Now this is fascinating food for thought! A study was published in the July 2013 issue of Nutrition that looked at nutritional factors that had the greatest modifying effect on the risk of heart disease from exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke. The researchers looked at reported secondhand smoking exposure and diets of 29,579 non-smokers in the Singapore Chinese Health Study. They then looked at how the intake levels of various dietary factors affected the rate of cardiovascular disease in people with no secondhand smoke exposure compared to people that lived with at least one smoker.
What the researchers found may surprise you. They found the intake of fiber most strongly reduced the heart disease risk of secondhand smoke such that the risk of death from heart disease was 62% greater in people with low fiber intake who lived with a smoker.
What does fiber have to do with reducing heart disease risk from secondhand smoke exposure? Well, there are several possibilities.
Fiber helps reduce cholesterol
Fiber is an excellent way to reduce cholesterol intake. Fiber-rich foods typically contain plant sterols, which lower cholesterol levels.
Fiber supports beneficial gut bacteria
Eating fiber is an important way to support the population of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. In fact, fiber is one of our intestinal bacteria’s favorite foods! When we keep our bacterial well-fed, the bacteria are more effective at controlling inflammation. Inflammation, triggered by oxidative stress from things like cigarette smoke, underlies all types of cardiovascular disease.
Fiber helps decrease constipation
Foods high in fiber support bowel regularity, specifically decreasing constipation. When we regularly move our bowels, we more effectively eliminate various toxic, and inflammatory, compounds. This, over time, will lower the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases such as heart disease.
So, the bottom line? Fiber is good for you—and if you live with a smoker, eating fiber will afford you some protection from the harmful effects of that smoke. Most adults need between 15g and 25g of fiber daily! Oats, multi-grain breads, whole grain cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of fiber.