You might have heard fiber is good for lowering cholesterol. Although your heart will thank you for including it, you’re not likely to notice a big difference from one day to the next if you start upping the roughage.
Here’s an immediate benefit that you can latch onto: foods with fiber, specifically soluble fiber, are high-quality slow-burning fuel which can keep you full and satisfied for hours. What’s more: in honor of national cholesterol month, we’re focused on soluble fiber because not only is it found in all kinds of delicious and filling foods, but it is particularly good at helping you maintain a healthy cholesterol level. That gummy goodness gloms on to cholesterol in the digestive tract so you can get rid of cholesterol instead of absorbing it back into your bloodstream. Seven to thirteen grams of soluble fiber per day is enough to provide that benefit, so let’s add up some favorite meals and snacks and see how we can get there.
Breakfast of champions
The marketers of instant oatmeal packets have convinced everyone that you can’t just microwave regular old-fashioned oats, but that’s simply not true. Making your own “instant” oatmeal will up the fiber (if you use real fruit) and eliminate the empty and non-satiating calories from added sugar. If you like the apples and cinnamon flavor of instant oatmeal, give this a try:
- Dice 1 medium apple and put it in a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 1 minute.
- Add ½ cup of old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats and 1 cup water. Microwave for 2 more minutes.
- Stir in 1 Tbsp ground flax seed, cinnamon, ginger, and if you want, a dash of salt and brown sugar.
- You can easily double or triple the recipe and refrigerate for the next morning. Just microwave for about 90 seconds and enjoy it all over again.
That recipe will start your day off with four grams of filling and cholesterol-munching soluble fiber. Halfway to goal, and it’s not even lunchtime! If you try this recipe, you’ll never want to settle for instant packets again.
Lunch for days
On chilly weekends, you can save time and money making a big batch of soup and enjoying leftovers all week long. This Winter Black Bean Soup has about four grams of soluble fiber per serving, thanks mostly to the black beans (1 cup of black beans = 4.8 g). If you don’t want to garnish it with yogurt for transport, you can sprinkle low-fat mozzarella on top and it will melt as you heat it up for lunch. Ryvita crackers are great for dipping, and they have a whopping 7 grams of total fiber per 4 crackers, and only 140 calories. There isn’t any information on their soluble fiber content, but we’ll assume it’s at least 1 gram. With that, we’ve already achieved 9 grams, but we’re not stopping there!
If you’re looking for another great-tasting and hearty soup this fall, try this Sweet Potato Pumpkin Soup.
Crunchy-salty-sweet, and healthy
A go-to snack for the afternoon for portability, taste and health is a blend of roasted soy nuts and raisins. You can buy both in bulk at Amazing Grains in downtown Grand Forks. You can sometimes add a few chocolate chips for a touch of indulgence with this homemade trail mix.
It’s easy to get into a rut with starches. If you’re like most Americans, the dinner starch is potatoes, pasta, bread or maybe rice, with few exceptions. Branch out with a chewy and fiber-filled grain you’ve probably only had in soup. Barley has three grams of fiber per ½ cup. It’s one of the chewiest grains, and more chewing means your meal takes longer to eat, which means you’ll be satisfied with less! Try this simple recipe:
- Rinse the grains and add to your pot.
- Add 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of grain, and add a dash of salt and whichever spice blend you’re in the mood for (Mrs. Dash garlic and herb goes well).
- Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer at about a 4 out of 10 for roughly 25 minutes, or until you can tip the pot and no water comes above the level of the grains.
Adding a quick side of steamed frozen broccoli will almost double the fiber content of this meal. Add lean meat and you’re all set.
At the end of this tasty day you’ll have plenty of soluble fiber, well exceeding the goal and thereby crushing cholesterol. These ideas are full of both fiber and flavor, but if this meal plan is far from what you’re used to, add high-fiber foods into your diet gradually and drink plenty of water to prevent your digestive system from getting blocked up.
For more healthy recipes approved by Altru’s dietitians, visit altru.org/recipes.