The heart-healthy carbs you need now

Preventing heart disease means more than avoiding saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It’s also about what you should eat more Take fiber, for example. “The first thing you think about getting more of for heart health should be fiber,” says Libby Mills, MS, RD, a nutritionist in Philadelphia, PA.

Getting the fiber you need is easier—and tastier—than you might think. Here’s how to effortlessly up your fiber game and give your heart some love in the process.

Aim high. Think of fiber as a nutritional jack of all trades. In addition to keeping your heart happy, this multitasking nutrient helps regulate blood sugar, keeps your digestive system regular and fills you up, so you automatically eat less. This is good news. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that women eat foods that provide about one ounce (25 grams) of fiber per day and one-third more (38 grams) for men.

Why? Fiber is naturally present in whole, minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. When we eat more ultra-processed foods, like chicken nuggets, deli meats, sour snacks, cakes and cookies, we run the risk of not getting enough fiber.

Mix things up. Fiber may sound like it’s one thing. In fact, there are many different types of fiber, and they each seem to support heart health in distinct ways. So, it’s important to eat a wide variety of foods to get a variety of fiber.

For the most part, fiber falls into two general camps: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, commonly found in foods like beans, oats, barley, apples and pears, acts like a sponge, helping to trap blood cholesterol-raising fats such as saturated and trans fats before they enter your body.

And that’s just the beginning of the neat tricks. “By slowing digestion, soluble fiber can prevent blood sugar spikes that can raise triglycerides and damage blood vessels,” adds Mills.

Insoluble fiber is no slouch. Found in bran cereals and foods like whole-wheat bread and pasta, the insoluble fiber’s claim to fame keeps your digestive system regular. But it can also do good things for your ticker. Because insoluble fiber provides a natural way to feel full after a meal, it can also help you eat less, which can help you maintain a healthy body weight in the long run and thereby put less stress on your heart. In fact, studies have shown that when a person eats 7 grams of insoluble fiber per day, their risk of heart disease decreases by 18 percent.

Get the best of both worlds. If you can’t be bothered to keep tabs on whether you’re eating enough soluble and insoluble fiber, we hear you! Fortunately there is a quick, convenient type of fiber that provides both types, namely whole grain fiber. If you’ve never heard of whole grain fiber, it’s basically the bran of the grain kernel, and it’s rich in—you guessed it—whole grain cereal.

and according to a new Study, eating an extra 5 grams of whole grain fiber in your daily diet can reduce your risk of heart disease by 10 percent. The American Heart Association recommends making half of your grains whole grains.

Of course, you can always wolf down a big bowl of whole-grain cereal. But why stop there? If you want to harness the power of this helpful whole grain fiber, try these tips.

Blend ¼ cup quinoa flakes into your favorite smoothie.

For a crunch on French toast, dust egg-dipped whole-wheat bread slices with powdered, unsweetened whole-grain cereal before cooking and serve with fresh fruit.

Roll energy balls in puffed brown rice.

Toss whole grain squares with tart-dried cherries and almonds for a sweet and savory snack mix.

Whip up a batch of Super Seed Granola.

The next time you make chicken nuggets or fish fingers, swap crushed toasted oat cereal for breadcrumbs.

To maintain a healthy body weight, be sure to add more fiber-rich foods to your diet, while balancing your calories, limiting saturated and trans fats, and reducing excess salt and sodium.

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