Dietary fiber is an indigestible component of many common foods such as vegetables, grains and fruits. A high fiber diet may help maintain health, prevent constipation or irregularity, and it can be an important part of a weight loss program. Medline Plus states that it is important to drink lots of water to gain the full benefit of fiber in the diet.
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Types of Fiber
There are two types of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble. As their names suggest, soluble fiber dissolves in water, while insoluble fiber does not. Both types are very beneficial. Insoluble fiber provides bulk to a meal and moves the digestive products through the gastrointestinal tract more quickly. It increases the amount of stool, promotes regularity and prevents constipation. Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with water. It slows digestion and, according to Medline Plus, it helps to lower cholesterol and may lessen the risk of heart disease.
Soluble Fiber Supplements
The most popular form of soluble fiber is psyllium, made from the husks of Plantago seeds. Metamucil and Konsyl are brands of powdered supplements that may be added to water, juices or other liquids. Rice bran also contains lots of soluble fiber and it may be added to cereal or other foods.
Insoluble Fiber Supplements
The most common form of insoluble fiber in supplement form is wheat or oat bran. The bran portion of a grain is its outer, hard husk that is often removed when the grain is used to produce breads and other foods. It is packaged and sold separately, and may be sprinkled over cereals or other foods.
Many different foods contain either soluble or insoluble fiber, or both. According to Vitamins To Health, foods such as brown rice, quinoa, nuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds, crunchy vegetables and many fruits with skin like apples are high in insoluble fiber. Whole grain pasta and breads are also good sources of insoluble fiber. Many fruits and vegetables are also good sources of soluble fiber, including peas, kidney and lima beans, bananas and oranges.
If a person adds too much fiber to the diet too quickly, some side effects may occur. These include intestinal gas, abdominal cramps or a sense of bloating. MayoClinic.com recommends adding fiber to the diet slowly, so that the gastrointestinal system has time to adjust its function to the change.