Several types of lipids may circulate in your bloodstream, including cholesterol and triglycerides. If you have high levels of any of them you may be at risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. If you have had blood work and been told you have a high lipid profile, you have probably been advised to make some dietary changes. Reducing sugar, saturated fat and alcohol intake will all help lower your lipid levels, but adding fiber to your diet may also make a significant improvement.
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Cholesterol is a type of blood lipid. It is needed for healthy cell growth, but in excess, this waxy substance can create deposits on the walls of your blood vessels, decreasing blood flow. A reduction of blood flow to your heart can put you at risk of a heart attack. You may also be at risk of a stroke if blood flow to the brain is decreased. Fortunately, the lifestyle changes that your doctor suggested can reduce and sometimes reverse some of the damage caused by high cholesterol. In certain cases, your doctor may recommend medication to reduce your risk of serious disease.
Lipids are made up of fats and protein. Lipoproteins are a type of lipid that your doctor looks at to determine your risk of serious disease. Low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, carry and deposit cholesterol throughout your body. That is why LDL is known as the “bad cholesterol.” High-density lipoproteins, or HDL, collect excess cholesterol and return it to your liver. That is why HDL is known as “good cholesterol.” Very low-density lipoproteins, or VLDL, contain a type of fat known as triglycerides. VLDL increases the size of LDL cholesterol, so it is often used as a risk indicator of high cholesterol.
Triglycerides are another type of lipid that circulate in your blood. High triglyceride levels are directly related to heart and blood vessel disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Increasing your fiber intake will help lower triglyceride levels in your blood, according to a report from the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Fiber is an indigestible part of plant-based foods that has two functions. Soluble fiber forms a gel in your stomach that captures certain fats, including cholesterol, before it is absorbed by your body. Studies have shown that soluble fiber can reduce LDL levels, improving your lipids profile. Insoluble fiber helps you reduce caloric intake by providing bulk and slowing digestion. Because both types of fiber favorably alter digestion patterns, it is associated with decreased risk of heart and cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Its beneficial effects on obesity, a risk marker for high cholesterol, also make it an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
Adding Fiber to Your Diet
Adding more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds to your diet will increase your intake of dietary fiber. Start your morning with old-fashioned oatmeal and diced apples, and add beans to your lunch and dinner menus to increase soluble fiber intake. A 2007 study published in the "Journal of Nutrition" indicates that adding 1/2 cup of beans daily to the diet significantly reduced cholesterol over the 12-week study. Insoluble fiber is found in abundance in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, the skins of most fruits and vegetables and whole grains and nuts.