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Focus on fiber to lower cholesterol

February is here, and with Valentine’s Day fast approaching it is not only the perfect time to show your love but to also make the symbol of love (the heart) as healthy as it can be.

As we celebrate Heart Health Month, each week I will be focusing on ways to optimize your heart-health.

First of all it is important to know your numbers.

The graphic to the right is a good guide to where you should be.

If you are struggling with high cholesterol, one nutrient to get more of is fiber.

There are two types of fiber in food, insoluble and soluble.

Total fiber intake should be 30 grams per day. But for cholesterol lowering effects, you may want to increase the amount of soluble fiber you take in each day.

Soluble fiber sticks or binds to cholesterol and removes it from the body before it is absorbed into the blood stream.

Health professionals recommend 10 to 25 grams of soluble fiber daily, though research has shown eating just 5 to10 grams/day of soluble fiber may decrease LDL cholesterol by 5 percent.

 How can you increase your soluble fiber intake?

•Eat three or more servings of foods rich in soluble fiber daily: oatmeal, oat bran, barley, beans (kidney, black, navy), flax seed, chia seed, apples, pears, bananas, oranges, strawberries, blackberries, prunes, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, green beans and edamame.

•Increase consumption of whole-grain foods,  whole wheat pasta, brown rice, whole-grain breads.

•Eat high-fiber cereal for breakfast that has at least 3 to 5 grams of soluble fiber per serving.

•Sprinkle ground flax seed or chia seed on oatmeal, yogurt or salads. You may want to try the new flaxseed flavored blends from Linwood.

•Eat soluble fiber-filled foods at breakfast or before bed, to help remove the cholesterol your body produces while you sleep.

•Use psyllium, found in some fiber supplements such as Metamucil, as an easy way to boost the soluble fiber in your diet.

Energy boosting strawberry smoothie

Serves 4

All you need

•4 tbsp ground flax

•1 banana

•1 cup low-fat milk

•1 cup ice

•3⁄4 cup nonfat yogurt

•5-7 strawberries

 All you do

Place all of the ingredients into a blender and blend for 45 seconds, or until desired.