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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Non-Sweetened Metamucil with Grapefruit and Orange Juice

With my cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure higher last month, I needed to try to salvage things before my doctor(s) advise statins and/or blood pressure medication. Step one: a lo-co lifestyle exercise and diet review (and correction):

  • Exercise. I’d let my exercise habit lapse in the past six months, so have recently re-started exercising daily. Of course today I pulled my hamstring. Sigh. But I am determined to at least walk daily, because ‘Study Proves Exercise Staves Off Bad Cholesterol.’
  • Diet – General. While I don’t eat a lot of red meat, I do eat a lot of carbs (pasta and bread) and sugar (M&Ms and wine). So I’m cutting down on pasta, pizza and sticking with 1 glass of rose per night. And M&Ms, well…not sure how they got back into my diet but it ends now.
  • Diet – Supplements. As with exercise, I had stopped my daily dose of Metamucil. Which is lame, because Metamucil both lowers cholesterol and helps with diverticulosis, which I also have. So I tossed my very expired Metamucil and bought a new, huge jar of Orange Smooth Metamucil, with sugar.

Metamucil_SugarThen I got to thinking about that Metamucil. I chose Orange Smooth Metamucil (with sugar) because I both despise aspartame and believe it to be unhealthy. As all the sugar-free Metamucil products have aspartame, that left me with the Metamucil with sugar. But with sugar-sensitive high triglycerides and a desire for a nightly glass of wine, it seemed sugared Metamucil might not be a great choice.

Metamucil_OriginalSmoothSo I dug a bit more and found ONE Metamucil product with neither sugar nor aspartame. Called Metamucil Original Smooth, it was just what I was looking for. Oh, except for the taste. While I did not despise the ‘wheat-y’ taste as much as others on the internet seem to, it was certainly not a flavor I wanted to wake up to every morning.

So I started thinking about how Going Lo-Co reader Eileen makes a cholesterol-loweirng grapefruit juice / Metamucil smoothie: info here.) Smoothies are too much work for me, so I looked around on the web and found many who said they mixed the Original Smooth with juice. Which is what my Mom does too – she mixes Metamucil with diluted orange juice. But OJ is just a lot of sugar with no cholesterol-lowering benefit so that did not appeal. Then it hit me: what if I combined grapefruit and orange juice?**

This morning, I stirred up an inaugural glass of Going Lo-Co Metamucil Elixir. To make it, I combined 1 teaspoon of Metamucil Original Smooth with 4 ounces of grapefruit juice, splashed in some (about 1 oz) orange juice to cut the tartness of the grapefruit juice, then topped it off with about 2 oz of water.  After a vigorous stir, I guzzled it.

I am pleased to say that I really liked it. Well, as much as one likes these things.

The taste is decent AND unlike sugared Metamucil, my version delivers potassium AND the blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride lowering properties of grapefruit juice (see Grapefruit Pros and Cons for more info.)

Then I estimated the nutritional value for my Going Lo-Co Metamucil Elixir. My concoction does have more calories and sugar than sugared Metamucil, but I’m willing to accept those extra 30 calories and 4 grams of sugar for the better taste AND potassium AND the cholesterol-lowering benefits of grapefruit juice. Here’s how they compare:

Metamucil Grapefruit OJ
If you don’t take ANY medications, give my Going Lo-Co Metamucil mix a whirl. If you do take medication – any medication – read message below: and do NOT try this unless you’ve consulted with your doctor.

** VERY IMPORTANT:  do NOT try this ‘recipe’ — in fact, do NOT drink any grapefruit juice — if you are on statins or other medications. Specifically, do NOT eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice if you take Lipitor or any other statin medication to lower cholesterol without speaking first to your doctor.  Same grapefruit warning exists if you take other types of medications that can also interact with grapefruit juice, including drugs for blood pressure, 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 – unless you speak to your doctor first.

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Eileen’s Going Lo-Co Inspired Grapefruit-Metamucil Smoothie

In honor of Thanksgiving week, I’d like to thank (see what I did there?) Going Lo-Co reader Eileen S. for sharing both her experience and the cholesterol-lowering recipe she invented. Inspired in part by my post, Grapefruit Pros and Cons (which will forevermore be dubbed, ‘the post that keeps on giving’ as I wrote about grapefruit way back in 2013 and Eileen ran across it two years later!), Going Lo-Co blog reader Eileen S recently invented a new cholesterol-lowering recipe.

