Fibre-rich foods

Heart health benefits of fibre

Fibre: good for your gut and your heart

13 June 2023

Much of the discussion around nutrition and heart disease is centered around unsaturated fats, but did you know that fibre also packs a positive heart health punch?

Fibre not only plays a crucial role in keeping your digestive system happy, but it can also help reduce LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, lower blood pressure, control blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight – making it an essential component of a heart-friendly diet.

What is fibre?

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that is indigestible - which means it passes through the digestive system relatively intact. It is found in plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds, and wholegrain cereals.

Fibre helps with satiety (feeling full) and keeps your digestive system running smoothly.

There are two main types of fibre – soluble and insoluble. Most plant foods contain both types, but in varying amounts.

Soluble fibre

Soluble fibre can dissolve in water. As it soaks up water, it can form a gel-like substance which slows down digestion.

Foods high in soluble fibre include:

Insoluble fibre

Insoluble fibre can’t dissolve in water. It speeds up digestion and adds bulk to stools (faeces) to ensure regular bowel movements and reduce the risk of constipation.

Foods high in insoluble fibre include:

Resistant starch

Resistant starch is often included in the fibre category as it behaves in a similar way in the body.

It is called resistant starch as it is the component of starchy foods that ‘resists’ normal digestion. It can be found in varying amounts depending on how the food is prepared or cooked.

Foods high in resistant starch include:

What are the heart health benefits of fibre?

Lower LDL cholesterol

Soluble fibre can help lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. It does this by binding to LDL cholesterol in the intestine and preventing it from entering the bloodstream.

Lower blood pressure

Research has shown that not only can a high-fibre diet help maintain healthy blood pressure, but a diet that is low in fibre may be associated with higher blood pressure.

It is believed these effects may be due to the microbes present in the gut, which are collectively referred to as the ‘gut microbiome’. Eating a variety of fibre-rich foods can help to maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

Weight management

Eating fibre-rich foods can help to keep us feeling fuller for longer. This reduces the risk of overeating and helps to maintain a healthy weight.

Foods high in fibre - such as fruit and vegetables - also tend to be lower in calories, adding to their weight management benefits.

Reduced diabetes risk

People with diabetes are at higher risk of developing heart disease. A diet rich in fibre is associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetes.

Fibre can also help to control blood sugar levels in those with prediabetes or diabetes. Fibre helps to slow digestion, and it doesn’t break down in the body like other carbohydrates - which can cause a spike in blood sugar.

How much fibre do I need?

The recommended daily fibre intake is:

Unfortunately, the average Australian only consumes around 20-25g of fibre per day.

How can I increase my fibre intake?

Increasing your fibre intake is as simple as including a variety of plant foods in your diet.

This may include:

Because dietary fibre can absorb water, it is important to ensure you are consuming an adequate amount of water each day.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years