Dietary fiber is either soluble or insoluble. Getting plenty of insoluble fiber in your diet is associated with a reduced heart disease risk and lower cholesterol. It increases bulk and prevents constipation. It is soluble fiber which absorbs water, and forms a gel-like substance that is known to lower levels of low-density lipoproteins; also known as LDL or bad cholesterol. It does this by blocking the absorption of lipids during digestion.
The American Heart Association recommends aiming for 25 grams of fiber a day from whole food sources. This is not easy with the typical American diet which is high in animal products and refined grains. The best foods for lowering cholesterol are the ones that are high in soluble fiber, such as oats, beans, nuts, apples, strawberries, oranges, cucumbers, avocados, and carrots. These foods also contain some of the insoluble form, which is found in high amounts in whole wheat, brown rice, and leafy greens. To get an idea of how much you need to eat, consider that one apple contains about 4 grams. A cup of oatmeal has 4 to 5 grams of fiber. A cup of cooked lentils, an excellent source, supplies you with about 15 grams.
To work on improving your lipid levels don't worry so much about the numbers. Healthy eating doesn't have to be a math problem! Simply include a lot of different sources of fiber in your diet. Eat more fresh fruit. Enjoy a green salad every day. Have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast on most mornings. Snack on almonds and other nuts. Make a point of eating beans instead of red meat several times a week. The best way to lower cholesterol levels is to get plenty of fiber while also lowering your intake of foods that are high in saturated fat, like meats, whole milk, and cheese.
Having high cholesterol levels increases your risk for developing heart disease, the number one cause of death for women living in the United States. This disease takes years to develop and become a threat. You do have the power to prevent problems down the road. Make high-fiber foods a regular part of your diet now. Choose healthy whole grains and legumes over refined grains and rich meats. Snack on nuts and fruits instead of chips and crackers. You will be glad that you did when you are older and enjoying the benefits of your healthy habits!