You know that you need fiber in your diet to be at your healthiest. But did you know that there are several different types of fiber? Soluble fiber, fermentable fiber, and insoluble fiber all play different roles when it comes to your digestive system. But while fiber provides a lot of health benefits, there are some instances where it can actually be not-so-great for you.
Here’s some information on the different types of fiber, the different benefits they deliver, and what happens when you get too much of a good thing.
Fiber And Digestion: How Fiber Works In Your Gastrointestinal Tract
Fiber basically determines the rate at which the food you eat gets digested. It also contributes to the movement of solid waste through the intestines. In addition, fiber helps make it possible for your body to absorb nutrients.1
There are two main types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. There are also several specific kinds of fiber that fall into these two categories. You’ll learn more about those later.
Soluble And Insoluble Fiber, And Why They’re Both Important
About Soluble Fiber
- Soluble fiber dissolves in liquid, such as the water in your stomach. When that happens, it turns into a thick or viscous, substance that looks somewhat like a gel.
- This gel accumulates in the intestines, slowing down digestion to give your body the time it needs to absorb nutrients from food.
- Fruits and vegetables contain some soluble fiber, but the best sources include lentils, beans and peas.2
About Insoluble Fiber
- Insoluble fiber does not absorb in water. You might have heard of the term “roughage.” Roughage is basically insoluble fiber.
- The main role insoluble fiber plays in the digestive system is adding bulk to stools.
- Sources of insoluble fiber include whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.3
What Are Some Of The Health Benefits Of Soluble And Insoluble Fiber?
One of the reasons why soluble fiber is an important part of the diet is that it traps certain substances in the intestines, such as cholesterol. When cholesterol gets trapped in the gastrointestinal tract, it is eventually eliminated from the body. This may help support healthy cholesterol levels.4
Insoluble fiber is important as well. It helps move food through the intestines, acting as a sort of cleaning agent. This not only promotes regular bowel movements, it may also help reduce the chances of developing constipation.5
Fiber To Burn Fat: What Research Says About Weight Loss And Viscous Fiber Intake
People who are on a diet may find that soluble fiber, also known as viscous fiber, is their friend. Viscous fiber has been shown to help reduce the appetite and promote a feeling of fullness, or satiety, after a meal.6,7
Fiber supplements containing glucomannan, a form of viscous fiber, have been shown to support weight loss.8
What Is Fermentable Fiber? Is It Good For You?
There is another type of fiber that doesn’t get the notoriety it deserves. It’s known as fermentable fiber. Some fermentable fibers are soluble, while others are insoluble. They’re also referred to as prebiotic fiber.9
There are trillions of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. Some of these are harmful, but many of them actually help keep your digestive system healthy. These good bacteria help nullify the effects of the bad bacteria that can make you sick.10
In order to thrive, bacteria need an energy source. That’s where fermentable fiber comes in. Prebiotic fiber acts as a food source for beneficial bacteria. This good fiber may help reduce the chances of developing diarrhea.11 Inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber, has also been shown to help with constipation.12
Inulin And Bone Strength
If you make foods such as onions, garlic, and asparagus a regular part of your diet, then you probably have an ample supply of inulin. The benefits of this fiber go beyond helping you avoid constipation. There is evidence, for instance, that inulin may help young bodies absorb the calcium they need to keep their bones strong.13,14
How Much Fiber Do You Need In Your Diet Each Day?
Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will go a long way toward providing the fiber you need. The average recommended daily fiber intake is 25 grams. However, your specific fiber intake needs can vary depending on a lot of factors, including your age, gender, and the number of calories you typically consume.15
Some people may find it challenging to get all the fiber they need through food, especially if they have a high-fat diet. If you’re one of them, here are some potential ways to get more.
- Add peas and beans to your salad instead of meat.
- Get more fruit in your diet.
- Choose whole grains.16
What Happens If You Get Too Much Fiber In Your Diet?
There is such a thing as getting too much fiber in the diet. If you’re on a high-fiber diet, these are a few signs you might want to consider changes.
- Bloating or gas
- Reduced appetite
- Sudden weight loss17
Talk to your doctor about how much fiber you should be getting into your diet. They can recommend any potential changes to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need from the foods you’re eating.