Fiber gets a lot of press these days.
Cereals are often touted as “high in fiber”, owing to the inclusion of the seed hull, or bran, in the final product.
All Bran, Raisin Bran, Bran Chex.
These cereals all have significant amounts of insoluble fiber, which comes from the bran, or outer coating, of the wheat kernel.
Insoluble fiber can help keep you “regular” by speeding the contents of the GI tract along and increasing the bulk of your stool.
But the type of fiber that has been shown to decrease your cholesterol is soluble fiber.
Soluble fiber forms a gel in the intestines that combines with bile acids (which contain cholesterol) and help escort them (along with the cholesterol) out of the body.
Yesterday I pointed out the futility and high cost (both monetary and carbohydrate) of relying on Honey Nut Cheerios to help lower your cholesterol, and promised to reveal a natural food source of soluble fiber that contains 25 times the soluble fiber of Honey Nut Cheerios, on a gram-for-gram basis.
THE MOTHER LODE
If your goal is to get more soluble fiber in your diet, you would be smart to increase your consumption of vegetables, legumes, and certain fruits. In particular, broccoli, carrots, lentils, kidney beans, berries, prunes, oranges and figs are rich in soluble fiber.
But what if you want the most bang for your buck?
Psyllium is the seed of the plant plantago ovata, and comes from the Latin “psylla” for flea. Evidently, the seeds look like fleas. Don’t worry.
Psyllium husks are the richest known source of soluble fiber. If you know of a richer source, please let me know! I’ll pass the info along…
In 12 grams of psyllium husks (2 tablespoons, or 1/8 cup), you get 8 grams of soluble fiber. That means they’re 67% soluble fiber!
Compare that to Honey Nut Cheerios, which are less than 3% soluble fiber by weight (0.75 grams soluble fiber in 28 grams of cereal).
On a % weight basis, psyllium husks have 25 times the soluble fiber of Honey Nut Cheerios. Pretty significant, wouldn’t you say?
AS GOOD AS STATINS FOR LOWERING CHOLESTEROL
I can tell you from personal experience that taking psyllium can lower your cholesterol in as little as 3 weeks. I lowered my total and LDL cholesterol about 30% by taking 24 grams of psyllium a day. I took 12 grams in the morning and 12 grams at night.
A 30% reduction in cholesterol is about what you could expect on a low to moderate dose of a statin.
And the only side effect from psyllium is a definite increase in stool volume, along with a reduced need for toilet paper. Strange, but true!
Of course, it is always wise to consult with your physician when making any changes in your diet.
Since most fiber supplements have additives and fillers in order to make more money for the manufacturer, I recommend buying pure psyllium husks, available at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Just make sure there is one ingredient: Psyllium Husks. No sugar or anything else. I get organic psyllium at Whole Foods, because who knows what they spray on the crop when it’s probably grown in India? A 12-oz container sells for $10, which works out to about 70¢ a day if you take 24 grams a day.
The worst thing about taking psyllium is a mild sense of displeasure as you first try to drink it down. It’s a bit like drinking sawdust mixed with water, though I’ve never actually done that!
Also, be sure to take plenty of water with your psyllium. I had good results mixing 12 grams of psyllium husks into 16 oz of water.
If you try psyllium, please let me know how it works for you!
Robert J. Stone