We all heard about the importance of fiber for our digestion and health, but did you know there are different kinds of fiber that play distinct roles and have varying effects on your health?
Studies have shown that the average American consumes 15 grams/day, compared to the recommended 25 or 38 grams/day for women and men, respectively.
Also, researchers say that diets high in fiber protect us from diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even certain types of cancer. Besides dietary fibers, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains — also contain other nutrients including vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that benefit our health.
The difference between soluble and insoluble fibers
Did you know there are two main types of fiber? They are called soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber attracts water and can dissolve in it. It forms a “jelly-like” substance in your small intestine, slowing digestion and helping to keep you full longer. Soluble fiber can also be great for helping to lower cholesterol, by increasing the rate of bile excretion
Insoluble fiber is better known for its effect on helping with bowel consistency. Insoluble fibers, like those found in wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains, contribute bulk to help foods pass more quickly through the digestive system.
Researches have revealed that legumes and certain fruits and vegetables, can lower total and LDL cholesterol while also reducing the risk of heart disease.
It is recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program Expert Panel to consume 10–25 grams of soluble fiber per day to help lower blood cholesterol.
The difference between natural and added fiber
The fibers found in foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cereal bran and flours are called natural fibers. Usually, the fibers found in cereals, bars, etc. are added fibers. Adding isolated fiber to products doesn’t account for the nutritional deficiencies and phytochemicals that may be lacking compared to sources of natural fiber, argue the critics.
The definition of dietary fiber was recently changed: added fiber can be listed as dietary fiber on food labels only if they met the “beneficial physiological effect to human health” criterion.
Carbohydrates that currently meet the existing dietary fiber definition: psyllium husk, cellulose, guar gum, pectin, locust bean gum and hydroxypropyl methylcellulose.
A protein bar with added fiber may contribute to your daily fiber intake, yet whether that fiber has the same health-promoting properties as those found in a pear remains questionable. The natural fiber in the pear would be absorbed with intact synergistic minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals.
If you want to increase the number of eaten fibers, do it gradually. It is recommended you add about 5 grams per day, accompanied by plenty of water, to avoid digestive discomfort.