Managing Cholesterol through Diet and Fibre Supplements
Helping to achieve healthy cholesterol levels through a low-cholesterol diet plan begins with understanding the clever way that your body deals with cholesterol as waste.
The simple science behind how to achieve healthy cholesterol levels
If you have trouble understanding what you’ve been told about cholesterol, fibre and how to lower cholesterol, then try to stick with a few simple facts.
1. Keep your LDL low.
Out of the two types of cholesterol (LDL and HDL), you should aim to keep your LDL cholesterol low and your HDL high in comparison. The reason? Because excess LDL cholesterol can travel to your arteries, and may lead to blocked arteries.1d, 1f, 1g
2. Fibre is from plants.
Fibre is plant material that we can’t digest. Some dissolves in water – that’s soluble fibre. The rest doesn’t dissolve – that’s insoluble fibre.2a
3. Soluble fibre lowers cholesterol.
While both types of fibre have health benefits, soluble fibre can help lower your LDL cholesterol level, and keep it low.3a
How to reduce cholesterol naturally with soluble fibre
Soluble fibre does a number of quite clever things. One of the things is,, it tricks your body into losing a whole lot of cholesterol. The story starts with something called bile.
One of the things that your body uses cholesterol for is making bile – a fluid that is released into your gut to help break down larger fat globules into smaller droplets ready for digestion. After bile enters your gut and does its thing, it can leave the gut in two ways: it can get recycled by finding its way back into your body, or it can pass out of your body along with other waste.3b, 4a, 4b
This is where soluble fibre makes a big difference. When you add soluble fibre to your gut by eating fibre-rich food, that soluble fibre turns into a thick gel that sticks to bile. The result is that the bile can’t get recycled, so it passes out of your body naturally along with that soluble fibre gel. Since bile it made from cholesterol, you end up losing cholesterol.3b, 4a, 4b
And this clever cycle continues whenever you eat soluble fibre – your body makes fresh bile from cholesterol, releases bile into your gut, and then that cholesterol-rich bile gets stuck to soluble fibre and passes out of your body.3a, 4a, 4b
How much fibre should you have?
Since fibre is pretty powerful stuff, let’s take a look at how much do you need to get its benefits.5a
• Men need about 30–38 grams of fibre per day throughout life
• Women need about 25 grams per day until about 50 years of age
• Women need about 21 grams per day after 50 years of age
Most people only eat about 15 grams of fibre per day, so don’t be surprised if you need to make some effort in getting your fibre intake just right.5b To get enough, but not too much, it’s helpful to:
• Take your time – a slow and steady approach is best, so try a goal of reaching the right amount over a period of 2 weeks.
• Spread it out – add a little bit of fibre-rich food at every meal, because too much at once can make you feel uncomfortable.
• Just add water – keep your fluid intake up, so your soluble fibre can dissolve!
Where should you get your fibre from?
With most people getting only about half of the fibre that they should each day,5b consider these foods and fibre supplements to help you get what you need.
Foods that contain soluble fibre:
• Fruits – all fruits have soluble fibre, and some particularly rich sources are avocados, figs, nectarines, apricots, citrus fruits, apples, pears, plums, berries3c, 4c, 6a, 6b, 6c, 6d
• Vegetables and mushrooms – all vegetables have soluble fibre, and some particularly rich sources are brussel sprouts, sweet potato, broccoli, turnips and carrots3d, 6e, 6f, 6f, 6h, 6i
• Nuts and seeds – nuts are well known to lower cholesterol, and linseeds are a great choice for boosting your soluble fibre3e
• Wholegrains – there are lots of great whole grains to choose from, such as rolled oats (and other forms of oatmeal), buckwheat, barley, quinoa and wholegrain rice3f
• Legumes – also known as pulses, these are another great source of soluble fibre, so be sure to include some beans, lentils, chickpeas or peas in your diet3g
Fibre supplements to look for:
• Alpha-cyclodextrin (FBCx), which comes from corn7a
• Beta glucans, which are a type of plant sugar8a
• Gums, such as guar gum from barley8a
• Hemicelluloses, which are chains of plant sugars8a
• Pectins, which are found in fruit8a
• Psyllium, which comes from the husk of a seed8a
More low cholesterol diet plan tips
• Avoid saturated fats and trans fats (found in processed foods, meat, butter, cheese and other full-fat dairy products)9a
• Try replacing butter with olive oil9b
• Try swapping some red meats with fish that have omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for heart health - try mackerel, herring, tuna, salmon or trout9c
• Add more veggies to your plate
• Instead of snacking on cheese, try a handful of nuts
With all these great options for a low cholesterol diet plan, which ones will you try first?
1. HealthDirect. What is cholesterol? Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/what-is-cholesterol Accessed July 2018.
2. Huizen J. Soluble and insoluble fibre: What is the difference? Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319176.php Accessed August 2018.
3. Moll J. Sources of soluble fibre for lowering cholesterol. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/high-fibre-foods-to-lower-your-cholesterol-list-697719 Accessed August 2018.
4. Experience Life. Fibre: Why it matters more than you think. Available at: https://experiencelife.com/article/fibre-why-it-matters-more-than-you-think Accessed August 2018.
5. Vann MR. Fibre: how much is too much? Available at: https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/guide-to-daily-fibre/too-much-fibre Accessed August 2018.
6. Healthline. Top 20 foods high in soluble fibre. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-soluble-fibre Accessed August 2018.
7. Comerford KB, et al. Obesity. 201; 19(6): 1200-1204.
8. Slavin JL, et al. J Int Med Res. 2009; 37(1): 1-17.
9. Mayo Clinic. Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192 Accessed August 2018.