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Fiber in Whole Grains, Fruits and Vegetables Protects Women against Heart Attack

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiologists earlier this year found that women who consume moderate amounts of fiber (just 26.3 grams per day) from whole grains, fruits and vegetables have a 35% lower risk for cardiovascular disease and a 54% lower risk for a heart attack compared to women who consume little fiber (12.5 grams or less per day).

Practical Tips

Many of the World’s Healthiest Foods are richly endowed with fiber. Lentils, Swiss chard, eggplant, and raspberries are just a few of the World’s Healthiest Foods that our ranking system qualifies as excellent fiber sources.

A meal of cooked lentils (one cup supplies 15.6 grams of fiber), a salad with Swiss chard (one cup provides 3.7 grams of fiber), and a dessert using raspberries (one cup contains 8.3 grams of fiber) would add up to 27.6 grams of fiber—more than was necessary each day to substantially lower cardiovascular disease risk.

To help you enjoy these fiber-dense foods more often, here are some of the many serving ideas provided on the World’s Healthiest Foods:

  • Combine cooked lentils, orange segments and chopped sweet peppers to make a delicious cold salad. Season with your favorite herbs and spices.
  • Toss penne pasta with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, navy beans and shredded steamed Swiss chard.
  • Create an easy but delightful grilled sandwich by melting mozzarella cheese over diced roasted eggplant placed on crusty whole grain bread.
  • Mix fresh raspberries in with creamy millet or oatmeal porridge for a sweet morning breakfast treat.

For some exceptional recipes featuring these fiber-rich foods, click on the Recipe Assistant, select the food you choose on the healthy foods list, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all the World’s Healthiest Foods’ recipes containing the food selected will appear immediately below.

To learn more about fiber, including a list of many additional foods that are rich in this very beneficial nutrient, click fiber.

Research Summary

In 1993, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School used a food frequency questionnaire to assess dietary fiber intake among 39,876 female health professionals with no previous history of cardiovascular disease or cancer. After the women had been followed for an average of six years, a significant inverse association was seen between the amount of dietary fiber consumed and their cardiovascular disease risk.

Women who consumed the most fiber (an average of just 26.3 g/day) had a 35% lower risk for cardiovascular disease and a 54% lower risk for a heart attack compared to those women who consumed the least fiber (an average of 12.5 g/day). Both soluble and insoluble fibers were protective.

Even among women with cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol levels, fiber was still highly beneficial. Among these women, those who consumed higher amounts of fiber showed a reduced risk of 21% for cardiovascular disease and a 32% lower risk for a heart attack.

The researchers concluded that increasing the consumption of fiber-rich whole grains and fruits and vegetables is to be recommended as a primary preventive measure against cardiovascular disease.

Reference: Liu S, Buring JE, Sesso HD, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Manson JE. A prospective study of dietary fiber intake and risk of cardiovascular disease among women. J Am Coll Cardiol 2002 Jan 2;39(1):49-56.

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