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What are the Differences between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?

There is a lot of mention of fiber throughout literature on nutrition and health. It makes one think: do people know the benefits of fiber, never mind the difference of soluble and insoluble fiber. Well, not to stress, in this article the aim is to debunk and make the term clearer.

Soluble and insoluble fiber. The difference between the two

There are two types of fiber we consume, namely soluble and insoluble fiber. These two fibers are part of dietary fiber we eat that comes from plant-based sources and they travel through our digestive track where it is broken down or digested.

The one, soluble fiber, dissolves in water. Under this group is plant pectin and gums. The other one, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, and there we can include examples such as cellulose and hemicellulose.

Many plants contain these two type of fibers, but in different concentrations. Still, fiber is very important to our health and supports our body.

The benefits of soluble and insoluble fibers

A gel is formed when soluble fiber is dissolved. This gel helps to improve your digestion. Plus, soluble fiber can aid in blood cholesterol and sugar. That is since this fiber can aid in the control of your blood glucose, which in turn reduces your risk for diabetes.

On the other hand, insoluble fiber added water to your stools. This means your stools become softer and easier to pass. Besides reducing your risk for constipation, it lessens the pressure there might be on your bowel. In addition, your insulin sensitivity, very similar to soluble fiber, aids in reducing your risk for developing diabetes.

Together, these fibers or digestive fiber can help your gut to remain healthy. However, other benefits of dietary fiber would include to:

• control body weight
• regulate bowel movements and prevent hemorrhoids
• regulate blood sugar
• control and possibly prevent hypertension
• help balance cholesterol levels in blood
• lower risk of colon cancer
• lower risk of breast cancer
• require more chewing, which slows down your meals and aids digestion
• regulate your body’s satiation signals, which let you know when you’re full
• lower risk of diabetes

In fact, if you add two severing of whole-grain products daily to your diet, you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by around 21 percent.

The side effects of fiber

Too much fiber can lead to some problems like gas, abdominal bloating and pain. However, it could be that you are not actually consuming too much fiber, but too little. Speak to your doctor if you have these problems. Just make sure that you are drinking enough water to help the fiber pass through your digestion system.

How much fiber should we consume daily?

Dietary fiber is a natural and significant part of a balanced diet. It is said that Americans get less than half of their recommended fiber each day. But the recommendations for your total dietary fiber, which includes both soluble and insoluble types:

  • men, age 50 and under 38 grams per day
  • women, age 50 and under 25 grams per day
  • men, over 50 30 grams per day
  • women, over 50 21 grams per day.

If you lack fiber, you can eat more vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes, and grains. For instance:

  • 1 cup of cooked oatmeal has approximately 4 grams of fiber
  • 1 cup of cooked black beans has approximately 15 grams of fiber
  • 1 slice of whole-wheat bread has approximately 3 grams of fiber
  • You could opt for supplements but it is better to go the food route as they offer vitamins and nutrients.

Also keep this in mind when you make your choice which foods offer the best dietary fiber:

Plants have varying levels of insoluble and soluble fibers, so it’s most important to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains, to get the benefits of both kinds of fiber.

Foods with added fiber might have “chicory root” or “inulin” listed on the ingredients list.
Canned and processed foods have less fiber than fresh, whole foods.

Sources of soluble fiber

Good sources of soluble fiber include:

  • oats
  • peas
  • beans
  • apples
  • citrus fruit
  • carrots
  • barley
  • psyllium

To add more soluble fiber to your diet you can add some psyllium flakes on top of your food. Otherwise, you can make a hearty soup with broth and carrots, barley, peas, and beans for a filling and healthy meal. For a snack packed with fiber go for apples, oranges, or grapefruit. Or you can snack on dried fruit, but be careful as they contain more sugars than fresh fruit.

Sources of insoluble fiber

Great sources of insoluble fiber are:

  • whole-wheat flour
  • wheat bran
  • nuts
  • beans
  • cauliflower
  • green beans
  • potatoes

To add more insoluble fiber in your diet you can eat whole grain toast, oats, or a fibrous cereal for breakfast. When you are doing any baking, use whole-wheat flour instead of just wheat flour. Also, you can add in some nuts into your baking or just eat them as a snack. Alternatively, you could get some fresh cauliflower and green beans at the store. Rinse and chop them as soon as you get home, and keep them on hand to steam or eat raw as a snack or side dish to a meal.

Closing remarks

Both soluble and insoluble fibers are significant for a healthy diet. This is as they help fight diabetes and some cancers, and support cardiovascular and digestive health. The problem is that people are not getting enough fiber.

Slowly add more fiber into your diet. Go for naturally high sources of fiber so you too can get the benefits of fiber has to offer your health.

About Jacques Dippenaar

Jacques is an influential health blogger and researcher helping readers explore interesting facts and information.

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