Eating more fiber is a recommendation that many health experts can get behind. And as a registered dietitian, I find myself suggesting that people bump up their fiber intake quite often, as doing so can help support gut health, weight management goals, and a slew of other outcomes.
But, did you know that there are different kinds of fiber? One main fiber category is soluble fiber. If this is news to you and you want to learn more about this unique fiber, as well as which foods are the best sources, keep reading to get all the info.
What Is Soluble Fiber?
You may already know that soluble fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can't digest. It's recommended that adult Americans consume between 25 and 38 grams of this type of carbohydrate every day, depending on their gender.
Soluble Fiber Benefits
As the name implies, soluble fiber is, well, soluble in water. Unlike insoluble fiber, its form can change during digestion. Soluble fiber turns gel-like, which is key to its health benefits. The resulting gel-like substance that forms in the digestive system can assist in slowing down the digestion process, which can help you feel more satisfied after you eat.
It can also help:
Reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol levels
Lower blood pressure
Improve blood glucose control
Support weight loss
Improve immune function
And reduce inflammation
In a nutshell, including soluble fiber in your diet is a good thing.
Soluble Fiber vs Insoluble Fiber
There are two main types of fiber: insoluble and soluble fibers. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, and soluble does. Both play important roles in your health and wellness. Among the two, there is no "better" or "worse" option. You need both in your diet because insoluble and soluble fibers each have amazing health benefits. Soluble fiber can help slow the digestion of food to promote satiety, and eating enough may help reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol. And insoluble fiber helps add bulk to your stool.
Not only that, but an analysis of almost 250 studies showed that eating a diet rich in fiber could help reduce your risk of dying from heart disease and cancer.A best practice is to try and get a nice combination of both types of fiber in your diet every single day.
How Much Soluble Fiber Do I Need?
It's easy to understand why fiber is so important. The challenging part of the fiber conversation, for many people, is eating enough fiber every single day. The USDA recommends that adult women over the age of 50 eat 25 grams of fiber every day and adult men eat 38 grams. But, on average, American adults only eat 10 to 15 grams of total fiber daily (not distinguishing between soluble vs. insoluble).
Yikes, right? Blame this nutrient gap on our lifestyle. Many people aren't eating enough produce, whole grains, nuts, and seeds - instead leaning on ultra-processed foods that are low in fiber. Although there is no official recommended amount of soluble fiber people should consume every day, some data suggest a range of 6 to 8 grams per day. The rest of your fiber intake can come from insoluble choices.
Best Sources of Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber is found in many everyday foods that you may already be eating consistently. While this list isn't all-inclusive, it can give you a good idea of which foods to focus on if you are trying to bump up your soluble fiber intake:
6 Easy Ways to Add Soluble Fiber Foods to Your Diet
Including more soluble fiber in your diet can be easy with a little know-how. Here are some simple ways to include more soluble fiber in your day if you're trying to get more of this nutrient (and we hope you are!).
Choose Drinks That Contain Soluble Fiber
While many drinks are fiber-free, there are some options made with ingredients that contain soluble fiber. OLIPOP is a soda with soluble fiber-containing ingredients like chicory root, which gives each can a whopping 9 grams of fiber per serving. Bonus? OLIPOP soda contains far less added sugar than traditional sodas, and they're made with nothing artificial.
Start Your Day With a Bowl of Oats
A bowl of oatmeal made from 3/4 cup of dry oats contains 3 g of soluble fiber. Starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal can help you start your morning on the right foot. No time for cooking oats in the AM? Try overnight oats instead.
Add Fruit to Your Salads
Chicken and tuna salads are classic lunchtime additions. If you lean on these staples, try adding chopped pears into the mix instead of simply combining your protein with some mayo. Not only will the chopped pears add some soluble fiber to your recipe, but they also give your dish some satisfying natural sweetness and crunch.
Add Beans to Your Taco Meat
On Taco Tuesday, instead of cooking an entire helping of ground beef for your dinner, cut your meat quantity in half and replace it with beans. You will still enjoy the beefy taste you know and crave, but with a burst of soluble fiber added to the mix.
Make a Walnut Trail Mix
Walnuts are a natural source of soluble fiber. While you can simply nosh on walnuts on their own, you can also add them to a trail mix recipe for an energizing snack that can give you a boost on busy days. Walnuts also contain plant-based protein to help promote satiety and help you avoid those annoying hunger pangs later in the day.
Enjoy Edamame Appetizers
If you feel peckish and need a nosh before dinnertime, opt for cooked edamame to curb your appetite. Not only are these cooked soybeans packed with plant-based protein, but they are also a source of soluble fiber.
Adding Soluble Fiber to Your Diet: The Takeaway
Many of us are missing the boat when it comes to consuming enough soluble fiber. Unfortunately, by skipping enough of this nutrient, over time, your health may suffer. Including more soluble fiber in your diet doesn't have to be complicated. Simple steps like adding chopped pears to your dishes, leaning on beans instead of beef in recipes, and opting for drinks that contain soluble fiber (like OLIPOP) can help you meet your soluble fiber intake goal with very little fuss.
Reynolds, A. G., Mann, J., Cummings, J. H., Winter, N., Mete, E., & Morenga, L. T. (2019). Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses.The Lancet, 393(10170), 434-445. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(18)31809-9
How much (dietary) fiber should I eat?(2022, November 7). U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved April 30, 2023, from https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/How-much-dietary-fiber-should-I-eat
Williams, B. A., Mikkelsen, D., Flanagan, B. M., & Gidley, M. J. (2019). "Dietary fibre": moving beyond the "soluble/insoluble" classification for monogastric nutrition, with an emphasis on humans and pigs.Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40104-019-0350-9
Eye on Nutrition: Fiber.(n.d.). WIC Works Resource System U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved April 30, 2023, from https://wicworks.fns.usda.gov/resources/eye-nutrition-fiber
Surampudi, P., Enkhmaa, B., Anuurad, E., & Berglund, L. (2016). Lipid Lowering with Soluble Dietary Fiber.Current Atherosclerosis Reports, 18(12). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11883-016-0624-z
- Soluble fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. It’s soluble in water, turning into a gel-like substance during digestion. It can assist in slowing down the digestion process, which can help you feel more satisfied after you eat.
- The USDA recommends that adult women over the age of 50 eat 25 grams of fiber every day and adult men eat 38 grams. Of that amount, aim for 6 to 8 grams per day of soluble fiber.
- Foods high in soluble fiber include Brussels sprouts, black beans, lima beans, avocados, sweet potatoes, pears, apricots, carrots, and oats.
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