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What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?

December 9, 2018

Whenever we’re having trouble with constipation, we’re reminded of the importance of incorporating fiber into our diet. Fiber is also known to facilitate weight loss. But did you know that there are two distinct categories of fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber? These two categories do not play the same role in our bodies.

Soluble fiber: for heart health
Water soluble fiber includes pectin and mucilage, among other things. When they come into contact with water, they become viscous and facilitate the sliding of residues. In other words, they form a gel in the body. For this reason, they decrease the absorption of fats, bad blood cholesterol and triglycerides. They therefore help prevent cardiovascular disease.

In addition, they slow the absorption of carbohydrates and stop the rise in blood sugar levels, an important asset in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. However, they stimulate the intestines less than insoluble fibers, but still prevent diarrhea and promote the balance of intestinal flora. In addition, by slowing down digestion, they prolong the feeling of satiety and help to better control weight.
To maximise the benefits, it is important to consume this fiber with plenty of water.
The majority of foods high in fiber contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Fruits rich in pectin such as apples, pears, oranges, grapefruits and strawberries are a good source of soluble fiber. If you prefer vegetables, it’s abundant in asparagus, beans, brussels sprouts and carrots. Legumes, oat bran, barley, psyllium, flax seeds and chia seeds also contain soluble fiber.

Insoluble fiber for gut health
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. In fact, it absorbs water and increases in volume as it moves through the digestive system, helping to fight constipation. The best-known components are lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose. They speed up intestinal transit and help control appetite and weight. They prevent constipation and help the bowel function properly. They increase the elimination of carcinogenic substances and prevent certain digestive and colorectal cancers. However, they do not have the same virtues as soluble fiber in preventing cardiovascular disease.
Insoluble fiber is found in the skins and peels of fruits and vegetables, in wheat bran, in whole grain products, certain legumes (kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas), and seeds.

Soluble or insoluble?
Soluble or insoluble: which one is better? First, it should be emphasized that both categories of fiber are necessary for good health. In summary, soluble fiber can help prevent cardiovascular disease while insoluble fiber supports a healthy digestive system. It is therefore suggested to consume both categories of fiber, which often, interestingly, are found in the same food.
However, it should be noted that in cases of irritable bowel syndrome, insoluble fiber should be avoided, as it stimulates intestinal contractions and may be irritating. Foods that cause gas and bloating, such as legumes and crucifers, should also be avoided. In this case, it’s better to stick to soluble fibers which are gentle on the intestine. Finally, it is better to eat cooked vegetables since the soft fibers are less irritating to the gut.

What about psyllium powder?
Some people who need extra fiber turn to psyllium powder since it’s easy to add to dishes. Psyllium absorbs toxins as it passes through the digestive system and removes them from the body.
Remember to drink plenty of water, because psyllium needs a good amount of fluid to be effective. (Source: Le monde au naturel, Nov / Dec 2016)

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