As you may recall, Grapefruit Pros and Cons is about the amazing fact that grapefruit – plain old grapefruit – actually lowers cholesterol…so anyone who wants to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol naturally should add grapefruit to their diet** (as long as they are not taking a statin medication or any other medication that interact with grapefruit.)

You may also recall that at the end of that post, I wondered if you could mix cholesterol-lowering grapefruit with cholesterol-lowering Metamucil. But as grapefruit is too tart for me, I never tried the double-shot cholesterol-lowering Grapefruit-Metamucil mix.

But Going Lo-Co blog reader Eileen did!

She emailed me with her experience and the recipe she created – and I felt hers was such a clever idea (and I was so tickled to have been an inspiration for that idea) that I wanted to share her emails in case you have a similar experience and/or just want to try grapefruit mixed with Metamucil:

Eileen email #1 – about trying to incorporate Metamucil into her daily life to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol naturally, and how frustrated Eileen was with the sugar/sugar-free Metamucil options:

Hi Karen!

I came across your blog today about grapefruit and lowering cholesterol. At the very end you wondered if you could mix it with your Metamucil. Such a coincidence! I started taking Metamucil couple months ago to try to lower my LDL’s so that I don’t need to take a statin medication. After going through a whole container with artificial sweetener followed by a whole container with real sugar I realized I wanted neither and tried an unflavored unsweetened version. YUCK! Just yesterday I came across a recipe to throw red grapefruit into a blender with a little honey. Just this morning I decided to try the grapefruit with the Metamucil and the honey altogether. I’ll be going to the store today and trying the concoction tomorrow morning. Did you ever try this? I can let you know how it goes if you are still interested.

Eileen

Eileen’s second email — she invented a naturally sweetened Grapefruit – Metamucil Smoothie (I assume it’s smooth so have dubbed it so) and the ‘recipe’ is included here:

Hi again!

So tonight after dinner I scooped out the inside of one grapefruit and put it in my Ninja along with a bit of honey and a few ice cubes.  Once that was blended I added a round teaspoon of plain psyllium husks and a couple ounces of cold water and blended it again. Not bad at all! Now I have a double whammy for lowering my  LDL without artificial sweeteners and colors that is much more palatable!  A win/win deal.  I would love to know if anyone else tries this.

Eileen

So if you are looking for a more palatable way to take Metamucil and the idea of mixing it with cholesterol-lowering Metamucil appeals**, try Eileen’s Going Lo-Co Inspired Grapefruit-Metamucil Smoothie!  I’ve included a ‘recipe’ version on the Going Lo-Co recipe page.

A big thanks to Eileen for sharing (and giving me permission to post).  Comment or email if you try this or other cholesterol-lowering recipes: Eileen and I would love to know your experience and ideas.

** VERY IMPORTANT:  do NOT eat grapefruit if you take Lipitor or any other statin medication to lower cholesterol without speaking first to your doctor.  Same grapefruit warning exists if you take other types of medications that can also interact with grapefruit juice, including drugs for blood pressure, heart rhythm, depression, anxiety, HIV, immunosuppression, allergies, impotence, and seizures.  It is dangerous to start eating grapefruit if you take any of these medications – unless you speak to your doctor first.

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Grapefruit Pros and Cons

In all the ‘bazillion ways to lower cholesterol’ lists I’ve read, not once did I see grapefruit listed. Well, it may have been listed (I don’t like grapefruit so it’s entirely possible likely I, um, skipped by it) but grapefruit is certainly not prominent on any list of foods that can help lower cholesterol.

And yet, apparently, it should be.

At least according to a 2006 (small) Israeli study posted online in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. While the study is a few years old and included just  57 people, these were a pretty motivated group IMHO: they’d been unsuccessful lowering cholesterol with Rx statins, had suffered through heart surgery and still needed to reduce their cholesterol. My gut tells me they were a pretty compliant group.

WebMd’s Grapefruit May Improve Cholesterol article explains this study and its results:

“The researchers split the patients into three groups. For 30 days, all groups ate a low-calorie, low-fat diet. One group added a daily red grapefruit. Another group got a white grapefruit every day. For comparison, the third group didn’t eat any grapefruit during the study.

The red grapefruit group improved their cholesterol most, followed by the white grapefruit group. They ended up with notably lower total cholesterol and LDL (“bad” cholesterol) than the comparison group.

