When you think fiber, images of bran flakes and jars of Metamucil probably come to mind. But there are other, more appealing sources out there to help you get your dose of health-promoting fiber. Oatmeal, beans, carrots, grapefruit, oranges, apples, and pears all contain fiber. But recent research shows that there's another fiber source that can offer some distinct heart-healthy benefits. This study followed 25 people (18 women and 7 men) with mildly elevated cholesterol counts for 19 weeks. At the beginning of the study, researchers put the subjects on a diet that was moderately low in fat and cholesterol. Then their meals were supplemented with barley products containing low, medium, and high amounts of a fiber known as beta-glucan. Those on the highest-fiber diet saw their LDL (bad) cholesterol drop by an amazing 17 percent. The most significant drop occurred after the fourth week, leading researchers to believe that it may take several weeks of supplementing with barley or other fiber-soluble foods to see a significant benefit. Barley contains soluble fiber. This type of fiber does not break down in the stomach or intestines, but when mixed with water in the body it forms a gel, which not only helps keep your digestive system "moving," but also helps lower cholesterol levels. The addition of barley or other fiber-rich foods to your diet may prove to be an easy and effective way to lower your bad cholesterol. But the recommended daily requirement for fiber is 25 grams -- and it would take a lot of barley to reach that dose. But incorporating some of the other sources I mentioned above, and even adding a fiber supplement to your diet can help you get there without too much effort.
What is...fiber? Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate found in fruits and vegetables. It comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble fiber. Neither form can be digested and are not absorbed into the bloodstream. Instead of being used for energy, fiber is excreted from our bodies. Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber does not. Insoluble fiber passes through our intestines largely intact.