Insoluble and Soluble Fiber: How Do They Impact Your Health?

Beans are a tremendous source of insoluble fiber.

Dietary fiber is the portion of plant foods that your body can’t digest. Fiber is a type of healthy carbohydrate, also known as complex carbohydrates. Because it’s unable to be digested, insoluble and soluble fiber both provide many health benefits as they move through your GI tract. Below is a breakdown of the difference between the two. 

In the video below, Amanda Haney reviews the benefits of consuming soluble and insoluble fiber.

If you don’t like the video or want more information, continue reading.

Insoluble vs soluble fiberWheat bread is a wonderful example of insoluble fiber

Insoluble fiber

Insoluble fiber forms the structure of plants. When you eat insoluble fiber, it does not dissolve in water and can’t be digested by intestinal bacteria. Therefore, it speeds up the flow of waste materials through your digestive system. This helps to prevent and reduce constipation.

Nuts are a great example of insoluble fiber

For example, you can find insoluble fiber in foods like wheat bran, nuts, fruit skins, and many vegetables. Whole grains like whole wheat bread and brown rice also contain high amounts of insoluble fiber.

Beans are a great example soluble fiber

Soluble fiber

Soluble fiber is found in and around plant cells. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance. Therefore, it slows the absorption of nutrients from your digestive system and attracts water. This prevents and reduces constipation, helps to control blood sugar, and reduces cholesterol in the blood.

Oats are one of many examples of soluble fiber

For example, soluble fiber is found in foods like beans, oats, fruits, vegetables, jams, jellies, pectin, and gums.

RELATED: Constipation: How To Prevent and Relieve This Painful Condition

The benefits of dietary fiber

Think of fiber as a workout for your intestines! Eating enough fiber makes your feces large and soft. This is beneficial for your digestive system because it strengthens your intestinal muscles and makes feces easy to eliminate.

Preventing constipation can also help reduce the risk of hemorrhoids and a painful condition in the large intestine called diverticulitis. A diet high in fiber can reduce heart disease and stroke risk, reduce diabetes risk, control weight gain, and reduce the risk for obesity.

Recommended fiber amounts

Many research studies have also shown that a high fiber intake is associated with decreased colon cancer risk. High fiber foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Therefore, it’s best to get your fiber from whole foods rather than supplements.

According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily fiber intake is 25g for women and 38g for men.

However, make sure you don’t consume too much fiber! More than the recommended amount of fiber can lead to diarrhea, gas, and decrease absorption of the minerals iron and zinc.

Curious if you’re meeting the necessary amount of dietary fiber in your diet? Meet with your registered dietitian or doctor to learn more about how fiber can benefit your health!

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Amanda Haney (Legro), MS, RD, CNSC
Hi, my name is Amanda Haney (Legro). I am a registered dietitian and board-certified nutrition support clinician. I was born and raised in Bakersfield, CA. I later moved to Southern California to attend Cal State Long Beach where I obtained my undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics as well as my master's degree in nutrition science. I completed my dietetic internship at Cal State Long Beach as well. And I love my alma mater so much that I have since returned to teach undergraduate courses in nutrition. I practice medical nutrition therapy in the pediatric intensive care unit at Miller Children's and Women's Hospital Long Beach. As a clinical dietitian, I'm committed to providing my patients with high-quality nutrition care, to improve their well-being on their road to recovery. I became a dietitian because I love food and I love medicine. There is so much misinformation about nutrition in the media. My passion is to make nutrition simple and to make your health goals achievable. In my free time, I love soaking up the beauty at the beach, riding my bike, staying active, cooking, and, most of all, spending time with my family and friends!