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