It’s well known that a high fiber diet can provide a host of benefits, including improved regularity and immune health. However, few may know that there is more than one type of fiber and that each type affects the body and digestive system differently.
“Manufactured fiber” often refers to fiber that has been isolated from sources other than fruits, vegetable, and grains. Manufactured fiber characteristically “[lacks] the nutrients and phytochemicals that come with the fiber found in whole foods.”1 This nondigestible fiber can be added to foods that lack fiber and can help improve bowel function.
Natural fiber is fiber that can be found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and grains. This dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is now classified as one of the six major nutrients.2 Research is ongoing to further explore its benefits, including improvement in digestion, reduced risk of certain diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and colon cancer, and weight loss or management.
Insoluble fiber helps promote the movement of material through the digestive system. This fiber is beneficial to those who struggle with irregularity or constipation by promoting normal laxation.
Soluble dietary fiber is found in foods such as oats, beans, citrus, apples, and carrots. This type of fiber dissolves in water. Some soluble fibers have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels and may help in reducing blood pressure and inflammation.3 They may also slow the absorption of sugar, thereby helping to regulate blood sugar levels. The latter can aid in reducing the risk of gallstones and kidney stones and help people suffering from diabetes. Further, some soluble fiber can help:
- Maintain cardiovascular health
- Maintain gut health
- Maintain healthy blood sugar levels
1 Diabetes Self-Management. Functional Fibers. Diabetes Self-Management website. https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/nutrition-exercise/nutrition/just-add-fiber/functional-fibers/, May 3, 2011. Updated May 6, 2011. Accessed September 5, 2018.
2 Megazyme. Dietary Fiber Health Benefits. Megazyme website. https://www.megazyme.com/technical-support/dietary-fiber/dietary-fiber-health-benefits. Accessed September 5, 2018.
3 Mayo Clinic Staff. Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet. Mayo Clinic website. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983. September 22, 2015. Accessed September 5, 2018.