The red grapefruit group also improved their triglycerides (blood fats). Triglycerides didn’t change much for the other two groups.”

Red grapefruit alone seems to have lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol and tryigycerides!

Why is this barely out there?  Why, if grapefruit – grapefruit, people – can help lower cholesterol, why is this not widely touted?

It must be because grapefruit can cause serious medical issues IF it’s consumed along with one of many, many medications (the list – see quote below – is startlingly long and broad).

As explained in my recent Answers.com article, ‘Grapefruit Danger‘, the juice of grapefruit changes the rate certain drugs are absorbed into the bloodstream. With several cholesterol-lowering drugs, grapefruit juice can boost the level of statin to potentially dangerous levels.

However, it’s not just statins that interact with grapefruit.

Shela Gorinstein, PhD, one of the authors of the above Israeli study says, “…remember to check with your doctor first if you take any medicine, even if it’s not a cholesterol-lowering drug. Other types of medications that can interact with grapefruit juice include drugs for blood pressure, heart rhythm, depression, anxiety, HIV, immunosuppression, allergies, impotence, and seizures.”

Because grapefruit juice interacts with such a broad variety of prescription medication, my guess is that it’s been intentionally omitted from the lists of cholesterol-lowering foods. Which is understandable, I guess – but a huge shame.  Because for those of us not on any Rx meds, maybe grapefruit can keep us off statins!

As I don’t take any prescription meds other than Nexium (which is not on the many-drugs-grapefruit-interacts-with-list), I think I’m going to try me some red grapefruit.

Even though I despise its puckery taste.

Because if I can lower my triglycerides with grapefruit, I can eliminate my nightly wine misgivings. And puckery in the morning is a small price to pay for guilt-free wine in the evening.

I wonder if I can put my Metamucil in red grapefruit juice?  I’ll have to get back to you on that.

 

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I love me some nutrition graphs

My last post was about how MyFitnessPal actually improved my eating habits. And I’m happy to report that by using this app, I managed to (relatively easily) lose the extra 4 pounds that somehow materialized over the holidays.  Seems my last post was aptly titled, “I heart My Fitness Pal.”

So I’ve been using – and loving – this easy-to-use app for a few months, but hadn’t realized until today that it also boasts some very cool reporting tools! (Many will feel that ‘cool’ and ‘reporting tools’ are oxymoronic, but I am proudly nerdly.)

You may recall that one of the things I loved about MFP (I just really can’t keep typing the word ‘pal’ with a straight face) is that it showed how much cholesterol I consumed in a day, without me making any effort – none at all-  to find this measure.  Probably I was happy because I was pleasantly surprised at my results.

But today I found a new level of analysis that made me grin. On the web version of MFP, I hit ‘report’ and was stunned to find that MFP tracks & graphs things like cholesterol and total fat and fiber.  It shows all of what I’ve eaten in the past 2 months – in a bar chart. How cool is that?

And while my ingest-able cholesterol (I am sure that’s not a term, but I’m going with it) is better than I expected, my graphs pointed out a few…um…areas for improvement.

Let’s start with the Nutrition – Cholesterol Guidelines posted on The Cleveland Clinic’s well-done site. I’ve excerpted their daily guidelines here – this chart below is based on an 1,800 calories per day diet; my goal’s more like 1,200-1,500 but I’m ignoring that and using these daily recommended figures anyway:

Dietary Guidelines

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s why I’m happy – check out MFP’s graph of my cholesterol – other than 3 outlier days, I was way, way lower (OK, just lower) than the 200 milligrams/day recommended!

Cholesterol Consumed

So I was feeling pretty good.  Until I downloaded graphs for ALL of the measures in the guidelines above.  Some were good, some not so good.  I won’t bore you with them all. Here’s the topline: though I’ve lost 4 lbs and am not eating a lot of dietary cholesterol (yay), I am eating too much fat and protein, and nowhere near enough fiber (sad face).

The fiber graph is particularly sad – goal is 20-30 grams and I’m under 2o nearly every day. Sigh.

FIber

So, MyFitnessPal has been a big help in changing my habits and losing some weight – and ‘forcing’ me to exercise daily (so I get to have my glass or wine with dinner without exceeding my daily calorie goal.)  But now that I’ve used the ‘reports’ function, I see I need to make some further dining modifications.

Looks like I’ll be heading to WalMart for some more Metamucil.

And trying to add more leafy greens (ugh, salad) to my dinner plate.

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