Soluble fiber is a powerful nutrient you can include in your diet to reduce your risk of heart disease. Use the soluble fiber food chart below to make sure you are eating enough each day!
WHAT IS FIBER?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that's only found in plant foods. While you're not able to actually digest fiber, it works its magic as it travels through your body.
In this article, you’ll learn the difference between the two types of fiber and what you can eat to reap the benefits of soluble fiber in particular. (We'll cover insoluble fiber another time!)
SOLUBLE FIBER VS INSOLUBLE FIBER
Soluble fiber is made up of psyllium, pectins, gums, and mucilage. This fiber dissolves into a gel-like substance in your body. Plants higher in soluble fiber help to decrease blood cholesterol and improve blood sugars.
Insoluble fiber is made of hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin. You can think of insoluble fiber as “roughage”. Insoluble fiber maintains its shape and acts almost like a broom as it travels through the digestive tract. This fiber helps to create bulkier stool and ease constipation.
While all plants have both soluble and insoluble fibers in them, most plants are higher in one or the other.
HOW MUCH FIBER DO YOU NEED?
The recommended dietary fiber intake is 25-35g per day (or 14g/1000 calories eaten). Since we have such a SAD (standard American diet), it's no surprise that the current eating patterns in the United States are not quite up to snuff. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans estimate that 90% of women and 97% of men do not meet the recommended intake for fiber.
In the NHANES 2015-2016 What We Eat in America survey, American adults reported eating an average of 17g of fiber per day.
While we are increasing our intake (2010 data averaged 15g per day), there is quite a bit of room for improvement. As fiber comes from plants, increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is a great start.
Even if you're not ready to commit to a plant-based diet, you'll see the benefits of fiber just by increasing your plant intake.
When it comes to soluble fiber, aiming for 5-10 grams per day can help you see substantial changes in your heart health and risk factors like cholesterol levels.
SOLUBLE FIBER BENEFITS
While insoluble fiber benefits include easing constipation and potentially reducing the risk of colon cancer, soluble fiber has its own important qualities. By eating more soluble fiber, you could experience improvements in blood pressure, higher HDL and lower LDL cholesterol, a reduction in weight, and better managed blood sugars.
LOWER YOUR BLOOD CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
Soluble fiber has the ability to very effectively lower blood cholesterol levels, particularly LDL and total cholesterol. Soluble fiber does this by binding to cholesterol particles during the digestion process.
The cholesterol particles and the soluble fiber are excreted instead of entering the bloodstream. This prevents the cholesterol from forming dangerous plaques in the blood vessels.
STAY FULL LONGER
Soluble fiber’s unique ability to expand after eating can help to stave off hunger pangs shortly after eating. Eating foods higher in soluble fiber increases the volume in your digestive system to keep you fuller longer.
If you often reach for a sugary snack shortly after eating a meal, try increasing the soluble fiber of the meal or including food from the soluble fiber food chart below into your snacks!
IMPROVE BLOOD SUGAR
Fiber is one of the carbohydrates on the nutrition label but is digested much differently than other types of carbs. Soluble fiber helps to slow down the digestion of a meal. As digestion slows, the release of sugar from broken-down carbohydrates into the bloodstream also slows.
WHAT FOODS CONTAIN SOLUBLE FIBER?
Foods higher in soluble fiber include oatmeal, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, as well as many fruits and vegetables.
SOLUBLE FIBER FOOD CHART
Click and print this soluble fiber food chart to help you eat 5-10g of soluble fiber each day. Not only will it help lower cholesterol, improve blood sugars, and help keep you full for longer, it will also help you get your 5-10 fruit and vegetable servings in each day!
Now you know what soluble fiber is, the benefits of soluble fiber, and where to find it! Want more healthy plant-focused eating tips?
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