The differences between soluble fiber and insoluble fiber and why both are equally important for your health
- Soluble and insoluble
fiberare equally important for your healthand one is no better than the other for general well-being.
- Soluble fiber dissolves and ferments in your
gutwhich provides important nutrients for your microbiome and may help you maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- Insoluble fiber moves through the digestive tract intact and research shows that it may help with weight loss, improved bowel function, and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
The difference between soluble and insoluble fiber is often confusing. Although both are important for metabolic health, the main distinction boils down to how well they dissolve in water. But that doesn't mean one is more important than the other.
"We need both soluble and insoluble fiber in our
Here's what you should know about the differences between soluble and insoluble fiber, their health benefits, and how you can incorporate them into your diet.
Soluble fiber vs. insoluble fiber
The difference between soluble and insoluble fiber is how well each dissolves and ferments in the gastrointestinal tract.
Dietary fiber, in general, is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. Once it hits your stomach, it moves through your digestive tract, pulling water into the intestines as it goes. This adds bulk to the stool to help prevent constipation, but it also slows down digestion which can stabilize blood sugar levels after a meal.
Certain soluble fibers, like psyllium, form a viscous gel as they move through the digestive tract that can also help with diarrhea. Moreover, soluble fiber tends to be more fermentable than insoluble fiber, making it a meal to sustain the healthy bacteria that colonize your intestine and provide nourishment for your colon.
Health benefits of dietary fiber
Be wary of claims that dietary fiber alone can cure gastrointestinal conditions like ulcerative colitis or directly cause weight loss, says_Elisabetta Politi, MPH, RD, LDN, CDCES, Dietitian Clinician at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center.
Here are scientifically-proven health benefits of getting enough dietary fiber in your diet:
- Possibly reduces the risk of colorectal cancers: Insoluble fiber balances intestinal pH and reduced the time it takes food to move through your gut, which may reduce the risk of carcinogen formation in the gut wall, though more research is needed.
- Controls blood sugar levels: Soluble fiber can slow the absorption of glucose and insoluble fiber may reduce the risk of type two diabetes.
- Improves bowel movements: Insoluble fiber acts like a sponge by pulling water into the stool, effectively making it easier to pass.
- Lowers cholesterol levels: Soluble fiber helps lower the total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which may reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Helps manage weight: Insoluble fiber supplementation is associated with significant weight loss, but only when it is combined with calorie reduction and increased physical activity.
To reap the many benefits that dietary fiber has to offer, it is best to eat a variety of foods that are rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Good sources of soluble and insoluble fiber
The Westernized diet, one that is low in fiber and high in sucrose and saturated fats, is currently a growing health risk that is strongly associated with the increase in the prevalence of metabolic diseases. Most people often consume only half of the recommended daily fiber intake, so it is crucial to be aware of the amount that you need per day.
Here is the current daily recommended amount for dietary fiber:
|Age/Gender||Recommended daily fiber|
|Children 1-3 years old||19 grams|
|Children 4-8 years old||25 grams|
|Girls 9-18 years old||26 grams|
|Boys 9-13 years old||31 grams|
|Boys 14-18 years old||38 grams|
|Women 19-50 years old||25 grams|
|Men 19-50 years old||38 grams|
|Women 51+ years old||21 grams|
|Men 51+ years old||31 grams|
|Sources of soluble fiber||Sources of insoluble fiber|
|Broccoli||Dry roasted peanuts|
|Rye bread||Sesame seeds|
|Green beans||Bitter gourd|
|Carrots||Raw white beans|
|All-purpose bleached flour||Oats|
|Wheat bread||Whole grain wheat|
|Red kidney beans||Beetroot|
Politi prefers getting fiber from whole foods first, but a fiber supplement may also help in reaching the required daily intake.
Keep in mind that some supplements aren't suitable for people with certain allergies or medical conditions. People with diabetes should opt for flavorless and sugar-free supplements, while people with celiac disease must choose gluten-free fiber like psyllium. Here are some common brands of fiber supplements:
- Metamucil is made from psyllium, which contains 70% soluble fiber and 30% insoluble fiber.
- Benefiber contains wheat dextrin, a great source of soluble fiber.
- Citrucel's active ingredient is methylcellulose, which is mainly insoluble fiber.
- Konsyl is also made from psyllium and contains both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble, is essential to a healthy diet and can provide plenty of health benefits including a reduced risk of colorectal cancers, blood sugar control, and improved bowel movements.
There are numerous fiber-rich foods, but if you aren't meeting the daily recommended fiber intake, you can consider taking fiber supplements. "Remember also to drink enough water as you increase your fiber intake," says Linge.
Related stories about diet and nutrition:
- What probiotic should you take when on antibiotics or have GI issues
- Do probiotics help you lose weight? There's no scientific proof they can
- 3 'health' products that are a waste of money, according to dietitians
- Why you may not be losing weight on the keto diet
- What is resistant starch and why it's healthier than simple starch
- Ban on single-use plastic kicks in across India as the country recognises the choking impacts of plastic waste on the environment
- Bank FDs will draw down from mutual funds if interest rates go up to 7.5-8%, says report
- Best smartphones under ₹40,000 in India
- Are we worse off than we were in 2008? Foreign investors seem to think so
- MSMEs run on promoter’s savings and need insurance as much as other businesses