How to Eat 25 grams of Dietary Fiber a Day

To lower cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends eating 25 grams of dietary fiber per day for a 2,000-calorie diet.

As I discovered while writing, Are You Eating Enough Fiber to Lower Cholesterol? the answer for me was a clear NO. Curious and concerned, I did a little research (and math) and realized that I’m currently only consuming about half of the dietary fiber I need to lower cholesterol.

And that led me to wonder what exactly I’d need to eat to double my fiber intake / get to 25 grams of fiber a day.

What I discovered was surprising. I thought I’d need to overhaul my diet completely. Like adopt an all-oatmeal-all day-long or quinoa quinoa everywhere type of eating plan. But it turned out that all I had to do was pay little more attention and make two easy changes: a) eat whole wheat versions of the foods I was currently eating, and b) add in a high-fiber snack.

To figure all this out, I used two key sources of information. The USDA 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes Appendix 13 which is a table called, Food Sources of Dietary Fiber. While informative, I found this chart hard to navigate as it lists foods in descending order of fiber, not by type of food. To make this information more useful in meal planning, I turned it into a chart organized by meal. To do that, I relied on another useful site, SELFNutritionData, where you can search for ingredients or foods and find their full nutritional information.

Here’s a snapshot of the chart I created which lists the fiber in foods, organized by meal. To download a PDF of the entire file, click Fiber By Meal.

For me, here’s what I learned. Yes, I could (and should) shift to either oatmeal or an oat or wheat bran cereal for breakfast. But I continue to cling to my half a bagel with lox habit. So instead, I modified lunch to include a whole wheat pasta and added both almonds and roasted chickpeas as an afternoon snack. It felt familiar and was an easy shift and best of all, it doubled my dietary fiber to 25 grams per day!

Here’s a chart with three meal plans per day: a goal (including oatmeal) meal plan, my ‘current’ meal plan (as of last week), and my modified meal plan where I added whole wheat versions of my current foods and a high fiber snack:

Easy Peasy. A happy lo-co surprise.

How about you? Are you getting enough fiber in your daily diet to lower cholesterol? Download the PDF of my fiber chart to easily figure out what foods you could modify or add to get to 25 grams of dietary fiber per day.

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Are You Eating Enough Fiber to Lower Cholesterol?

While doing research for my exciting new project—a low-cholesterol cookbook that will debut in January, 2018 (more on that in subsequent posts!)—I was reminded just how important fiber is to a diet that helps naturally lower cholesterol.

Which of course made me realize I’m probably not getting enough fiber. On the plus side, I am definitely back in the habit of a daily dose of Metamucil.

On the downside, that only delivers 3 grams of total dietary fiber, and 2 grams of soluble fiber, which is known to decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol.

How does that compare with the amount of fiber a person needs to consume daily to help lower cholesterol?

I could do better.

Adults need to consume 5 to 10 grams (or more) of soluble fiber to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. As for total dietary fiber, adult women need 25 grams and adult men should consume 38 grams of total fiber per day (those over age 50 require less):

 

Age 50 or youngerAge 51 or older
Women25 grams/day21 grams/day
Men38 grams/day30 grams/day

Source: The Mayo Clinic’s article, Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet, which lists these as the total daily fiber recommendations for adults.

The Mayo clinic goes on to list fiber-rich foods (and clearly, I can’t just rely on Metamucil—I need to make sure these play a large role in my daily diet):

“If you aren’t getting enough fiber each day, you may need to boost your intake. Good choices include:

– Whole-grain products
– Fruits
– Vegetables
– Beans, peas and other legumes
– Nuts and seeds
– Refined or processed foods — such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals — are lower in fiber. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content. Enriched foods have some of the B vitamins and iron back after processing, but not the fiber.”

Are you getting enough fiber to help lower your cholesterol?

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Red Grapefruit Juice to Lower BP and Cholesterol

There is a surprising lack of information on how grapefruit can naturally lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

It would be great if I could tell you how much to consume daily for positive effects, but have not been able to easily glean this information. I find this frustrating, and am looking to interview a nutritionist and/or doctor about how much grapefruit one needs to consume daily to have an impact. More when I have that info! In the meantime, I’ve added grapefruit to my diet (again – I tried last year and fell off the wagon) and an already seeing a heartening drop in blood pressure.

Why the lack of information about how to use grapefruit to naturally lower blood pressure and cholesterol? A jaded view would say it’s easier for doctors to prescribe statins and/or blood pressure medications. A less jaded view would be that hypertension and high cholesterol are too serious to leave people to treat it ‘naturally’ and indeed some folks might not be vigilant enough.

But I think a very-well monitored first attempt to get hypertension and cholesterol under control with lifestyle changes (exercise, nutrition) is vital. Why take statins or blood pressure medications if simply adding grapefruit on a daily basis works?  Right now, in my experience, the first medical directive for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol focuses solely on reducing saturated fat and salt. I think adding grapefruit – especially red grapefruit – should be discussed as a first-step, monitored plan.

Now before I say another word, please note that if you take any statins or blood pressure medication (or lots of other meds, actually) you MUST NOT add grapefruit or grapefruit juice to your diet without speaking with your doctor.  See the ** warning at bottom of post!

But the link between grapefruit and lowering blood pressure is clear: if you want to know why it works read my post, Grapefruit Pros and Cons.  Personally, I find grapefruit quite sour, but for me, the Trader Joe’s Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice is deal-able (not the drink, the fresh juice in refrigerated section.) In fact, as explained in my post about Metamucil, ‘m adding about 8 ounces of red grapefruit juice to Metamucil so it lowers both cholesterol and blood pressure. Plus, helps with hydration. And I’m seeing blood pressure results.

