What are the different types of fiber, and how do they differ in terms of health benefits?

June 19, 2023 2 min read

What are the different types of fiber, and how do they differ in terms of health benefits?

There are two main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both types are important for overall health and well-being, but they differ in terms of their specific benefits and how they affect the body. Here are some of the key differences:

  1. Soluble fiber:
  • Absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract, which can slow down digestion and help you feel full longer.
  • Fermented by gut bacteria, which produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that provide energy for the cells that line the colon.
  • Can help lower blood cholesterol levels by binding to bile acids, which are involved in cholesterol metabolism.
  • Found in foods such as oats, barley, legumes, apples, citrus fruits, and psyllium husk.
  1. Insoluble fiber:
  • Does not dissolve in water, and instead passes through the digestive tract largely intact.
  • Adds bulk to stool and can help promote regularity and prevent constipation.
  • May help prevent diverticulitis and other gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Found in foods such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, and many vegetables.

In addition to these two types of fiber, there are also some types of "resistant starch" that act like fiber in the body. Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine and travels to the colon, where it is fermented by gut bacteria.

Some additional types of fiber include:

  1. Resistant dextrin:
  • A type of soluble fiber that is derived from corn and wheat starch.
  • Can help reduce postprandial glucose and insulin levels and increase satiety.
  • Found in some processed foods and supplements.
  1. Beta-glucan:
  • A type of soluble fiber that is found in oats and barley.
  • Can help reduce cholesterol levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
  • May have immune-modulating effects.
  1. Inulin – prebiotic fiber:
  • A type of soluble fiber that is found in many plants, including chicory root, onions, and garlic.
  • Fermented by gut bacteria to produce SCFAs.
  • May help improve gut health and reduce inflammation.

It's important to note that different types of fiber can have different effects on the body, and that a diet that is high in a variety of different types of fiber is likely to have the most health benefits.

References:

  1. Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), 1417–1435. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu5041417
  2. Brownawell, A. M., Caers, W., Gibson, G. R., Kendall, C. W. C., Lewis, K. D., Ringel, Y., Slavin, J. L., & Prebiotics Task Force 2017. (2017). Prebiotics in health and disease. Journal of AOAC International, 100(4), 935–945. https://doi.org/10.5740/jaoacint.17-0160
  3. Topping, D. L., & Clifton, P. M. (2001). Short-chain fatty acids and human colonic function: Roles of resistant starch and nonstarch polysaccharides. Physiological Reviews, 81(3), 1031–1064. https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.2001.81.3.1031
  4. McRorie, J. W., & McKeown, N. M. (2017). Understanding the physics of functional fibers in the gastrointestinal tract: An evidence-based approach to resolving enduring misconceptions about insoluble and soluble fiber. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 117(2), 251–264. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.021
  5. Brownlee, I. A., & Turner, C. (2016). The health benefits of dietary fibre. Nutrition Bulletin, 41(3), 238–253. https://doi.org/10.1111/nbu.12222


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