Eat More Fiber for Better Blood Sugar (and Cholesterol)

Discover the best high-fiber foods for balancing your blood sugar and lowering bad LDL cholesterol.

Medically reviewed in August 2021

What comes to mind when you think of warm oatmeal, fresh strawberries, or crunchy celery? If it's not your blood sugar and cholesterol, think again. Healthy foods high in soluble fiber (such as fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains) can help decrease after-meal blood sugar and cholesterol levels. To learn how to lower your blood sugar and bad (LDL) cholesterol, grab a crunchy carrot and read on.

How Soluble Fiber Helps
When it comes to fiber in your food, there are two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in your stomach to form a gooey, gel-like substance, while insoluble fiber stays relatively intact in your digestive system. Both types of fiber help with digestion, but soluble fiber has added advantages. Foods rich in soluble fiber are digested more slowly than refined or processed foods such as white bread, cookies, or cake. So sugar from your food is absorbed by your body at a slower rate, causing blood sugar levels to rise more slowly and preventing sudden blood sugar spikes.

What else can soluble fiber do? This sticky, gel-like substance is also a whiz at grabbing and trapping excess LDL cholesterol in your intestine. Once trapped, bad, fatty cholesterol is swept out of your body—far away from your bloodstream—by way of your normal digestive process.

What Foods Should You Eat?
The recommended daily amount of fiber for people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes is 14 grams for every 1000 calories that you take in—that's two times the fiber most Americans eat. To get more soluble fiber into your diet, try eating more oatmeal and oat bran, nuts, beans, lentils, broccoli, carrots, and fruits such as apples (with skin), bananas, pears, oranges, and berries. If you're not already eating enough fiber, start by adding 3-5 grams of soluble fiber to your diet every few days. You can do this by having an apple for a snack or a cup of broccoli for dinner. Drink 6-8 cups of water each day, too. At first, added fiber may cause gas and/or bloating, but increasing fiber gradually will help prevent these symptoms.

Should You Take A Fiber Supplement?
If you're thinking about taking a fiber supplement, choose a product that contains psyllium. Psyllium is the only fiber supplement proven to lower blood sugar and cholesterol. If you take oral medications, take your fiber supplement two hours before or after your medication. For best results, talk to your doctor before taking a new supplement. People with some gastrointestinal problems should not take fiber supplements.

Written in partnership with TCOYD - Taking Control of Your Diabetes.

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