Beyond cholesterol

Beyond cholesterol

When physicians work with patients to lower cholesterol, it’s not really the cholesterol that’s the main target. Rather, it’s the RISK of experiencing a heart event that we are trying to reduce. Lowering cholesterol is the means to that end, not the end in and of itself. 

And this is why food is such a powerful intervention. Statins affect only cholesterol. Food impacts risk on multiple levels - and even has a benefit when cholesterol does not change much.

Take fiber. Present in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, it is a powerful determinant of risk. A study, published last week, that evaluated 135 million person-years of data from 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials found that people who ate a fiber rich diet experienced a 15–30% decrease in the chance of dying from heart disease or any disease, or of developing stroke, type-2 diabetes or colorectal cancer. These numbers rival what statins can achieve for heart disease – and blow them out of the water for diabetes and cancer.

At this point, you’re probably thinking you need to consume massive amounts of fiber to attain these health benefits. You’d be wrong. It only takes 25-29 grams per day! More is better, but even at these low amounts, fiber has a giant impact on health.

But here’s an important point. Not all fiber is created equal. The best results were attained when the fiber came as part of a whole food/complex carbohydrate package. In other words, taking a slug of Metamucil in the morning, or relying on foods fortified with inulin or chicory root extract will not yield the same risk reduction. It’s not only the nutrient but the delivery vehicle that matters.

Let’s get back to numbers again. Here’s the depressing thing: how much fiber does the average American consume? About 15 grams. Only 10 more grams and all those health benefits could be ours!

Two servings of Step One Foods deliver 10 grams of whole food fiber as part of a whole food/complex carbohydrate package. The 10 gram fiber requirement was not chosen by accident when we formulated our products. It was deliberate because the data told us that this would be the amount that could impact risk.

Other ways you can get 10 grams of whole food fiber? 2-3 apples, 3 cups of carrots, 4 cups of broccoli, 1 cup cooked kidney beans, 10 cups of popped popcorn or one ounce of chia seeds.

Photo courtesy of CNN.com.

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