Fiber is an important part of your diet. You’ve probably heard it before. But what is soluble and insoluble fiber and why is it good for your health?
Dietary fiber is known best for its ability to stop or relieve constipation. Fiber also provides other health benefits such as maintaining a healthy weight and lowering your risk of diabetes, heart disease and types of cancer. Having a high-fiber diet regulates bowel movements, maintains bowel health, lowers cholesterol levels, controls blood sugar levels, and helps you live longer. Calculating how much fiber you need, the foods that contain it, and adding them to meals isn’t difficult.
Fiber is commonly split into two categories: soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fiber. This type of fiber dissolves in water. As it goes through the digestive tract, it absorbs water and changes into a gel-like substance.
- Insoluble fiber. This type of fiber does not dissolve in water. It does not change its form as it goes through the digestive tract.
What foods contain fiber?
Soluble fiber can be found in:
- Beans and peas
- Nuts and seeds
Insoluble fiber can be found in:
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetables (dark and leafy work best)
- Wheat bran
- Whole grain foods (brown rice, whole grain breads, cereals and pasta)
What does soluble and insoluble fiber do?
Soluble fiber helps with the absorption of dietary fat and lower cholesterol levels in the blood. It slows digestion and the rate in which carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream. This helps control the level of blood sugar (blood glucose) by preventing rapid increases in blood sugar after a meal.
Insoluble fibers move substance through the digestive tract and help control the acidity levels in the intestines. By speeding up the movement of food and waste, insoluble fibers promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.
Eating fiber regularly help boost your digestive health. The recommended intake of fiber for women is 25 grams per day, and for men, it is 38 grams per day. If you’re 50 years are older, the recommended intake for women is 21 grams per day, and for men, it is 30 grams per day.
To learn more about ways to improve your diet or to receive a nutritional assessment, visit Ochsner’s Medical Nutritional Therapy Office.