You’re probably familiar with oatmeal’s benefits for your cholesterol levels, particularly for lowering low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol. More than half of the fiber in oatmeal is soluble. This type of fiber binds with some of the excess LDL molecules lurking in your system and pushes them out when you move your bowels. Getting more soluble fiber in your diet can help keep your cholesterol in check, but you don’t have to eat oatmeal every day to reap the benefits.
Citrus fruits have about an equal amount of soluble fiber as oatmeal -- even more, in some cases. A small peeled orange has a total of 2.9 grams of fiber and 1.8 of those grams are soluble. Even though 1/3 cup of dry oatmeal has around the same amount of total fiber, you’ll only get 1.4 grams of soluble fiber from oatmeal. Have a grapefruit with your breakfast in place of your usual hot cereal. Half a medium-sized grapefruit offers 1.6 grams of total fiber; 1.1 of those fiber grams are soluble.
While most vegetables tend to have a higher amount of insoluble fiber -- the type of fiber that keeps you regular -- some are especially rich in soluble fiber, just like oatmeal. Asparagus is one such veggie. A half-cup of chopped asparagus spears contains 2.8 grams of total fiber, of which 1.7 grams are soluble. About half of the 2.4 grams of fiber in 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli are soluble, while 2 grams -- out of the 2.8 grams of total fiber -- in 1/2 cup of Brussels sprouts are soluble fiber. Even carrots are similar to oatmeal, as far as the fiber breakdown is concerned. A half-cup of steamed sliced carrots contains 2 grams of total fiber, and 1.1 grams are soluble.
Whether you snack on dried fruits or add them to your bowl of cereal in the morning, you’ll be loading up on soluble fiber and thus helping to improve your cholesterol. Seven dried apricot halves have 2 grams of overall fiber, but more than 50 percent -- 1.1 grams -- is soluble. Nearly half of the fiber in dried figs is soluble. You’ll get 3 grams of fiber from 1.5 dried figs; 1.4 grams of that is soluble, which is the same amount that 1/3 cup of oatmeal provides. If you’re more of a raisin fan, 4 tablespoons offer 0.8 gram of total fiber, and half of that is soluble fiber.
Soluble fiber doesn’t have a specific intake recommendation. Generally, if you have at least 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber daily, you may see improvements in your LDL cholesterol, MayoClinic.com reports. Overall you should aim for 14 grams of total fiber -- both soluble and insoluble -- for every 1,000 calories in your diet. By following a 2,000-calorie diet, you’ll need 28 grams of total fiber each day.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.