You hear it all the time in the media and also from your doctor: Get more fiber. Only plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, contain fiber. You'll get both soluble and insoluble fiber from these foods. While both types of fiber are highly beneficial for your overall health, insoluble fiber has some specific benefits for digestive health.
Aids Bowel Regularity
Insoluble fiber keeps you regular by promoting waste movement through your digestive tract. It acts like a broom and sweeps out waste material. As it moves along, it increases fecal bulk and makes your stools soft and easy to pass. If you suffer from episodes of constipation or irregularity, getting more insoluble fiber in your diet acts as a natural remedy, thereby relieving your symptoms.
Minimizes Risk of Diverticular Disease
Regular movement of waste decreases the chances of developing tiny pouches along the lining of your intestinal tract, a condition known as diverticular disease. Sometimes, the pouches become inflamed, leading to severe abdominal pain. In some cases, blood may appear in your bowel movements. If you notice blood in the toilet, or have other symptoms such as fever or vomiting, make an appointment with your physician.
Promotes Weight Maintenance
Getting more fiber in your diet, especially insoluble fiber-rich foods, can help you maintain your weight. Insoluble fiber is the tough part of plant-based foods that is hard to chew. Think of apple skins, corn kernels, celery or whole wheat bread. These foods--all rich in insoluble fiber--take longer for you to chew. As a result, you'll spend more time chomping on your meal. This gives your stomach plenty of time to signal your brain that you are full. You'll be less likely to overeat, because you fill up sooner.
Recommendation and Food Sources
You need 14 grams of daily fiber for every 1,000 calories in your diet, reports the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. As an example, if you usually follow a 2,000-calorie diet, you should get 28 grams of total fiber from your diet each day. Even though fibrous foods tend to have both insoluble and soluble fiber, some are particularly rich in insoluble fiber. For example, a 1-ounce slice of seedless rye bread has about 1.2 grams of total fiber, of which 0.8 gram is insoluble fiber. A small apple has a total of 2.2 grams of fiber, of which a little more than half is insoluble. Lima beans offer 5.2 grams of fiber, of which 4.2 grams are insoluble.
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet
- Journal of Food Composition and Analysis: Individual Sugars, Soluble, and Insoluble Dietary Fiber Contents of 70 High Consumption Foods
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: What I Need to Know About Diverticular Disease
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.