What Is The Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?

Soluble and Insoluble FiberWhen answering the question “What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?” one could think of the two types of fiber as cleaning tools.  Just like a person would use a sponge and a broom as tools for cleaning a house, they may be used to clean the digestive tract of the human body.  Soluble fiber is the sponge, whereas insoluble fiber is the broom.  The sponge soaks up all the dirt as it passes through the stomach, intestines and colon; the broom sweeps up what is left and all of the waste is then expunged.

Soluble Fiber vs. Insoluble Fiber

A few fibrous facts are listed below to help show the differences and similarities between the two types:

Soluble Fiber

vs.

Insoluble Fiber

 
Soluble fiber attracts water which turns to a gel like substance during digestion. This slows the digestive process.  Soluble fiber may help to lower cholesterol, and is a weapon in the battle against heart disease. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool.It aids in allowing foods to pass more rapidly through the stomach and intestines.  It helps to keep the colon healthy.
Sources of soluble fiber include:

  • Oatmeal
  • oat bran
  • lentils
  • apples
  • oranges
  • pears
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • beans
  • dried peas
  • cucumbers
  • celery
  • carrots 
Sources of insoluble fiber include:

  • whole wheat and grains
  • seeds
  • bran
  • barley
  • couscous
  • brown rice
  • bulgur
  • zucchini
  • celery
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • onions
  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • green beans
  • grapes and raisins

It is worth noting that many of the vegetables and fruits listed contain both soluble and insoluble fibers.  This is beneficial in that people need a balance of both times to effectively use the tools of the sponge and the broom in cleaning the digestive system.

What is the Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?

For Weight Loss?

While soluble fiber may get the most attention as being more beneficial for weight loss than its counterpart, insoluble fiber, this is not actually the case.  Yes, soluble fiber moves through the intestines and binds with the fatty acids to move them out of one’s system, and it also slows down the absorption of glucose which helps the body’s cells use up its sugar for energy.  However, insoluble fiber gives the feeling of fullness longer.  It helps relieve constipation and balances the acidity in the intestines.

Diabetes Preventative?

A diet high in both soluble and insoluble fiber may just be the perfect prescription to help in the prevention of Type 2 Diabetes.  Research has shown that diets high in fiber help control glucose to aid in keeping blood sugar level under control.  Increasing fiber intake by as little as 10 grams each day may help to thwart this disease from ever developing.  Prevention is the key.

Lower Cholesterol?

One of the best things a person could do is to protect their heart health with exercise and a high fiber diet.  Taking the recommended daily intake of fiber (approximately 25 grams for women and 35 grams for men) has shown to keep cholesterol levels at an acceptable level for the prevention of heart disease.

What Happens To My Body When I Add More Fiber?

When starting a new program to add more fiber to the diet, it is important to keep in mind that a gradual increase is the best way to add bulk.  If someone increases the amount of fiber they consume too quickly, then it could result in bloating, gas, and perhaps diarrhea.  Another thing to watch for is constipation.  If a person adds too much fiber without enough water intake, that could result in constipation.  Drink plenty of water – typically about 16 oz. between meals should be enough to prevent a slowing of the bowel.  Balance between soluble and insoluble fiber being ingested, drinking plenty of water, and introducing the fiber increase slowly will help a person to not only attain better health in the long run, but it will help with the mild discomfort that may accompany a high fiber diet when the person has been on an unhealthy low fiber diet.

What Is The Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fibe - And its Health Benefits

Fiber may be added a little at a time to each meal, or snack.  Instead of salty carbohydrates laden chips, a person could substitute a few almonds or sunflower seeds instead.  Fruit is a great alternative to baked deserts or ice cream sundaes.  Eating whole grain bread rather than white bread will make those fiber grams really add up.  Sneak in the fiber a little and a time and reap the benefits.  For those who try, but still cannot get enough fiber into their diet, there are fiber supplements that may be purchased over the counter at grocery markets, drug stores and discount retail stores.

Two brief items of caution:

  • First, if a person is prone to gas increasing fiber may amplify that propensity. There are OTC products designed to reduce gas caused by fibrous foods.
  • Second, some fibers may cause a choking hazard that may be avoided if they are consumed with plenty of water.

So, insoluble vs. soluble fiber; which one is better?  Again, there is no overall better as the both work to lower cholesterol, increase digestion and help people to keep that full and satisfied feeling longer.  Then, in actuality, it isn’t one against the other at all; soluble and insoluble fiber works best when they work together.

Understanding what is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber is not really as important as just knowing that they are both critical to a person’s health, and that they should be incorporated into a person’s daily meals.  A person who starts to slowly build the intake of high fiber foods will soon be on the path to a more healthful future.