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Making Sense of Foods

Understanding Fiber: Two Types of Fiber

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. It’s important to have both in your diet, and, luckily, most fiber–rich plant foods contain a mixture of both, although they are not usually differentiated on food labels.

Soluble fiber dissolves or swells when it is put into water. Think of the way oatmeal becomes soft and a bit “gooey” in water, unlike, say, wheat flakes. That softness is a sign that oats are rich in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber reduces cholesterol levels and helps keep blood–sugar levels stable.

Beans, fruits, and oats are especially good sources of soluble fiber. Other examples of soluble fibers include guar gum and locust bean gum, which are found in salad dressings and jams.

Insoluble fiber gets its name from the fact that it does not dissolve in water. Like soluble fiber, it is not readily broken down by the bacteria in your intestinal tract. Insoluble fiber increases fecal bulk and is great for preventing constipation.

All plants, especially vegetables, wheat, wheat bran, rye, and brown rice are full of insoluble fiber.


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