As the saying goes, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." And for those who have high cholesterol or high blood pressure,  this may very well be true. Apples are good sources of fiber, and experts believe that the more fiber you eat, the less likely you are to develop heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack.

People who eat diets that contain higher amounts of fiber are likely to have lower levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol and are more likely to have lower triglycerides-two key measures of heart health. In fact, a multi-year Harvard study that followed more than 40,000 men found that those who ate diets high in fiber were 40 percent less likely to develop heart disease.

Fiber may also have positive effects on blood pressure. A study published in the Journal of Hypertension found that people who added fiber to their diets saw their blood pressure readings fall.

In addition, diets high in fiber can help control buildup of excess weight. And since being overweight has been shown to increase a person's chances of developing heart disease, a lower body weight is also good for your heart.

Getting More Fiber

Now that you know you should eat more fiber, you might be wondering how to do it (other than eating the famed apple a day, of course). The Institutes of Medicine (IOM) suggest getting about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories, or between 20 and 35 grams a day. The IOM says most people only get about half that amount. Here are some suggestions on how to increase your fiber intake.

Cereals: Whole-grain breakfast cereals are excellent sources of dietary fiber. Look for cereals made with bran because these are more likely to contain higher amounts of fiber. Check the nutrition label on your favorite cereal to see if it has at least five grams of fiber per serving. Some of the best have 10 grams or more.

Breads: Look for 100 percent whole-grain breads and muffins. The American Heart Association warns that some wheat and bran product packaging can be misleading. Make sure you read the nutrition label carefully; whole-grain or multi-grain breads should have 1.5 to two grams of fiber per slice

Fruits: Many fruits are an excellent source of fiber. Some of the best are raspberries, pears, apples, bananas, strawberries, and oranges.

Vegetables: Vegetables are also a great way to get more fiber. It's especially important to try to eat more peas, broccoli, cabbage, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and cauliflower. Baked potatoes (with skin) are also a good source of fiber, and for something a little different, try eating a cooked artichoke, which contains more than 10 grams.

Beans: Whether black, red, kidney, or other beans, they're one of the easiest ways to get more fiber in your diet. A cup of cooked beans usually contains between 10 and 15 grams of fiber, which means that after one serving, you're well on your way to getting a full day's requirement of fiber.

Nuts and Seeds: Looking for a snack that will fill you up, keep you thin, and increase your daily dose of fiber? Grab a handful of sunflower seeds, pistachios, almonds, or pecans.