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Types of Fiber: The Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

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We get it. You’ve been having some digestive issues and you need information on the types of fiber, stat. Well, we’re here to help. Fiber plays an important role in many biological processes in your body, but the simplest way to explain dietary fiber is to break it down into two basic types of fiber: ​soluble​ and ​insoluble​.

Soluble Fiber

When you think of ​soluble fiber​, remember these three qualities:

  • Absorbs water
  • Becomes gel-like
  • Slows digestion

Put simply, soluble fiber is a form of fiber found naturally in many foods (and supplements) that slows digestion and can help ​relieve constipation​ and ​lower cholesterol​. A few examples of ​high-fiber foods​ that contain soluble fiber are:

  • Grains such as barley and oat bran: Along with helping to manage diabetes and high cholesterol, there are several other benefits to eating grains, including improving skin conditions and aiding a weak immune system.
  • Nuts such as Brazil nuts, almonds, and peanuts: Another delectable option for adding fiber to your diet is with nuts. They can help lower the risk of high blood pressure and blood clots, reducing the possibility of a heart attack or stroke.
  • Seeds such as sesame seeds, sunflower, and flaxseed: These nutrient-rich treats are easy to add to a morning bowl of oatmeal and will give you a kickstart of fiber for your morning.
  • Fruits such as strawberries, pears, and apples: Getting your daily dose of soluble fiber is easy with a diet rich in fruits.
  • Lentils, Lima beans, kidney beans, and navy beans: Along with being high in fiber, beans have many other nutrients your body relies on and is a good source of protein, iron, and other essential vitamins.

There are numerous benefits to increasing soluble fiber that can drastically improve your quality of life, such as:

  • Heart health: Soluble fiber helps remove the bad cholesterol (LDL) from your body, reducing your overall levels. This, in turn, can lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Weight control: Many doctors strongly advise their patients to maintain a healthy weight. Soluble fiber may help by making you feel full for longer, reducing your hunger levels.
  • Diabetes prevention: Diabetes is a major health concern for many. Soluble fiber foods aren’t absorbed by the body as easily and don’t contribute to blood sugar spikes. This can help prevent type 2 diabetes or manage either type 1 or 2 if you already suffer from it.

Insoluble Fiber

When you think of this type of fiber, remember these three qualities:

  • Does not absorb water
  • Adds bulk to your digestive tract
  • Speeds up or helps “move along” digestion

Insoluble fiber, as the name suggests, does not absorb (or dissolve in) water. Just like soluble fiber, this type of fiber can be found in a variety of different foods and can help with constipation​. Some ​high-fiber foods​ that contain insoluble fiber are:

  • Beans such as kidney, pinto, and navy beans: Beans and other legumes have been shown to include many immune boosting antioxidants. Plus, they make a tasty addition to any meal.
  • Grains such as wheat bran, wheat germ, and popcorn: Not all carbs are created equal. Many grains contain complex carbohydrates that keep you feeling full and away from the snacks.
  • Most vegetables such as green beans, Brussels sprouts, and okra: Loaded with vitamins and minerals your body needs to function, vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet. Veggies often contain a hefty dose of insoluble fiber as well.
  • Certain fruits like raspberries and strawberries: Easy to blend into a smoothie or to eat whole, fruits are one of the easiest ways to easily add fiber when you need a quick snack.

So why should you eat insoluble fiber foods? There are several advantages to eating these foods that can keep your body feeling regular and healthy:

  • Digestive regularity: When discussing fiber, bowel regularity is often the initial feature that comes to mind for most individuals. Insoluble fibers can help relieve constipation and keep your system flowing.
  • Bowel health: Along with constipation, insoluble fiber will help with other digestive issues like hemorrhoids and intestinal blockages. There has also been research suggesting that fiber can help lower your risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Weight loss: Just like its soluble sibling, insoluble fiber can help reduce and control your weight by reducing your hunger levels.

Additionally, many foods contain both types of fiber such as varieties of beans, grains, fruits, and vegetables. For a full resource of the dietary fiber content in food, please refer to the ​USDA Food Composition Database​.

Of course, not everyone is able to get their daily recommended doses of soluble and insoluble fiber from natural sources. In that case, it is recommended to take a supplemental fiber powders to get the nutrients you need.

Next time you're staring at items in the grocery store trying to remember the different types of fiber and which foods contain them, you can breathe easy knowing our guide is just a click away. Bon Appetit!