Insoluble fiber is undigested and not absorbed into the bloodstream. Insoluble fiber passes through our intestines largely intact.The primary functions of insoluble fiber include:
- Moving bulk through the intestines
- Controlling and balance the pH (acidity) in the intestines
Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid. Soluble fiber is not digested and therefore is not absorbed into the bloodstream. Instead of being used for energy, soluble fiber is excreted from our bodies. The primary functions of soluble fiber includes:
- binding with fatty acids
- lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the Bad cholesterol)
- prolonging stomach emptying time.
Fiber Health Benefits
- Lowers cholesterol. Fiber also helps transport cholesterol out of the body, reducing the risk for heart disease.
- Lowers blood sugar levels. Fiber stabilizes blood sugar level, reducing the risk for diabetes.
- Reduces the risk to many diseases. Fiber helps to keep our bowel movements regular and ward off certain diseases.
- Improves quality of life. By keeping the bowel movements regular fiber helps prevents constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.
- Reduces the risk to cancer. Fiber helps move toxins through the colon. The more quickly these toxins move through the body, the less rick there is for developing certain cancers. Because carcinogens in our intestines bind to fiber it is believed that by adding fiber to our diets there is a reduced risk for developing colon cancer.
- Helps with weight control. Fiber makes us feel full sooner and stays in our stomach longer than other substances we eat, slowing down our rate of digestion and keeping us feeling full longer. Fiber also moves fat through our digestive system faster so that less of it is absorbed.This makes fiber an important part of any weight loss program.
Recommended Amount of Fiber
The recommended intake of fiber is 25g per day. If you eat at least 5 servings of fruits & vegetables as well as at least 6 servings of grain products per day (at least 3 of which are whole grains), you are very likely meeting the fiber requirements.
How to Increase Your Intake of Fiber
To increase your intake of fiber, eat more whole and natural foods, and fewer processed foods. Some good examples of fiber-rich foods include:
- Legumes (lentils, dry beans and peas)
- Vegetables such as green beans and dark green leafy vegetables
- Fruit skins and root vegetable skins
- Fruits (see below)
- Brown rice
- Whole grains (wheat, oats, barley)
Choosing the Right Type of Fiber
When making a food choice decision, don't worry about choosing a specific type of fiber. Many foods such as oat, oat brans, flax seed and psyllium husk are rich in both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Just focus on getting enough total fiber and you will be fine.
Important Notes about Fiber
Adding more fiber to your diet will likely help you lose weight and improve your health, but do it gradually. Rapid increases in consumption of fiber may result in gas or diarrhea.
And be sure to drink plenty of fluids when adding fiber to your diet. While fiber is normally helpful to your digestive system, without adequate fluids it can cause constipation instead of helping to eliminate it.