This heart healthy guest post is by Jessica Rego with input from me. Here's a bit about Jessica: I’m a Registered Dietitian and have a Master of Health Science Degree in Nutrition Communication. I enjoy cooking and baking in my spare time, and passionate about sharing how incorporating good nutrition and healthy habits into your lifestyle can be fun and delicious!
From heart-shaped boxes of Valentines’ chocolates to celebrating heart health, February is all about happy hearts.
While the jury is still out on if dark chocolate is truly healthy (I say enjoy it because it tastes good, don’t worry about any potential health benefits – they definitely aren’t found in that heart-shaped box), there are some foods and accompanying nutrients that are good for your heart.
One of those heart-loving nutrients: fibre.
You likely know that fibre helps to minimize constipation and make your, ahem, daily business (okay, poop people) more regular. But fibre also has a lot more to offer.
Fibre is actually a carbohydrate found in plant foods. It isn’t digested or absorbed by your body like nutrients are, but rather it passes through your digestive system and plays an important role in health.
Two types of fibre you’ll find in foods are soluble fibre and insoluble fibre:
Soluble fibre helps to lower cholesterol (hello healthy hearts!) and control blood sugar (found in foods like oats, barley, oranges, apples and chickpeas)
Insoluble fibre helps boost digestive health and promotes bowel regularity (think veggies, whole grains and bran baby!)
The type of soluble fibre found in oats and barley, called beta-glucans, have been found to have the biggest benefits for heart health. I'm a big fan of both and aim to eat barley or oats a few times a week.
Fibre also helps to keep you feeling satisfied after meals; that can help with appetite control, which helps with managing weight. (A healthy weight is also good for your heart).
The 2017 Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Colorectal Cancer report shows evidence linking decreased risk of colorectal cancer with consuming dietary fibre.
So how much fibre do I need?
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada suggests that to get the heart healthy benefits of fibre, women need to get about 21-25g of fibre per day.
Women ages 19-50 should aim to get 25g of fibre per day.
Women age 51 and over should get at least 21g of fibre per day.
Many of us don’t get enough.
One way to get more fibre is to fill half your plate with veggies and fruits, eat more meals with dried beans, peas and lentils, swap refined grains for whole grains, and enjoy nuts and seeds. Cooking more meals at home, using whole food ingredients including these foods, is one of the best moves you can make for your heart.
Here are some fibre-filled examples:
Add a sprinkle of oat bran, ground flax, chia seeds and/or hemp hearts plus berries to your morning bowl of oatmeal
Fill half your plate with produce at every meal (green peas, green beans, raspberries and pears are especially high in fibre!) at every meal
Make more meals with black beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, chickpeas
Swap out sweet snacks for veggies with a handful of nuts and/or seeds or some popcorn
Enjoy sides, salads and grain bowls made with barley and/or savoury oats (Savoury oats you wonder? check out this Curry Mango Salad made with Rogers Porridge Oats and Ancient Grains*)
Before you start thinking of the all the ways you will up your daily fibre intake, remember to do it slowly and drink plenty of fluids (water with every meal) to help prevent gas and bloating. Not fun.
Jessica and Shannon
* I partner with Rogers Oats on occasion, but this is not a paid post or sponsored mention, just love the recipe!! Enjoy xo
Health Canada. (2010). Dietary Reference Intakes Tables. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/fn-an/alt_formats/hpfb-dgpsa/pdf/nutrition/dri_tables-eng.pdf
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Eat to lower your cholesterol. Retrieved from http://www.heartandstroke.ca/articles/eat-to-lower-your-cholesterol
World Cancer Research Fund International/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Report: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Colorectal Cancer. 2017. Available at: wcrf.org/colorectal-cancer-2017. All CUP reports are available at wcrf.org/cupreports.
Wolever TM et al. Physicochemical properties of oat β-glucan influence its ability to reduce serum LDL cholesterol in humans: a randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010; 92(4):723-32.