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Soluble Fiber vs Insoluble Fiber - Here's What You Need to Know

Fiber, a vital micronutrient, is indispensable in maintaining your overall health. This essential dietary component is divided into two distinct categories: soluble and insoluble fiber, determined by their solubility in water. These two fiber types serve unique functions but collaboratively support numerous crucial bodily processes. Understanding the dynamic interplay of these fiber varieties is essential for optimizing your well-being. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at fiber, unravel the disparities between soluble and insoluble fiber, discover the sources to incorporate into your diet, and gain insights into their respective importance in promoting a healthier you.  

Fiber

Fiber is a crucial component of a healthy diet, which is fundamental in maintaining overall well-being. It is a carbohydrate found in plant-based foods that the human body cannot digest or absorb, but it serves numerous essential functions. Some common high-fiber foods include fruits (especially the ones with edible peel), vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.  

One of its key roles is promoting digestive health. Fiber adds bulk to stool, which aids in regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. It also supports a healthy gut by nourishing beneficial gut bacteria, contributing to a balanced and thriving microbiome. 

Soluble Fiber  

Soluble fiber, as the name suggests, dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. This substance travels down the GI tract, where the gut microbiota ferments it to support their growth.  

Sources of soluble fiber  

  • Flaxseeds  
  • Passion fruit 
  • Apples 
  • Peaches  
  • Corn  
  • Kidney beans  
  • Tofu and tempeh  
  • Sweet potato  
  • Broccoli  

Benefits of soluble fiber  

  • Supports the growth of gut flora 

    Within your gut resides a vast community of millions of beneficial bacteria, actively involved in a spectrum of vital functions ranging from bolstering your immune system to facilitating the digestion process. Just like any other living organism, these gut bacteria require food for their survival. Soluble fiber, in this context, acts as a prebiotic—a nourishing source for these microorganisms. The bacteria can ferment soluble fiber, effectively utilizing it as their primary food source. This intricate process of fermentation is paramount to their continued existence and the harmonious functioning of your gut ecosystem. While it's true that some individuals may experience occasional bloating as a result of this fermentation, it's important to emphasize that, in the broader context of gut health, this ongoing symbiotic relationship between soluble fiber and gut bacteria is a profoundly beneficial and integral process. 
  • Stabilizes blood sugar levels

    Fiber stabilizes blood sugar levels by slowing the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, creating a gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream, thus preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar after meals. Additionally, fiber-rich foods typically have a lower glycemic index, leading to a more controlled increase in blood sugar.  
  • Improves satiety, thus reducing the calorie intake 

    Soluble fiber can absorb water and form a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. This gel expands in your stomach, creating a feeling of fullness and satiety. As a result, you're likely to eat less and consume fewer calories, which can support weight loss efforts by reducing overall calorie intake. 

Insoluble fiber  

Insoluble fiber is dietary fiber that does not dissolve in water. It is found in the cell walls of plants, particularly in the outer skins of grains, fruits, and vegetables. Unlike soluble fiber, which forms a gel-like substance when mixed with water, insoluble fiber retains its structure and doesn't absorb water. It has a different role—adding bulk to the stool and pushing it out of your system.  

Sources of insoluble fiber  

  • Wheat bran  
  • Oat bran 
  • Flaxseeds  
  • Berries  
  • Kidney beans  
  • Grema peas 
  • Okra 
  • Spinach  
  • Coconut  

Benefits of insoluble fiber  

  • Prevent constipation 

    Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool, which can help prevent and alleviate constipation by promoting regular bowel movements. It provides a laxative effect by speeding up the passage of food through the digestive tract. 
  • Reduces cravings 

    Insoluble fiber induces a feeling of fullness, which helps you crave less for mid-meal snacks. Overcoming these cravings is what most people find difficult when reducing their weight.  
  • Adds no calories 

    Dietary fiber has zero calories, making it a perfect choice for weight-loss enthusiasts. It is a win-win situation. You feel full, but you’re also adding fewer calories to your body.  

Which fiber is more important for you? 

So, which type of fiber is better for you? Both are equally important; one helps you care for your gut, while the other improves digestion and relieves constipation. Both are equally helpful in reducing weight. Hence, you must eat a lot of raw veggies like cucumbers, carrots, etc., to increase your fiber intake.  

How to increase fiber intake in your diet 

Dietary fiber supplements 

The most efficient way to ensure proper fiber intake in your diet is through insoluble and soluble fiber supplements. Having daily fiber supplements ensures that your body gets the amount of fiber it needs in a day. It can help you stay full during long working hours and also help you lose weight.  

Have some flaxseeds every day 

Flaxseeds are a good source of dietary fiber, and they also contain omega-3 fatty acids. Having about a spoonful of flaxseeds every day can help you take care of your gut while also preventing digestion.  

Go for whole-grain bread instead of white bread  

If you frequently have bread, you should skip regular white bread and switch to multigrain bread.  

Always have a fair portion of salad on your plate  

You need to have a good portion of raw salad and veggies on your plate. For easier understanding, you can divide your meal plate into four parts. Fill 1 part of the plate with raw salad and 1 with some veggies dish.  

Wrapping up  

While not digested, fiber plays a pivotal role as a vital macronutrient. It enhances stool bulk, fosters satiety, reduces caloric intake, acts as a prebiotic to nourish gut health, and maintains stable blood glucose levels. Embracing this remarkable nutrient is your gateway to a healthier, more vibrant lifestyle. 

References:  

https://draxe.com/nutrition/soluble-fiber-foods/ 

https://draxe.com/nutrition/insoluble-fiber/ 

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/#:~:text=Soluble%20fiber%20attracts%20water%20in,risk%20of%20developing%20heart%20disease. 

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/147323000903700101 

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/whats-the-difference-between-soluble-and-insoluble-fiber/ 

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