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Fiber for Heart Health

Happy new month!  January flew by and we are now in what many of us recognize as National Heart Month.  How do you take care of your heart?  Diet and fitness are easy ways to prevent heart disease.  For example, are you getting enough fiber?  Certain types of fiber (particularly from plant-based foods) have been shown to maintain a healthy heart.  Most Americans are falling short of the recommended fiber amounts.  The chart below shows the Adequate Intake of fiber we should get per day (Hillan et al., 2015).

Life Stage AI Amount

(grams [g] of fiber per day)

Children, ages 1–3 19
Children, ages 4–8 25
Females, ages 9–13 26
Females, ages 9–13 26
Males, ages 9–13 31
Males, ages 14–18 38
Men, ages 19–50 38
Men, ages 51+ 30
Women, ages 19–50 25
Women, ages 51+ 21
Pregnancy 28
Breastfeeding 29
Source: Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board (2005)

Fiber is found in the skin of many fruits and vegetables.  When purchasing packaged food, read the food label and see if the food has at least 2 grams of fiber per serving.  Fiber found in food is preferred simply because of the extra benefit of consuming more vitamins and minerals, but if you think you need a fiber supplement, talk to your healthcare provider (Hillan et al., 2015).

In honor of National Heart Month, replace an unhealthy snack for something higher in fiber, such as an apple.  With heart disease being the number one killer of Americans, it is important to take preventative action.  While fiber has other benefits as well, such as preventing constipation and slowing down glucose absorption, it is also beneficial for heart health by helping to reduce blood cholesterol.  Please note: if you have diverticulitis, talk to your healthcare provider about having a certain amount of fiber in your diet.

References:

Hillan, J., Turner, E., and Dahl, W.J.  (2015).  Facts about Fiber.  Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy849

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