Fiber is an essential part of any daily diet. But did you know that there are actually two different types of fiber that you need? In this article, you’ll learn about the different types of fiber and why each one is essential for your body to function normally. In addition, you’ll find out where the best places to find this fiber are, how much you should be eating, and the health benefits that fiber offers.
The Difference Between Insoluble And Soluble Fiber
Dietary fiber, which is mainly found in grains, fruits and vegetables, is made up of the parts of a plant that your body can’t digest. Because people don’t digest fiber, it remains mostly intact as it passes through the body. Every person needs fiber in their daily diet in order for their body to function normally, particularly because this substance plays a major role in digestion.
There are two different types of dietary fiber. The first is soluble fiber, which turns to gel during digestion due to the fact that it attracts water. Because it becomes a thicker gel, it slows digestion down. To balance it out, there is a second type of dietary fiber called insoluble fiber. This type of dietary fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps you digest food through your stomach and intestines more quickly.
Sources Of Fiber
Older children, adolescents and adults should eat about 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most Americans only get about 10 to 15 grams of fiber daily, so it is important to include a number of high-fiber foods in your diet each day. The best sources for fiber are:
- Oat bran
- Citrus fruits
- Wheat bran
- Whole grains
- Whole-wheat flour
As a general rule, avoid refined or processed foods when looking for high-fiber foods to add to your diet. Examples of these types of food include white bread and pasta, and non-whole grain cereals. These products will have lower fiber content than whole foods. Additionally, you should eat whole fruits and vegetables, and 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices since pulp-free juices, and fruits and veggies without their skin contain much less fiber.
There are also several fiber supplements available over the counter, including brands like Citrucel and Metamucil. However, these should not be used as a replacement for eating high-fiber foods since they do not contain the vitamins, minerals and nutrients found in the sources of fiber listed above. Ask a doctor before adding fiber supplements to your daily regimen.
Benefits Of A High-Fiber Diet
Eating a diet that is rich in fiber has many health benefits, including:
- Consistent bowel movements: Eating fiber daily prevents constipation and diarrhea by making stools bulky, soft and easier to pass. They may also provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome.
- Better bowel health: Consuming fiber helps to prevent hemorrhoids and diverticular disease from developing.
- Weight loss: High-fiber foods, which typically contain fewer calories than other foods of the same volume, take longer to chew and make you feel full faster, so you are less likely to overeat. They also help you to stay full for longer, so you aren’t as tempted to snack between meals.
- Regulated blood sugar: Fiber slows down the rate at which the body absorbs sugar, which can improve blood sugar levels, particularly for those with diabetes. Eating insoluble fiber in particular has been linked to a lowered risk for type 2 diabetes.
- Lower blood cholesterol: Soluble fiber helps to lower blood cholesterol levels by lower the level of low-density lipoprotein in the body.
- Better heart health: Eating a high-fiber diet can lower blood pressure levels and reduce inflammation, which helps to keep the heart healthy.
Risks Of Consuming Too Much Fiber
There are some side effects which may occur when you consume too much fiber. Some of the most common side effects include intestinal gas, abdominal cramping, abdominal bloating and diarrhea. Additionally, consuming too much fiber can also interfere with the absorption of certain minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron.
For the best results, eat the recommended amount of fiber each day along with plenty of water, which helps to make the fiber work properly in your digestive system. If you currently do not get enough fiber in your diet, add more fiber-rich foods to your diet slowly over a period of several weeks until you reach the recommended amount of fiber in your diet. The natural bacteria in your digestive system need to adjust to the change in fiber gradually in order to avoid the unpleasant side effects mentioned above.