Fiber is an incredibly important component of a healthy diet. The recommendation is for females to consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily and males to consume at least 38 grams of fiber daily. According to Healthy people 2010 data, Americans are currently not meeting this as typical intake is around 15 grams daily, with white flour and potatoes being the two largest sources of fiber in the diet (how sad is that?!).
Dietary fibers are found naturally in the plants that we eat. They are parts of plant that do not break down in our stomachs, and instead pass through our system undigested. All dietary fibers are either soluble or insoluble. Both types of fiber are equally important for health, digestion, and preventing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, diverticulitis, and constipation.
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Insoluble fiber does not. To some degree these differences determine how each fiber functions in the body and benefits your health.
Soluble fibers attract water and form a gel, which slows down digestion. Soluble fiber delays the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel full, which helps control weight. Slower stomach emptying may also affect blood sugar levels and have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity, which may help control diabetes. Soluble fibers can also help lower LDL (“bad”) blood cholesterol by interfering with the absorption of dietary cholesterol.
● Sources of soluble fiber: oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, and zucchini.
Insoluble fibers are considered guthealthy fiber because they have a laxative effect and add bulk to the diet, helping prevent constipation. These fibers do not dissolve in water, so they pass through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact, and speed up the passage of food and waste through your gut. Insoluble fibers are mainly found in whole grains and vegetables.
● Sources of insoluble fiber: whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, fruit, and root vegetable skins.