We all hear that we need more fiber in our diets and so we try to eat more beans and whole grains. But, there seems to be an overall lack of understanding about what fiber is and what it does.
Fiber is a non-digestible material found in the plant-based foods we eat. Because our bodies don't break fiber down, it helps in a variety of digestive functions. What those functions are and how they are beneficial to our health depends on if we're talking about soluble or insoluble fiber.
Soluble vs. insoluble Fiber
Soluble fiber is fiber that dissolves in water. In the stomach, soluble fiber draws in water and creates a gel-like substance that slows down digestion and keeps you feeling full longer, thereby helping with weight regulation. Some types of soluble fiber may slow absorption of dietary cholesterol, which could lower LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber also slows the absorption of sugar and can help control diabetes.
Soluble fibers are found in:
- Grains – oatmeal, oat bran, barley
- Legumes – black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, lentils, dried peas
- Vegetables – cucumbers, celery, carrots, Brussels sprouts, turnips, sweet potatoes, asparagus
- Fruit – apricots, apples, grapefruit, mangoes, pears, strawberries, oranges
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Instead, because it remains intact, it helps food and waste pass quickly through the digestive system. This helps regulate bowel movements and prevents constipation.
Insoluble fibers are found in:
- Grains – bran, amaranth, whole-wheat
- Legumes – lima beans
- Vegetables – cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, onions, bell peppers
- Fruit – dates, prunes, apple skins
Fiber is a mandatory label nutrient and the current Daily Value for fiber on Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts panels is 25 grams for adults. In the FDA’s proposed nutrition labeling changes, a new definition of fiber is being considered.
Any changes will of course be reflected in our Genesis R&D Food Analysis & Labeling software.