Consuming dietary fiber is an important part of eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight. Fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body can't digest or absorb very well. There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble; both play an important role in improving and maintaining your health. It is recommended that adults consume 20-38 grams of fiber per day. Most Americans consume half that amount, so read your food labels to make sure you're getting adequate amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber.
What is Soluble Fiber?
Soluble fiber is a type of dietary fiber that is found in plants. It attracts to and dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance during digestion. This process helps slow digestion, a key ingredient to making you feel fuller longer.
One of the most important benefits to consuming soluble fiber is that it has been proven to decrease cholesterol, which helps prevent heart disease. Soluble fiber has also been shown to help lower your blood sugar levels, which is important for people with diabetes.
Oats, oat bran, oatmeal, barley, psyllium, flaxseed, peas, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, citrus fruits, strawberries, and apples all contain significant amounts of soluble fiber. Try to eat the skins of the fruits when possible since that's where high amounts of fiber are found.
What is Insoluble Fiber?
Insoluble fiber is also a dietary fiber, but unlike soluble fiber it doesn't dissolve in water. It's the fiber that adds bulk to your stool and speeds up the passage of food through your stomach and intestines.
Insoluble fiber can decrease constipation since it speeds up the digestive process and helps keep you regular. Consuming adequate amounts of insoluble fiber has been associated with a lower risk of developing type II diabetes.
Whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, nuts, and vegetables all contain high amounts of insoluble fiber. As with fruits, when eating vegetables try to eat the skins when possible.
Benefits of Getting Enough Fiber in Your Diet
In addition to helping lower cholesterol, decreasing heart disease, improving blood sugar levels, and decreasing constipation, eating a high fiber diet has been shown to aid in weight loss for several reasons. High-fiber foods are generally healthier and have fewer calories per volume of food. Since fiber slows digestion, you'll feel fuller and satisfied longer. Foods that are high in fiber also typically require a longer chewing time which means you'll eat slower and are less likely to overeat.
Fiber supplementation has been used for people who don't consume enough fiber through diet alone. Psyllium (a soluble fiber) has been used in fiber supplements such as Metamucil and Konsyl. When taking a fiber supplement make sure to drink plenty of water. Talk to your doctor before you start taking a fiber supplement, especially if you're pregnant or nursing. A high fiber diet is preferred over supplementation in most cases, but talk to your doctor to determine the best choice for you. If you want to keep track of your daily fiber intake, try using the nutritional tracking system at FitDay.com.