So if you not take any statin, hypertension (or other drugs, see warning below), consider adding red grapefruit to your daily diet to lower blood pressure – and if you take it with Metamucil, to lower cholesterol.

** VERY IMPORTANT:  do NOT eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice if you are on statins or hypertension or indeed, many other medications. Specifically, do NOT eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice if you take Lipitor or any other statin medication to lower cholesterol or any blood pressure medication without speaking first to your doctor.  (Grapefruit warning applies also to medications for heart rhythm, depression, anxiety, HIV, immunosuppression, allergies, impotence, and seizures.)  It is dangerous to start eating grapefruit (or drinking grapefruit juice) if you take any of these medications – they affect how the drugs are absorbed.  Do not eat grapefruit unless you speak to your doctor first.

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Snapper Escabèche with Grilled Scallions

A Bon Appètit recipe for “Snapper Escabèche with Grilled Scallions” — sounds both delicious and difficult to make, no?

Delicious, definitely YES.  Difficult – a resounding NO!

In fact, this might be one of the easiest lo-co recipes I’ve ever made – and it’s both special enough for company and easy enough for a weeknight.

Oh, and did I mention delicious?

It was both Bon Appètit’s description of why marinating a fish AFTER it’s been grilled makes sense … and the accompanying video that showed how easy this was to grill AND how to know when the fish is done that convinced me to try this recipe. (It was idiotic that my maiden attempt was for an 8 person dinner party, but all’s well that ends well – and this ended very well!)

Bon Appètit described the compelling reason to marinate fish post grilling as:

“Because it’s so delicate, the flesh can break down when marinated first, sometimes causing the fish to fall apart. A post-grill bath delivers flavor without compromising texture.”

While this made sense to me, I was still skeptical: fish can easily stick or falls apart on the grill (even when it’s cooked in foil – see my post, “No Pots To Clean Gourmet Dinner.”) So I did something I almost never do – I watched the recipe video and it compelled me to try it. You can watch it on the recipe link above, or here (sorry for the ad):

Video: how to grill Snapper Escabèche with Grilled Scallions:

All you need for this dish is some very fresh red snapper fillets and a mandoline for thinly sliced red onion … Plus, it sits for at least 10 minutes after it comes off the grill, plenty of time to enjoy appetizers with friends.

I served it with these three make-ahead dishes – perfect for a dinner party:

And lots of rose wine of course.

I got several requests for the recipes – as I’m sure you’ll believe when you see how gorgeous these dishes were – and they were equally delicious:

The Snapper Escabeche:

Grilled Snapper Escabeche

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The make-ahead sides:

ENJOY this heart-healthy easy-to-make dish sometime this summer!

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High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure

Both high cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure) raise the risk of heart disease. Further, both are silent: neither high cholesterol nor hypertension carry any outward signs. Oh, and both increase with age.

So in addition to keeping your cholesterol low, it’s important to monitor your blood pressure to ensure it’s not silently creeping up.

Measuring will keep you on track. While an annual fasting blood test will help ensure your cholesterol is okay, it’s far easier to test your blood pressure. And maybe more important – as high blood pressure is often referred to as ‘the silent killer.’

Here’s what you need to know about blood pressure readings. The top number (systolic) should be less than 120, and the bottom number (diastolic) should be less than 80. If, like me, you are surprised to find that your blood pressure is between 120-140 / 80-90, you have ‘prehypertension’ and you should reduce salt / make other lo-co-like lifestyle changes. You officially have hypertension if your BP is 140-159/90-99. Here’s an at-a-glance chart from the American Heart Association (the link above has more info):

How I found out my blood pressure was high was at a regular checkup. In fact, my blood pressure was high enough that my ob/gyn insisted I call a cardiologist. He recommended I reduce salt, as in the American Heart Association page above. And that I buy a blood pressure monitor and take my BP each morning to keep track of things.

The first thing I found out is that how you take your blood pressure matters: it should be first thing in the morning, before you exercise or drink any caffeine, and you should be sitting straight up, with both feet on the floor and your arm on the table. The CDC’s article, Are You Wrong About Your Blood Pressure explains in more detail. And there is useful information like cutting salt out of your diet – and exercising – to help lower blood pressure.

The technology offered in today’s blood pressure monitors makes it so much easier to track – the machine I chose uses bluetooth to record my readings and send right to my phone. Or I can navigate to their site, sign in, and create a graph in Excel (I know that does not sound fun to many, but it makes me smile). I actually printed my readings out over a few months and brought it to my cardiologist – and avoided blood pressure medication. (Though it must be said he told me to stop it with the daily monitoring!)

There are many options, I’m sure – but the machine I purchased also enables you to test and track 2 separate users, so it was handy when my husband needed to track his blood pressure as well.

If you have high cholesterol and aren’t checking your blood pressure (at least occasionally, certainly more often than just annually at the doctor’s office) then get thee to a pharmacy with a blood pressure measuring machine or buy one.  The Omron BP786 is what I purchased, and it’s only $52 at the moment on Amazon. I like this particular machine – you might even have fun with a graph while finding out if your blood pressure is A-OK or high enough that you want to get checked by your doctor.

However you choose to, monitor your blood pressure in addition to your cholesterol for heart health.

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