In the list of great debates, soluble fiber vs. insoluble fiber might not be the most exciting, but it’s definitely worth looking at. You’ve all heard that you should get more fiber, but have you heard about the two types of fiber?
Do you know what they’re good for? And do you know what downsides each one can have if you eat too much? Read on for answers to these burning questions about fiber.
Soluble fiber is the type most often recommended for heart health and blood sugar regulation. It binds with fatty acids and slows down the digestion time in your stomach. These factors combine to result in lower cholesterol levels (particularly LDL) and a slower release of sugar into your blood stream.
Soluble fiber absorbs water (hence the name soluble), and forms a jelly-like consistency. If you want to see this at work, put some psyllium husks in a bowl and add some water. It will thicken up in a minute or two.
In a vegan diet plan, you can use this to your advantage as a substitute for eggs in baking. Psyllium or ground flax can be used for binding, and you’ll often see it in vegan baking recipes.
Soluble fiber absorbs so much water that it can actually pull water from the walls of your colon as it passes through. Getting too much soluble fiber, particularly if it goes into your body dry like a cereal, can dehydrate your colon. Your colon needs to be hydrated to work properly, and a big glob of soluble fiber jelly isn’t too conducive to things passing through.
Foods with soluble fiber:
- dried beans/legumes
- some fruits (apples, oranges)
Insoluble fiber is the type in fruits and vegetables, especially their skins. It doesn’t absorb water, and passes through your system pretty quickly, taking other foods along with it. That helps the transit time of food through your digestive tract, which in turn minimizes the opportunity for bad bacteria and cancer-causing toxins to damage your colon. This is also the type of fiber that’s best for relieving constipation.
The downside of insoluble fiber is that it can irritate the walls of your colon. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or any other condition where your colon wall is sensitive, raw vegetables aren’t going to be too friendly. Think of a piece of broccoli rubbing against road rash. For those cases, you can get some softer insoluble fiber by cooking vegetables and eating grains that have been cooked with a lot of water.
Foods with insoluble fiber:
- vegetables, especially leafy greens
- fruit and vegetable skins
- whole grains
- seeds and nuts
If you look at soluble fiber vs. insoluble fiber, they’re both useful and necessary in your body. A lot of foods have a mix of both types. Flax has a good ratio of both types, and psyllium has some insoluble as well. So in the end, it’s not really a debate, it’s cooperation.
Do you think you’re getting enough fiber? Let me know below.