Fiber can protect your heart

It's one of the simplest, cheapest and healthiest dietary changes you could make: eat more fiber.

A diet rich in fiber can help fight or prevent chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease (and, of course, it can help keep things moving along in the bathroom). And now, one new study confirms that the more fiber you have in your diet, the lower your risk of serious heart problems.

Eat more soluble fiber, for example, and you can slash your risk of cardiovascular disease. Adding cereal fiber, on the other hand, will lower your risk of coronary heart disease (the form of heart disease marked by buildups of plaque in the arteries).

But why choose one over the other?

For maximum benefits, you want a wide variety of fiber -- because the study finds that every 7-gram boost in total fiber will cut your risk of both types of cardiovascular disease by 9 percent, according to the study in BMJ.

But most people don't get anything close to what they need.

Mainstream guidelines recommend 30-38 grams of fiber a day for men and between 21 and 25 grams of fiber a day for women, and I recommend even higher levels of between 40 and 50 grams a day for everyone.

On average, however, Americans get a pitiful 16.2 grams of fiber per day.

It's time to change that. Skip the fiber chews and processed foods that claim to be "made with whole grains" and go right for the source: fresh, whole foods that are naturally high in fiber.

Oatmeal is high in fiber and makes for a terrific breakfast. High-fiber foods such as beans, broccoli and artichokes make for great side dishes and salads at lunch and dinner.

And don't stop there. Replace junk food snacks with natural sources of fiber such as apples, pears, berries, nuts and seeds.

For more on fiber and how it can save your life, read this free report from my House Calls archive.