The two different forms of fiber are soluble and insoluble. Each plays an important role in digestion and disease prevention, according to MedlinePlus. Unlike insoluble fiber that quickly passes through the digestive tract and bulks up the stool, the soluble type attracts water to form a gel during digestion, thereby slowing the process. Eating whole grains, seeds, nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables can deliver adequate amounts of soluble fiber to your diet to garner several benefits.
A diet low in soluble fiber causes dietary cholesterol and bile to reabsorb into the liver for reuse, according to Mary Grosvenor and Lori Smolin in the book "Visualizing Nutrition: Everyday Choices." Alternately, a diet rich in soluble fiber binds cholesterol and bile acids for excretion rather than absorption, resulting in an overall lower body cholesterol. When cholesterol persistently absorbs it can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, arterial hardening, heart attack, coronary disease and stroke, the authors note.
Control Blood Glucose
Diabetics can benefit from eating foods high in soluble fiber, as it helps to slow the emptying of the stomach and prevent instant spikes in blood glucose levels, Charlette Gallagher and John Allred say in their book "Taking the Fear Out of Eating." Obese type 2 diabetics can particularly benefit from this type of fiber, as it can help you feel fuller longer for lower caloric intake and promote weight loss for better control of blood sugar. Nonetheless, if you're a diabetic, you should not self-prescribe a high-fiber diet. Instead, speak with your physician to avoid any complications.
Soluble fiber can also help relieve inflammatory bowel conditions, diarrhea and constipation, according to Nicolette Dumke in the book "Easy Breadmaking for Special Diets." Although those with inflammatory bowel disease may need to regulate fiber consumption, if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, constipation or diarrhea, soluble fiber can act as a regulator. For example, if you have diarrhea the gel formation of soluble fiber helps to add bulk to avoid watery stool, while acting more on its liquid nature to relieve hardened and difficult bowel movements. The author also notes that soluble fiber ferments in the colon, increasing the flora of beneficial bacteria in the colon.
- MedlinePlus: Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber
- "Visualizing Nutrition: Everyday Choices"; Mary Grosvenor and Lori Smolin; 2009
- "Taking the Fear Out of Eating"; Charlette Gallagher and John Allred; 2002
- "Easy Breadmaking for Special Diets"; Nicolette Dumke; 2006