Dietary fiber is the part of plant-based food that mostly passes through your digestive system without breaking down or being digested. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and includes plant pectin and gums. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It includes plant cellulose and hemicellulose.
Most plants contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, but in different amounts. Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and supports many different body systems.
As soluble fiber dissolves, it creates a gel that may improve digestion in a number of ways. Soluble fiber may reduce blood cholesterol and sugar. It helps your body improve blood glucose control, which can aid in reducing your risk for diabetes.
Insoluble fiber attracts water into your stool, making it softer and easier to pass with less strain on your bowel. Insoluble fiber can help promote bowel health and regularity. It also supports insulin sensitivity, and, like soluble fiber, may help reduce your risk for diabetes.
Dietary fiber can do a lot to support gut health, which researchers are increasingly learning plays a role in many health issues throughout your body. The right amount of overall dietary fiber can:
control body weight
control and possibly prevent hypertension
help balance cholesterol levels in blood
regulate bowel movements and prevent hemorrhoids
regulate blood sugar
regulate your body’s satiation signals, which let you know when you are full
lower risk of colon cancer
lower risk of breast cancer
lower risk of diabetes
require more chewing, which slows down your meals and aids digestion
Both soluble and insoluble fiber have their own benefits. Soluble fiber can help improve digestion and lower blood sugar, while insoluble fiber can soften stool, making it easier to pass.
Some examples of fiber:
Wheat bran/Wheat germ
Whole grains (barley, quinoa, sorghum, millet, oatmeal, rye)
Apples and pears with skin
Flaxseeds, sunflower seeds
Important Note: while increasing fiber is key to any healthy diet, you must also increase your water intake to avoid uncomfortable symptoms of gas/bloating/constipation.