People with high cholesterol levels are aware of the possibility that they might need to rely on medications for life. The correlation between high cholesterol levels and heart disease causes most people to take this condition very seriously. The advanced progress through science and the published research findings have found that there is a close relationship between dietary fibres and phytochemicals (active compounds found in plants) and the reduction of cholesterol or lipid levels in the body. Among the various dietary fibres, the water-soluble varieties have demonstrated a substantial effect in reducing the lipid levels.1
The most important questions that arise in our minds are – What are soluble dietary fibres? Where can they be found? How can they really help in controlling and lowering high cholesterol levels?
Soluble fibres are natural fibres derived from plant-based foods. Consuming as little as 5-10 grams of these fibres every day can help bring down high cholesterol (LDL) levels by up to 10 points, and, in some cases, even more. Soluble dietary fibres are not absorbed in the intestines, and therefore, help in binding with cholesterol in the intestines and eliminate it from the body effectively.2
Fibres to lower cholesterol2-5
- Grains – Grains like oatmeal, oat bran, quinoa and barley work like magic. A single serving comprising as little as 1-2 grams of the fibres made into small portions is a great start.2
- Plant stanols and sterols – Sterols and stanols are natural substances found in plants. Studies have shown that an intake of up to 3 grams of plant sterols/stanols help in the lowering of cholesterol by 7.5 to 12%. Foods such as seeds, vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains products and fruits contain a good amount of sterols/stanols. You could ask your nutritionist which ones can be included in the regular diet to get a good dose of sterols and stanols.4
- Proteins – These are essential foods for the body. However, it is important to ensure you look for plant-based proteins to maximise the fibrous content. Different kinds of legumes, such as peas and beans are rich in proteins and total and soluble fibres and are easily available.1,2
- Fats – Heart-healthy foods with moderate amount of fats can work wonders on the body. Foods that contain healthy fats and a good amount of soluble fibres include flax seeds, chia seeds and avocados. These foods contain at least 1 to 2 grams of fibre per 1 to 2 tablespoons.2,5
- Starch – Certain starchy foods are also high in dietary fibres. The 1 gram of soluble fibres in ½ cup of green peas and sweet potatoes should go a long way towards increasing your fibre intake.2
- Fresh fruits – All kinds of berries, apples, peaches and pears, guavas, mangoes and bananas are filled with soluble fibres and must be made a part of your daily diet. The sheer variety of fruit choices makes it easy to have different fruits with every meal, while fortifying the body with other nutrients as well.2
- Vegetables – Vegetables, whether eaten raw or cooked, contain a good amount of soluble fibres. Broccoli, carrots, onions, cabbage, turnips, beans and brussel sprouts contain at least 1 or more grams of soluble fibre in them, so eating them raw in your salads or cooked with meals can help you lower your cholesterol naturally.2
To make the most of the available soluble fibres, it is ideal to stagger their consumption through every meal and snack time, so that the body is constantly supplied with the goodness it needs. However, it is most important that, along with the soluble fibres, the intake of water is increased. This will help in the better regulation and digestion of the fibres.
Eat fresh and healthy foods that contain a lot of fibre and take control of your cholesterol levels.
- Bazzano LA. Effects of soluble dietary fiber on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and coronary heart disease risk. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2008 Dec;10(6):473-7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18937894.
- Lipid.org. Adding soluble fiber to lower your cholesterol [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 9]. Available from: https://www.lipid.org/sites/default/files/adding_soluble_fiber_final_0.pdf.
- Mayo Clinic. Cholesterol: top foods to improve your numbers [Internet]. [updated 2018 Jul 17; cited 2019 Dec 9]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192.
- Trautwein EA, Vermeer MA, Hiemstra H, Ras RT. LDL-cholesterol lowering of plant sterols and stanols-which factors influence their efficacy? Nutrients. 2018 Sep 7;10(9). pii: E1262. doi: 10.3390/nu10091262.
- American Heart Association News. An avocado a day may help keep bad cholesterol at bay [Internet]. [updated 2015 Jan 7; cited 2019 Dec 9]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/05/01/an-avocado-a-day-may-help-keep-bad-cholesterol-at-bay.