What is The Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber
Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet and provides plenty of health benefits. Most plants contain both soluble and insoluble fiber but in different amounts. Soluble fiber easily dissolves in water, and it includes plant pectin and gums. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. It includes plant cellulose and hemicellulose.
There's a lot to know about the two types of fiber and how they differ. Read on to know more about dietary fiber, its significance, food sources, and the possible cons.
What Is Dietary Fiber?
Dietary fiber is the non-digestible part of plant foods. Unlike other nutrients like carbohydrates or proteins, your body can't break down dietary fiber. It's commonly classified into two types; soluble or insoluble fiber.
Soluble Vs. Insoluble Fiber
- Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and other gastrointestinal fluids forming a gel-like material, that slows down the digestion process. This delayed digestion further contributes to better absorption of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from the stomach. The bacteria present in the colon/large intestine help in the digestion or breakdown of soluble fiber.
What are the benefits of Soluble Fiber?
The health benefits of soluble dietary fiber are plentiful. Here are some of them: -
-Helps Manage Blood Sugar Levels
Consuming foods rich in soluble fiber leads to slow digestion making the blood sugar rise slowly. Blood sugar spikes are risky for people with type 2 diabetes and heart diseases. Therefore, people with those diseases can benefit from soluble fiber as it keeps their blood sugar level in control.
-Nourishes Good Gut Bacteria
Some soluble fiber-rich foods feed healthy gut bacteria, which is good for the digestive system. The soluble fiber acts as prebiotic fiber and food for the gut bacteria. When the bacteria digest the soluble fiber, it releases hormones and short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that keep you full for longer.
Soluble fiber helps manage healthy cholesterol levels by binding with bile acids and prevents the absorption of LDL(low-density lipoprotein) and total cholesterol in the system. Consuming more soluble fiber helps the liver produce more bile acids thereby reducing the level of these cholesterols.
Good Food Sources of soluble fiber
- Whole Grains– oats, barley
- Fruits– apples, pears, avocadoes
- Seeds– chia, flax
- Vegetables– Brussels sprouts, carrots, peas
- Legumes– beans, lentils, split peas
- Insoluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber is what its name suggests, the type of fiber that doesn't absorb water or other fluids. Instead of mixing with water and forming a gel-like substance, insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool and attracts water to the colon. This process makes stool soft and easy to pass and ensures regular bowel movements.
What Are the Benefits of Insoluble Fiber?
-Ensures Regular Bowel Movements
With regular intake of insoluble fiber, you can get regular bowel movements. The insoluble fiber sits in your gastrointestinal tract, absorbs water, and sticks to the by-products that need to come out as stool. It speeds up the transit time (the amount taken by the digested food to pass out of your body as a stool), preventing constipation and improving bowel movements.
-Lowers the Risk of Diverticular Disease
The insoluble fiber in the body helps prevent intestinal blockage. It further helps in preventing hemorrhoids in the colon and even colorectal cancer.
Good Food Sources of Insoluble Fiber
- Vegetables – carrots, kale, potatoes (with skin)
- Fruits– blueberries, apricots, pear, raspberries
- Whole Grains– wheat bran, brown rice, quinoa
- Nuts and Seeds– raw almonds, sesame seeds, psyllium seeds husk, sunflower seeds
What Are the Risks of Taking Too Much Fiber?
It is recommended to gradually introduce fiber into your diet and use it in moderation or within limits. Ensure you are having plenty of water to experience the health benefits of fiber. An increased intake of dietary fiber in the body can cause bloating or abdominal pain. In case you experience such symptoms, consult your healthcare advisor.
What is the Daily Recommendation for Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?
You can balance the intake of soluble and insoluble fiber by incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. If it is a challenge to meet your daily fiber requirements via diet alone, fiber supplements are a great and convenient option. Opt for psyllium-free, allergen-free, and sugar-free fiber with the goodness of prebiotics to amplify the benefits. It is also important to focus on the overall amount of fiber that you get from your daily diet.
- Men at or under the age of 50 must take 38 grams of fiber per day.
- Women at or under the age of 50 must take 25 grams of fiber per day.
- Men over 50 years of age must take 30 grams per day.
- Women over 50 years of age must take 21 grams per day.
Both soluble and insoluble fibers are crucial for the overall health of your body. An appropriate amount of dietary fiber in your daily diet can help prevent diabetes, some cancers, and obesity and support digestive and cardiovascular health.
Therefore, if you are unable to consume a high high fiber diet, you should consider adding prebiotic fiber supplements to your diet to fulfill your requirements.
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