Both types of fiber -- soluble and insoluble -- have numerous benefits. Insoluble fiber primarily stays intact, pushing out waste and keeping you regular. Soluble fiber forms a gel in your gut, and as it passes, it slows the absorption of sugar, keeping your blood sugar stable. It also binds with some of the excess cholesterol in your body, bringing your total cholesterol down. Because soluble fiber is so helpful if you have diabetes or high cholesterol, you might want more of it in your diet.
Soluble Fiber Recommendation
Soluble fiber doesn’t have an exact set recommendation; rather, it’s part of the overall fiber requirement you need on a daily basis. If you have even 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day -- it can lower your level of low-density lipoproteins -- the bad cholesterol that hardens arteries, by as much as 5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Total Fiber Needs
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine assembled an adequate intake, or AI, for total fiber. Adult men should get 30 to 38 grams of fiber each day, while adult women need 21 to 25 grams. During pregnancy and while nursing, however, you should get 28 to 29 grams of total fiber daily. This basic recommendation may be too much or too little, depending on your diet. You can calculate your fiber needs if you know your typical daily caloric intake. For every 1,000 calories, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 states that you need 14 grams of fiber. That’s 28 grams a day for a 2,000-calorie diet, for example. These fiber recommendations group soluble and insoluble fiber together, giving you a single fiber recommendation.
Where to Get It
Most fiber-containing foods have both soluble and insoluble fiber, although some foods are particularly rich in soluble fiber. In general, fresh fruits, oats, beans and some vegetables have lots of soluble fiber. A small orange gives you nearly 3 grams of total fiber, with 1.8 of those grams in the form of soluble fiber. If you prefer a sweeter fruit, dice up half a mango. You’ll get nearly 3 grams of total fiber, with 1.7 grams of that amount stemming from soluble fiber. More than half of the fiber in oatmeal is soluble -- you’ll get 2.7 grams of total fiber from one-third cup of dry oats. One-half cup of cooked black, navy or pinto beans each contain more than 6 grams of total fiber, with 1.4 to 2.4 of the overall fiber being soluble.
Take Your Time
If you’re not used to getting a lot of fiber in your diet, you’ll need to work your way slowly up to your recommendation. Soluble fiber ferments a bit with the help of healthy bacteria in your gut. As a result, it can create gas as a side effect. You may feel bloated and experience flatulence if you eat something high in soluble fiber, until your body gets used to it. Constipation or diarrhea are other effects that can occur when you increase your fiber intake too quickly. Instead, add only one extra serving per day, such as with a piece of whole fruit or side of beans. Every few days, add another high-fiber food to your meals, to enable your body time to adjust. You’ll be less likely to suffer from uncomfortable problems.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fiber
- Harvard Medical School: Fiber Content of Foods in Common Portions
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC