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Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

Soluble vs Insoluble Fiber

Fiber, as in dietary fiber, is what doctors usually term as roughage when referring to the patient’s diet. There are two types namely: soluble and insoluble fibers. The primary and perhaps the most obvious difference between them is that soluble fibers are literally soluble (can be dissolved) in liquid or water while insoluble fibers aren’t.

The two are digested differently. Upon the intake of insoluble fibers, it will just pass across the length of the digestive tract and towards the large intestine almost unchanged. This is what others may come to express as ‘what you took in is what you will take out!’ For soluble fibers, these will swell up upon contact with water and with the action of some bacteria from the intestine, these fibers will get fermented and form into fatty acids which have a range of health advantages.

Some of the benefits of soluble fibers are important in slowing down the digestive process. In doing so, they give the body ample time so that the nutrients coming from food will properly be absorbed. It also slows down glucose release into the blood and at the same time delay gastric emptying. This means that one’s glucose level (blood sugar) will become more stable. As mentioned, soluble fibers usually get fermented and become fatty acids. These acids will decrease blood cholesterol specifically the low density lipoprotein (LDL) which is popularly known as the bad cholesterol. As a result, the person who takes in soluble fiber-rich foods frequently will have a reduced risk for cardiovascular diseases. On top of these, soluble fibers are also beneficial for the maintenance of colon health.

Insoluble fibers are equally good but have a different mechanism of action. They tend to speed up food movement from the stomach to the intestine. Because its form is technically unchanged during the entire digestive process, insoluble fibers provide additional bulk to the stool creating well formed feces. Aside from such, it aids in retaining more water to the stool thus making it softer. The overall result of these actions will make the stool easier to pass thereby reducing the chances of constipation. Other than its bowel cleansing action, insoluble fibers also retain the natural pH of one’s digestive tract. In so doing, diverticulitis, colon cancer and hemorrhoids are prevented.

The two are also known with their alternative names. Soluble fibers can also be called pectin while insoluble fibers are termed cellulose or lignins. One can get soluble fiber from eating oats, legumes, citrus fruits and other veggies while insoluble fibers are usually derived from whole grains, wheat, corn bran and vegetables like celery among many others.

1. Soluble fibers can be dissolved in water unlike insoluble fibers.

2. Soluble fibers improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels while insoluble fibers add more bulk to the stool preventing constipation.


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