What's The Difference Between Soluble And Insoluble Fiber

by Bobski606

Fiber is an important part of our lifestyle and plays a vital role in keeping our guts healthy. Find out how fiber does this and why it matters.

February is National Fiber Focus Month and it's a time for us to evaluate our nutrition plans to find out if we're eating the right foods to maintain a healthy body. Fiber comes from a whole range of sources but the most common are in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. If you're eating a healthy variety of food then you'll probably be getting enough fiber but just in case you should check anyway.

Although fiber comes from the delicious foods you may not know that there are two types that the body needs to function properly: soluble and insoluble fiber. If you're not getting enough of each - or even too much - then you'll start to run into tummy troubles.

The purpose of this article is to give you the knowledge on how these two types of fiber interacts with your body, how much you need on a daily basis, and where you can get it from. You'll also find out how to start reversing any tummy troubles that you might already be experiencing from a lifetime of junk food and poor eating habits.

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What Is Fiber?

And How Much Should You Eat?

Put simply fiber is the plant material that your body cannot digest or absorb in the digestive track. Fiber makes up the bulk of your bowel movement and it is vital in keeping your gut healthy.

Fiber is found in a wide variety of foods but the best sources are from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. You should be getting about 25 grams per day if you're a woman and about 38 grams if you're a man. However, the average person is only getting about 15 grams per day - no wonder we all get tummy problems now and again.

The term "fiber" is a blanket term generally used to describe the plant material that's left over, however there are actually two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble Fiber

This type of fiber works with special enzymes created by the liver to create a gel. This soluble fiber works to keep your blood sugar stable and remove excess "bad" cholesterol from the blood stream. It also has another function that prevents the body from absorbing toxic or harmful substances.

Since blood sugar levels play such an important role in weight loss and maintaining your weight you can see why it's important to have fiber in your diet. If you didn't have that gel working there to normalize the peaks and troughs you would soon get a sugar crash, go on a binge eating frenzy and then start the cycle all over again. This is one of the reasons why restrictive diets are so hard to maintain; your body is not used to working this way and it takes time to adjust.

You may not know that soluble fiber also plays a vital role in preventing heart disease and other nasty conditions such as cancer. The soluble fiber in your diet is able to remove any excess "bad cholesterol" from your blood stream and either return it to whence it came or turn it into a useful fuel for energy.

As for preventing harmful or toxic substances from being absorbed into the body you'll find that it works on a similar ways. The gel is able to bind these toxins, as well as fat, and flush them out of the system in a bowel movement.

The other function of soluble fiber is its stool softening properties. A lack of soluble fiber in your diet can cause hard stools that are painful to pass. When you have a difficult stool then your more inclined to push, however if you're not careful you can easily cause a hernia or hemorrhoid - neither of these you'll want.

Best Foods For Soluble Fiber:

  • Oatmeal
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Fruits

Just one serving each of the top three and a couple servings of fruit and you'll be well on your way to meeting the recommend 25-38 grams of fiber per day.

Insoluble Fiber

This type of fiber cannot be dissolved in water, unlike soluble fiber, and it cannot be absorbed by the body but instead acts as a bulking agent to pass the waste through the intestine. It also absorbs water making the whole process a lot easier on the bowels.

If you're not getting enough insoluble fiber you will start to suffer from constipation as there will not be enough bulk in your system to flush everything through. A diet full of junk food will soon give you constipation and you will need to up your fiber content to rectify the problem. However, if you're already getting the minimum of 5 fruit and vegetables a day then you will be on the right track towards a healthy gut.

Insoluble fiber is also very valuable in maintaining a healthy weight. If you find yourself needing to lose a few pounds you'll be better of adding some more fiber to your diet than just restricting your calories. This is because insoluble fiber keeps you fuller for longer and you'll be less inclined to snack on those unhealthy foods.

Best Foods For Insoluble Fiber:

  • Leafy vegetables
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Whole grain foods
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Combine a serving of these foods with the selection from "best foods for insoluble fiber" and you'll be meeting your 25-38 grams of fiber goal.

Still Can't Eat Enough Fiber?

Consider Fiber Supplements

If you've been watching your fiber intake for a while and just can't seem to eat enough for one reason or another then you might want to consider fiber supplements. These supplements are an easy way to boost your fiber intake without having to do much on your part. I would recommend these as a last resort really as you should be getting the majority of your fiber from real food any way.

Capsules Vs Powder

Fiber supplements can come in two different types: capsules and powder. The capsules are taken with water and then they dissolve in your stomach and release their fibery goodness. They can be quite large so if you struggle with taking tablets at all then the capsules are probably not for you.

The powdered supplements are normally dissolved into water which you can then drink. The powders come in a variety of different flavors so you can chose your favorite and go from there. The powders work by expanding in your stomach and then working through the intestines that way. 

Fiber Supplements

Phillips Fiber Gummies, 90 Count

Phillips' Fiber Gummies help to promote regularity with 4 gram of 100% natural inulin fiber. Great tasting gummies withoutthe grit of traditional mixed fiber. No water required.

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Kirkland Signature Kirkland Fiber Capsules, 2 pack (360 Capsules each)

Kirkland Signature Fiber Capsules 100% Natural Psyllium Husk Fiber 360 Capsules (Pack of 2). Fiber Supplement/Laxative. Daily source of soluble fiber. bulk forming laxative. com...

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NOW Foods Psyllium Husk 500mg, 500 Vcaps

Psyllium Husk 500 mg 500 Capsules supports to increase the intake of dietary fiber and helps with regulating gastrointestinal health

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Constipation is a very uncomfortable situation to be in and you'll want to fix it straight away. By following these 5 great tips you'll soon be back on your bathroom schedule and preventing constipation in the future.

Top Fiber and Constipation Tips Directory
A directory dedicate to obtaining knowledge on fiber and constipation.

5 Tasty and Healthy Snacks To Beat Constipation
Get your 25 - 38 grams of fiber with these tasty snacks.

Updated: 02/18/2013, Bobski606
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Bobski606 on 02/21/2013

Thanks Katie. I took a lot of time researching this one as I didn't want to get it wrong, as you say there is a lot of confusing information out there. Luckily my doctor was able to answer quite a few questions for me.

katiem2 on 02/21/2013

Very informative, I think there is a great deal of confusion between soluble and insoluble fiber.

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