You know fiber is good for your health, and you vow to include more fiber in your diet. You head to the grocery store and start looking at nutrition labels, when you notice different listings for "soluble fiber" and "insoluble fiber." Yes, you read it right - there are two types of dietary fiber.
Your body does not digest either soluble fiber or insoluble fiber, which means they are not absorbed into the bloodstream or used as energy. Yet each type of fiber has distinct functions and benefits within your body.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. When mixed with liquid, it turns into a gel and swells, which is what happens in the digestive tract. That's why soluble fiber can help you feel full when you eat and keep you from overeating.
Soluble fiber slows digestion and the rate at which nutrients and sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream. Because it slows down the release of sugars, it also helps those with Diabetes control blood sugar levels and prevent spikes after a meal.
In addition, soluble fiber binds with fatty acids and increases the rate at which bile acids pass through the digestive system. This action lowers total cholesterol and specifically LDL cholesterol levels, which helps prevent heart disease.
You can find soluble fiber in oats, oat bran and oatmeal; flax seed; barley; nuts; legumes such as peas, beans and lentils; vegetables such as carrots; fruits such as apples and oranges; and psyllium husk, the ingredient found in over-the-counter fiber products such as MetamucilÂ®.
When you read ingredients on food labels, soluble fibers may be identified as pectins or gums.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. During digestion, it helps food pass through your stomach and intestines, which regulates bowel movements and prevents constipation. Insoluble fiber also helps maintain an optimal pH in your intestines, which speeds the elimination of toxic waste and helps prevent colon cancer.
Good sources of insoluble fiber include dark green leafy vegetables, whole wheat, wheat oat, corn bran, seeds and nuts, and the skins of fruits and root vegetables.
In processed foods with ingredient lists, insoluble fiber is most frequently identified as cellulose.
The average American falls short of USDA guidelines for fiber intake, eating only 17 grams or less of dietary fiber per day. While it would be ideal to maintain a balance of fibers in your diet, eating the recommended 25 grams of dietary fiber per day - no matter which type - is most important. So be sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and grains to ensure you get enough fiber in your daily diet.