Note: this post has been updated in February 2022.
Types of dietary Fiber, and how much do you need?
Understanding distinct types of dietary fiber
People who care about nutrition talk a lot about fiber – and for good reasons! It’s one of the most necessary pieces of your diet, and the average person gets far less than they need for optimum health and energy. Do you know what fiber is and why you need it? This is a great explanation of why fiber matters for a healthy lifestyle, and how to get a little extra each day.
Fiber is the Clark Kent of the nutrition world. Hiding in there is Superman with amazing superpowers! This disease-fighting powerhouse can reduce your risk of developing cancer and diabetes, cut food cravings, lower cholesterol, and reduce arthritis risk. And it can help you live longer, too! Listen to the podcast called Everything You Need to Know About Fiber
Fiber is the Clark Kent of the nutrition world. Hiding in there is Superman with amazing super powers! This disease-fighting powerhouse can reduce your risk of developing cancer and diabetes, cut food cravings, lower cholesterol, and reduce arthritis risk. And it can help you live longer, too! Listen to the podcast called Everything You Need to Know About Fiber
Simply put, dietary fiber is the structural component of plant foods, so it’s found in vegetables, whole fruits, beans, and grains (like corn or brown rice) – there’s no fiber in meats, fish, or poultry.
The average American falls far short of meeting the fiber recommendation of 25-30 grams a day. In fact, most of us only eat about ten grams a day, which means we may be missing the health benefits of dietary fiber. Fiber, of course, helps move the digestive process along, but high fiber foods also provide the sensation of fullness, so they help with hunger control. And certain fibers also support the growth of friendly bacteria in your digestive tract.
If you don’t eat as much dietary fiber as you should, it’s best to increase the amount you eat gradually over a few weeks. Adding too much fiber to the diet in a brief period of time might lead to abdominal discomfort and gas, so take it slowly to allow your system time to adjust. Also, drink plenty of liquid to allow the fiber to soften and swell.
Tips for Increasing Dietary Fiber Intake
- Eat whole fruits with skin more often than fruit juices
- Use whole fruit as a dessert
- Eat a variety of whole vegetables – cooked and raw – and eat them freely
- Use 100% whole grain breads, waffles, cereals, rolls, English muffins and crackers instead of those made with refined white flour
- Use corn tortillas rather than flour
- Use brown rice, wild rice, millet, barley, and cracked wheat as alternatives to white rice
- Add beans to main dish soups, stews, chili, or salads
- If you have trouble meeting your fiber intake, you can use fiber supplements. But remember that fiber supplements don’t replace the healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that you should be consuming.
Soluble vs Insoluble Fiber
References to fiber often come with the words “soluble” and “insoluble” but what do they mean? And how will they affect your body and health? It’s a simple but significant difference between them. See Healthline What’s the Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?
The solubility of fiber refers to its ability to dissolve in water.
Based on this, fiber has often been categorized as either soluble or insoluble:
- Soluble fiber blends with water in the gut, forming a gel-like substance. It can reduce blood sugar spikes, and has various metabolic health benefits.
- Insoluble fiber does not blend with the water and passes through the digestive system mostly intact. It functions mostly as a “bulking” agent, and may help speed the passage of food and waste through your gut.
Soluble fibers include gums, pectins, psyllium, beta-glucans and others. Insoluble fibers include lignin and cellulose.
Different plant foods have varying proportions of soluble and insoluble fibers.
Bottom Line: Fiber is often categorized based on its ability to dissolve in water. Soluble fiber has various benefits for metabolic health, while insoluble fiber functions mostly as a bulking agent.
BONUS: Viscous Fiber
Some types of soluble fibers form a thick gel when they blend with water. These are known as viscous fibers.
Put simply, the viscosity of a fluid refers to its “thickness.” For example, honey is more viscous than water.
When you eat viscous fiber, it forms a gel-like substance that “sits” in the gut.
This slows down the digestion and absorption of nutrients, resulting in a prolonged feeling of fullness and reduced appetite.
A review of 44 studies on fiber treatments found that only viscous fibers reduced food intake and caused weight loss.
Viscous fibers include glucomannan, beta-glucans, pectins, guar gum and psyllium. Good whole-food sources include legumes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, oats and flax seeds.
Bottom Line: Viscous fibers form a gel-like substance that sits in the gut, leading to enhanced feelings of fullness, reduced appetite, and weight loss.
Do you get enough dietary fiber in your diet?
The solution may be as simple as to eat more pant-based whole foods in your diet. Do you see any of the ideas above that you might try to work into your daily routine so you will get more fiber remembering the types of dietary fiber?
Science confirms that a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods can help you live to the fullest. In fact, a growing number of physicians advocate a completely plant-based diet for many of their patients who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
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