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Eating fiber-rich foods helps keep the heart healthy, from the May 2014 Harvard Heart Letter

One often-overlooked strategy for keeping the heart healthy—or getting it back on track—is eating more fiber-rich foods. The May 2014 Harvard Heart Letter describes how fiber helps, and lists foods rich in fiber.

Fiber is a carbohydrate that your body can't break down, so it passes through the body undigested. It comes in two varieties: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains, wheat cereals, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Soluble fiber sources include barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears. Both types have been linked to heart health.

"As a country, we aren't eating enough fiber," says Dr. Cheryl Clark, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. She is the senior author of a recent study that confirmed a fiber shortfall in the American diet: on average, we get only about half the daily fiber we need. Current recommendations call for 38 grams of fiber a day for men up to age 50 and 30 grams daily after that; 25 grams of fiber a day for women up to age 50 and 21 grams a day after that.

Dr. Clark's study also pointed to a connection between more fiber and less heart disease. Fiber may protect against heart disease by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

Why haven't people jumped on the fiber bandwagon? "I think there's just not enough awareness about the benefits of fiber," says Dr. Clark. She suggests making an effort to put more fiber-rich foods on your shopping list and to bring easy-to-transport whole fruits or nuts with you to snack on when you're out and about. Good sources of fiber include some breakfast cereals, whole grains and foods made from them, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

Read the full-length article: "Eat more fiber-rich foods to foster heart health"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Heart Letter

  • Heart attack and stroke: Men vs. women
  • Ask the doctor: Erratic blood pressure readings
  • Ask the doctor: Concerns about low HDL
  • Eat more fiber-rich foods to foster heart health
  • When very high cholesterol runs in the family
  • Another kind of heart rhythm problem
  • Common blood pressure drugs can trigger rare allergic reaction
  • Taking Lyme disease to heart
  • Vegetarian diet linked to lower blood pressure
  • Update: Quality of life after aortic valve replacement
  • Gene therapy to regenerate heart muscle

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.