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Fiber and its Benefits for Lowering Cholesterol

Fiber is our friend in several different ways. Consuming fiber helps to keep the colon moving so it is clearing waste out of the body. This keeps your bowels regular but also helps prevent hemorrhoids, diverticuli (small pouches that can become infected) and colon cancer. Fiber also can help to lower cholesterol. Here’s a review of some sources of fiber and what they can do to lower cholesterol to healthier levels in the body.

 What is fiber

First of all, a better understanding of what cholesterol does in the body may help you to understand why it is essential to your health and why we want to regulate the amount floating in the blood stream. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that the body uses to make healthy cell walls, other tissues, hormones, vitamin D and bile acid, which helps you digest your food properly. Cholesterol is essential to health, but in the proper amounts. Over time, we can run into problems when cholesterol builds up too much in the blood stream.  When this happens, cholesterol can be deposited in blood vessel walls, causing a narrowing of the lumen (inside) of vessels, which can inhibit the supply of blood to the heart or other organs and tissues of the body.


There are 2 general types of cholesterol plus fat molecules called triglycerides in the bloodstream, all of which are measured in a typical blood cholesterol profile.

  1. LDL- low density lipoprotein, which in its dense form can lodge in blood vessel cell walls causing blockage if it is too plentiful.
  2. HDL- high density lipoprotein, which is cardio-protective for men and women because it helps transfer cholesterol out of blood vessel walls back to the liver for other uses.
  3. Triglycerides, which, like LDL cholesterol, increases risk for cardiovascular disease. Unlike the lipoproteins which are affected more by fiber and fat intake, triglycerides typically increase when we ingest a lot of carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates like breads, cakes and cookies.


What affects the cholesterol manufacturing process?

  1. Our genes are a big determinant of our cholesterol levels, and explain why one person might have a high LDL cholesterol whereas another may have a low HDL cholesterol.
  2. Exercise can also affect our blood cholesterol--it primarily raises the HDL cholesterol, which is cardio-protective.
  3. Finally, what we eat and drink has a big impact on our cholesterol levels, and can overcome our genetic predispositions. Briefly, the following is known about diet and blood cholesterol levels:
    • Foods with saturated fat (think high fat dairy products, marbling in meat, poultry skin, egg yolks) can raise the HDL (good) cholesterol but can also raise the LDL (bad) cholesterol.
    • Foods with unsaturated fat (like fatty fish, olive oil, nuts, avocado) can raise the HDL and lower the LDL cholesterols—both are good effects!
    • Starches and sugars typically raise our triglyceride levels (not a good thing).
    • Alcohol (in moderation!) can raise our HDL cholesterol.
    • And fiber can lower our LDL cholesterol—a good effect!


Since fiber is the focus of this blog, let’s discuss how fiber works:

  1. Diet rich in fiber naturally absorbs water into the colon. When this happens you eliminate more easily and avoid constipation. The fiber also binds to the cholesterol in bile enzymes in your intestine, preventing it from being absorbed such that it passes through the intestine and out when you eliminate. Because this means your liver needs to pull cholesterol from the bloodstream to make more bile, this helps lower LDL cholesterol levels.
  2. Similarly, dietary fiber can also slow the absorption of sugars (and starches, which are broken down into sugars) from your intestines into your blood stream. This will lower your triglyceride levels.


Why does the body do this?

Fiber that absorbs water can reduce the re-absorption of cholesterol through the intestines and into the blood stream. The body is conservative. It will try to reabsorb and reutilize those substances that it needs by reabsorbing them before we eliminate them as waste through the bowel. Fiber keeps the bowels moving and with cholesterol, fiber also helps us to eliminate toxins from outside sources and the byproducts of our own cellular metabolism.


What are common dietary sources of fiber?

  1. Pectin for example, is found in stone fruits like peaches, apricots and apples.
  2. Oat bran can be purchased as the bran from oats or consumed in lesser amounts in oatmeal.
  3. Ground flax seeds are best consumed for all their nutritional value by grinding them fresh in a coffee grinder. Once ground, they can be kept refrigerated for a few days to also catch the benefit of their essential fatty acids, which otherwise oxidize quickly once the seed is ground. However, they still have benefits from the fiber they contain.
  4. Psyllium fiber (e.g., Metamucil).
  5. Guar gum (e.g., Benefiber).


Other Nutrient substances known to naturally lower cholesterol and are high in fiber, nutritious and delicious are:

  • Polyphenol containing foods which include blueberries, cranberries, bilberries, black currants, peanuts, onions, legumes and parsley.

In summary, consuming a variety of fresh and well prepared vegetables, legumes, fresh fruits and whole grains all are fiber rich and good for you in a myriad of ways. The fiber they contain is not just a filler, it helps your colon health, your cholesterol levels and in many biochemical ways supports healthy blood sugar metabolism.  This is nature’s bounty conspiring to keep you healthy, so fiber in its many forms is worth consuming every day.

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With more than 40-year years of experience in delivering wellness and weight loss programs, the Duke Diet and Fitness Center has established itself as one of the leading weight loss and total body health destinations for health conscious individuals seeking a residential style health program focused on natural weight loss.

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