoluble (and, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, moral fiber).  Insoluble is anything that might up (ahem) undigested – things like seeds, popcorn kernels, and the skins and veins of fruits and vegetables.  This is the main “gut” fiber.

 

Soluble fiber is what can really help with heart health.  It forms a gel-like substance in during digestion, which helps to pull cholesterol and toxins out of the body.  This gel also slows gastric emptying (how fast food leaves the stomach), which can help you feel full and can help stabilize blood sugar.

Basically, soluble fiber lowers cholesterol, can aid in weight loss, and help control or prevent diabetes by controlling blood sugar spikes.  (If you’ll recall from this article, high cholesterol, obesity, and [uncontrolled] diabetes are all risk factors for heart disease.)

Get More Fiber

If you’d like to get more fiber, focus on plant foods (fiber only comes from plants, in the same way that only animal foods have cholesterol).

Choose a variety of foods to cash in on the benefits of both types of fiber.  Used with permission from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Choose a variety of foods to cash in on the benefits of both types of fiber. Used with permission from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Good sources of soluble fiber include: oats, lentils and beans (one reason why “eat more beans” made it on this list), bananas, and the “meat” of apples and pears.  Insoluble fiber sources include: any fruit or vegetable with a skin, whole wheat, seeds, nuts, “veiny” vegetables (think celery, kale, or spinach), and dried fruit.

Here’s how you can add fiber to every meal of your day:

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  • Add oat bran (soluble) or wheat bran (insoluble) to your morning cereal or smoothie.
  • Add fruit to your cereal or yogurt
  • Choose smoothies over juicing to get the benefits of the fiber
  • Veg up your omelet

Lunch 20150118_112323

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  • Add a few handfuls of sauteed spinach (it cooks down to pretty much nothing) to almost any mixed dish (a few of my faves are enchiladas and pastas)
  • Serve whole-grain (not to be confused with “multi-grain”) bread or rolls
  • Be sure to add a side of veggies or fruit

Be sure to drink plenty of water when you’re increasing your fiber intake, and go slow when adding more to your day to avoid unpleasant GI side effects.

Check out the recipes for Gluten-free Breakfast Cookies, Sweet Potato Ravioli, and Sweet Potato Ribbons Alfredo for toddler-approved foods with fiber.

What are some of your favorite ways to up your family’s fiber intake, Mamas?

Don’t forget to check out Eating for a Healthy Heart {Part 1 – The Skinny on Fat}.

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