Soluble Fiber to Lower Cholesterol: Choose These Foods for a Healthier Heart

Soluble fiber can help to lower cholesterol levels, primarily your low density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol. It also may offer benefits in controlling blood glucose (sugar) levels for those living with diabetes, managing digestive disorders, and limiting risk of some cancer types.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and changes to a gel consistency in the intestines. Although there are widely available supplements that contain soluble fiber, many food sources offer pectin, psyllium, and other types of soluble fiber to lower cholesterol.

This article explains how soluble fiber can lower cholesterol and the types of soluble fiber found in food sources. It lists a number of foods you can choose to help reduce your cholesterol levels.

A table of nuts, fruits, and grains
lovegrove photography / istockphoto

How Soluble Fiber Lowers Cholesterol

Soluble fiber works to bind bile acids in your small intestine, causing them to be excreted from the body through your feces. Since cholesterol is needed to make bile acids to aid in the digestion of fats, additional cholesterol may be kept from the blood stream and lower the level in the blood.

Consuming soluble fiber mainly affects your LDL cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends that you should maintain a diet with at least 25 grams (g) of total dietary fiber each day, sourced from food rather than supplements.

Soluble fiber and insoluble fiber are the two main types of dietary fiber. Soluble fiber tends to slow digestion and nutrient absorption, while insoluble fiber—which doesn't attract and absorb water— tends to speed it up.

There are several different forms of soluble fiber found in foods, including:

Soluble fiber absorbs liquid, so keep in mind that when you add it to your diet you'll want to boost your fluid intake, too.

Fruits

All types of fruit — including berries, bananas, and citrus fruit — contain varying amounts of soluble fiber. Types of soluble fiber seen in fruits include pectin and certain hemicelluloses.

So whether you are grabbing fruit as a snack or blending it into a smoothie, it's one way to get your soluble fiber. Some options include:

  • Citrus fruits—oranges, kiwi, grapefruit, limes, and lemons—contain soluble fiber. On average, half of a medium grapefruit contains about 1 g of soluble fiber, whereas one small orange can contain about 1.8 g of soluble fiber.
  • Other types of fruit, such as apples, pears, and plums, are high in pectin. To get the full fiber benefit offered by these fruits, keep the peel. The peel can contain more soluble fiber than the rest of the fruit. One small apple contains about 1 g of soluble fiber.
  • Roughly one cup of berries—including blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries—contains anywhere between 0.3 and 1.1 g of soluble fiber.

Keep in mind that people living with diabetes may need to be more careful about their fruit choices.

Vegetables and Mushrooms

Vegetables are good sources of fiber, but they contain significant amounts of insoluble fiber too.

The amount of soluble fiber found in veggies ranges widely. Whereas a cup of raw cucumbers may contain about 0.2 g of soluble fiber, the same amount of broccoli or turnips may contain more than 3 g of soluble fiber.

Mushrooms can also serve as a source of soluble fiber and are higher in beta-glucan. One cup of uncooked mushrooms may contain about 0.1 g of soluble fiber. However, this can vary according to the type of mushroom.

Even still, vegetables are high in many types of nutrients while being low in fat and calories, so feel free to pile them on your plate while avoiding dips, spreads, and other dressings high in cholesterol and fats.

Research has shown that plant-based diets are linked to lower cholesterol levels. Vegan diets may offer benefits because of the higher fiber intake, but vegetables vary widely in terms of how much soluble fiber they offer.

Nuts and Seeds

Not only are nuts high in omega-3 fats, protein, and minerals, they also contain varying amounts of soluble fiber. Studies have shown that a handful of nuts—including walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or pecans—can modestly improve your lipid profile.

Two whole walnuts contain 0.1 g of soluble fiber, whereas 10 large peanuts can contain up to 0.6 g. Seeds—and their husks—contain soluble fiber as well. A tablespoon of sunflower or sesame seeds contains about 0.1 g of soluble fiber; the same amount of flaxseeds contains up to 1.1 g of soluble fiber.

Nuts and seeds can be consumed by themselves or sprinkled on top of your favorite high-fiber salad or healthy meal.

Whole Grains

Some whole grains are chock-full of soluble fiber—including types such as beta-glucan and psyllium. If you are looking for whole grains to include in your low-fat diet, make sure to include these whole grains to maximize your soluble fiber intake.

Whole grains contain varying amounts of soluble fiber per serving. For example, one-half cup of cooked barley may contain roughly 0.8 g of soluble fiber whereas a three-fourths cup of oat bran can contain up to 2.2 g of soluble fiber per serving.

Legumes

Legumes are another surprising source of soluble fiber. This food group includes:

  • Chickpeas
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Lentils

One-half cup of your favorite legume may contain anywhere between 0.5 to 2.4 g of soluble fiber. Legumes are very versatile and can be added to almost any dish—so feel free to add other high fiber foods to your legumes to maximize your soluble fiber intake for the day.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can soluble fiber help with diabetes?

    Yes. There's evidence that soluble fiber improves blood glucose control, and can help with weight loss. It also offers heart health benefits to those who may be more at risk for stroke and other cardiovascular conditions due to living with diabetes.

  • Can you flush cholesterol out of your body?

    Not really. A procedure called LDL apheresis works much the same way as kidney dialysis and does remove cholesterol from the body. It's typically used only in extreme cases, often with an underlying genetic cause, that don't respond to other treatment. Most people "flush" cholesterol from the body by reducing it over time through diet, medication, and lifestyle changes.

  • Do fiber supplements help with cholesterol?

    Fiber supplements might help with cholesterol but it depends on which ones. Keep in mind that only supplements containing soluble fiber, like psyllium, act to reduce cholesterol in the body. Some products only help with digestion, so be sure to read the label if you want soluble fiber.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Evans CEL. Dietary fibre and cardiovascular health: a review of current evidence and policyProc Nutr Soc. 2020;79(1):61-67. doi:10.1017/S0029665119000673

  2. University of California San Francisco Health. Increasing Fiber Intake.

  3.  Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Soluble vs. insoluble fiber.

  4. Yokoyama Y, Levin SM, Barnard ND. Association between plant-based diets and plasma lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysisNutr Rev. 2017;75(9):683-698. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nux030

  5. Weickert MO, Pfeiffer AFH. Impact of dietary fiber consumption on insulin resistance and the prevention of type 2 diabetesJ Nutr. 2018;148(1):7-12. doi:10.1093/jn/nxx008

  6. Torres E, Goicoechea M, Hernández A, Rodríguez Ferrero ML, García A, Macías N, et al. Efficacy of Evolocumab vs low-density lipoprotein cholesterol apheresis in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia and high cardiovascular risk (EVOLAFER01). J Clin Apher. 2020 Jan;35(1):9-17. doi: 10.1002/jca.21752.

Additional Reading
  • Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition. 13th ed. Cengage Learning; 2013.

  • Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (PDF), July 2004, The National Institutes of Health: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.