Shredded Wheat & Cholesterol

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Imagine if you could stave off heart disease simply by eating the correct food. That may sound like a far-fetched fantasy, but for some people it's quite close to reality. The key lies in managing cholesterol, which can build up in your arteries and increase your risk for heart problems. While there's no such thing as a miracle cure, foods like shredded wheat may well help your body fight cholesterol, protecting your heart from disease.

Shredded Wheat and Fiber

The American Heart Association describes fiber as "several materials in the parts of plants that your body can't digest." When grain is milled, the bran and germ are removed. Whole-grain foods are not milled in the same way; they contain the bran and germ, which are good sources of fiber and other nutrients. The average adult should try to eat about 25 g of fiber every day; shredded wheat contains between 2.2 and 6 g of fiber per serving.

Types of Fiber in Shredded Wheat

Fiber is generally divided into two types: soluble and insoluble. According to a review in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," soluble fiber dissolves in water and undergoes specific chemical reactions in your body, while insoluble fiber simply absorbs water and passes through your body. A single serving of shredded wheat contains about 1 g of soluble and 5 g of insoluble fiber.

Shredded Wheat and Cholesterol

According to the American Heart Association, soluble fiber has been associated with lowered LDL, or "bad," cholesterol levels. If you eat lots of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol builds up in your arteries. Soluble fiber reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed into your bloodstream. The Mayo Clinic states that 5 to 10 g of soluble fiber per day is enough to reduce your cholesterol. That's at least five servings of shredded wheat or other whole-grain foods every day.

Shredded Wheat and Heart Disease

Cholesterol buildup tends to clog arteries, making it a leading factor in heart disease. By reducing cholesterol, the soluble fiber in shredded wheat can lower your risk of heart disease. Shredded wheat also contains insoluble fiber, which does not seem to have an effect on cholesterol. However, the American Heart Association claims that insoluble fiber is associated with lowered heart disease risk, perhaps because it can make you feel full so you don't overeat.

Expert Insight

Research on the effectiveness of wheat fiber is still ongoing. The "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" reports that there may be differences in the fiber from various types of grain. Most scientific studies on fiber have focused on oat products, which are high in soluble fiber. Wheat is higher in insoluble fiber, and therefore has not been tested as fully as other types of grains. Shredded wheat is certainly good for your health, but oatmeal or oat-based breakfast foods may be more effective against cholesterol.