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What Is the Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?

Fiber May Sound Boring, but the Right Type Can Help You Lose Fat and Manage Your Weight

Photographer: Jae Payne

If you thought fiber only matters when you're older, think again. It turns out most people don't get enough fiber in their diets and as a result are missing out on all of the benefits fiber has to offer. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is found in plant foods like broccoli, avocados, and beans. A diet high in fiber not only promotes intestinal regularity, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. There are two types of fiber, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, and here's what you need to know about each of them.

What Is Soluble Fiber?

Soluble fiber is found in a variety of foods like beans, peas, fruits, oats, nuts, and vegetables. Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and gastrointestinal fluids, and once it's in the stomach and intestines, it turns into a gel-like substance. Soluble fibers interfere with dietary fat and cholesterol absorption, which can help with with weight management. Because soluble fiber reduces cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and decreases fat absorption, it may help reduce heart disease.

What Is Insoluble Fiber?

Insoluble fiber is what allows you to have a bowel movement without straining. Because it's indigestible, insoluble fiber sits in the gastrointestinal tract, absorbs fluid, and sticks to other byproducts that are ready to become stool. Eating insoluble fiber helps to prevent gastrointestinal blockage and constipation. Insoluble fiber is found in fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, wheat bran, and whole grain foods.

What's the Best Type of Fiber For Weight Loss?

If you're trying to lose weight, eating foods that have soluble fiber in them will help block fat absorption. A diet that consists of whole, minimally processed foods is typically recommended to improve your overall health, but make sure to always speak to your doctor before making any dietary changes.

How Much Fiber Do I Need?

A 2008 study found that the average American's daily fiber intake was only 16 grams a day. According to the most current US Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines, adult men require approximately 34 grams of fiber a day (contingent upon age, see table A7-1), and adult women require about 28 grams a day (contingent upon age, see table A7-1). Be sure to increase your daily water intake as your fiber intake goes up to prevent constipation and enhance the effects of high fiber.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne
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