Dietary fiber does more than relieve constipation. Eating fiber can also lower the risk of diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease, and it can help you stay at a healthy weight. Learn about the different kinds of dietary fiber and the importance of fiber in your diet as part of maintaining overall health.
Soluble vs. Non-Soluble Fiber
Fiber, also known as roughage, is found in vegetables, grains, nuts, and some fruits. There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and non-soluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and turns into a kind of gel. It can lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Non-soluble (or insoluble) fiber doesn’t dissolve, passing through your digestive system relatively unchanged. Insoluble fiber helps food move through the digestive tract, adds bulk to stool, and relieves constipation. Sources of soluble fiber include apples and citrus fruits, oats, peas, beans, and barley as well as carrots. You can find insoluble fiber in whole wheat, nuts, potatoes, and cauliflower. Fiber also nourishes the “good bacteria” in the gut, promoting gut health and alleviating some gastrointestinal disorders.
Health Effects of Fiber in the Diet
Eating the daily recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber helps with several health conditions. Fiber makes the person consuming it feel fuller and eat less, leading to weight loss. Studies have shown that fiber intake influences heart health, reducing blood pressure and staving off heart disease. Fiber is also important because it slows the absorption of sugar and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. Fiber can also reduce the risk of breast cancer, especially if enough is consumed in adolescence and young adulthood.
If your physician has told you you’re at risk of developing diabetes or related disorders, they may recommend that you see a specialist. Dr. Philip Rabito is an endocrinologist on the Upper East Side in New York City who can help patients with weight loss, diabetes prevention and treatment, and hormonal disorders.