Soluble Fiber vs. Insoluble Fiber

There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. The terms simply mean whether the fiber can be digested or not digested. Both types help maintain bowel regularity.

Even though we cannot use it as a source of energy, it is an important nutrient because of its impact on our digestive system. Most foods contain a mixture of soluble and insoluble types, which together make up the fiber family.

Soluble fiber

Compounds that dissolve or swell when put into water are called soluble fibers and include pectins, gums, mucilages, and some hemicelluloses. These compounds are found inside and around plant cells and exist as gum arabic, guar gum, locust bean gum, and pectins. They slow the passage of food through the intestines but do nothing to increase fecal bulk.

Pectin, a complex carbohydrate, is found in the rinds, skins, and/or cores of many different fruits. If a fruit is under-ripe, it contains more pectin. Used by food manufacturers as a thickening agent and stabilizer, it can be found in candies and frozen desserts. It is also used to set jams, jellies, and preserves. Gums and mucilages, found in oatmeal, oat bran, and dried beans, are used for the same purpose.

Soluble fiber is most often found in nonwheat kinds of fiber. It can be found in foods like beans, corn, oats, barley, peas, Brussels sprouts, lentils, carrots, cabbage, okra, apricots, prunes, dates, blackberries, cranberries, seeds, apples, bananas, citrus fruits, psyllium, certain gums and seaweed, to name a lot.

It is broken down by the bacteria in your gut. The bacteria produces by-products that are very important for good health. Soluble fiber holds water and turns to gel during digestion. Staying in your stomach longer, it helps slow food and digestion. It may be useful in preventing overeating because it causes a feeling of fullness.

Soluble fiber has been found to provide profound health benefits. One of its benefits include decreasing blood cholesterol. Soluble fiber slows bile from going back into the intestinal tract. Bile, which is formed from cholesterol, is pulled into the feces for elimination, rather than accumulating in the blood.

LDL (bad cholesterol) levels are influenced not only by your daily intake of fiber, but also by your current cholesterol level, your weight, if you smoke, and how much exercise you get. Adding more soluble fiber to the daily diet will likely lead to lower LDLs.

Because of how fiber effects your cholesterol, it can also help in controlling heart disease. Fiber-rich foods are good sources of anti-oxidants that help to lower the risk for heart disease.

Soluble fiber is also beneficial in balancing levels of blood glucose. It slows digestion and the absorption of nutrients, resulting in a slow and steady release of glucose from carbohydrates. Therefore, blood glucose may be regulated and diabetes may be managed better on a high fiber diet.

Insoluble fiber

It is estimated that 65 to 75% of dietary fiber in our diet is insoluble. Insoluble fiber cannot be digested by enzymes in the human digestive tract. It cannot be broken down by the body. It passes through the intestines largely intact.

Insoluble fiber is important because it provides bulk to the stool, helping to ease elimination. Insoluble fiber speeds the passage of foods through the stomach and intestines. The fiber absorbs water which helps to enlarge and soften the stool. As a result, less pressure is needed to eliminate the stool, preventing constipation.

Cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin are all types of insoluble fiber. Cellulose is found in whole grains, broccoli, apples, beets, and pears. It cleanses the intestinal tract and nourishes blood vessels.

Also a soluble fiber, hemicellulose helps to move waste through the body by absorbing water in the intestinal tract. It is found in apples, beets, cabbage, corn, peas, and whole grains. Lignin, an antioxidant, is found in carrots, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, whole grains, and many other foods.

Some evidence suggests that cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignins serve as an important protective role in colon cancer.

The carcinogens in the colon are diluted by fluids, bound to the fibers, and then rapidly excreted as the fibers pass through the gastrointestinal tract for elimination. The risk of colon and colorectal cancer is reduced. By promoting better regularity, a diet high in insoluble fibers helps control diverticular disease.

People with diverticular disease should eat a high fiber diet, but try to avoid nuts, seeds, hulls and some skins since these can cause inflammation of the diverticula resulting in diverticulitis.

Although insoluble fiber has not been shown to lower blood cholesterol, it is important for normal digestive health.

Like soluble fiber, insoluble fiber helps in the management of diabetes by slowing the rate at which your body absorbs glucose. A diet that is high in insoluble fiber and low in fat may help with weight control. The bulk that is created in the intestines as insoluble fiber absorbs water can reduce your appetite by making you feel full faster.

Start your increase of fiber gradually. Consuming large amounts of insoluble fiber can lead to bloating, flatulence, and increased bowel movements. To help move bulk efficiently through the colon, drink at least 8 glasses of fluids.

Now, pass the popcorn.