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home > articles > understanding the benefits and types of fiber

Understanding the Benefits and Types of Fiber

Fiber has been long touted as key component to a healthful diet. Not only does it promote health, but fiber also help reduce the risk for some chronic diseases such as: constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. Fiber is also linked to the prevention of some cancers, especially colon and breast cancer. In addition, fiber may help lower the LDL cholesterol therefore reducing the risk of heart disease. Fiber is believed to also lower blood sugar and therefore help better manage diabetes.

But if you have looked carefully at packaging and at nutritional labels, you might come up with another question: What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?

Types of Fiber: Soluble Fiber and Insoluble Fiber

Both soluble and insoluble fiber are undigested and are therefore not absorbed into the bloodstream. Fiber is instead excreted from our bodies. Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber does not. Insoluble fiber passes through our intestines largely intact.

Insoluble Fiber

Functions of Insoluble Fiber:
  • move bulk through the intestines
  • control and balance the pH (acidity) in the intestines
Benefits of Insoluble Fiber:
  • to remove toxic waste through colon more efficiently
  • to promote regular bowel movement and prevent constipation
  • to help prevent colon cancer by keeping an optimal pH in intestines to prevent microbes from producing cancerous substances
Food Sources of Insoluble Fiber:
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit skins and root vegetable skins
  • Whole-wheat products
  • Corn bran
  • Seeds and Nuts
Soluble Fiber

Functions of Soluble Fiber:
  • bind with fatty acids
  • prolong stomach emptying time so that sugar is released and absorbed more slowly
Benefits of Soluble Fiber:
  • lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the Bad cholesterol) therefore reducing the risk of heart disease
  • regulate blood sugar for people with diabetes
Food Sources of Soluble Fiber:
  • Dried beans and legumes
  • Nuts
  • Barley
  • Ground flax seed
  • Oat/Oat bran
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Jeanine Rand
Minnesota, USA

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