You’ve heard about how fibre is important for gut health, but do you know the difference between soluble and insoluble fibre?
What's the difference?
Fibre is a complex carbohydrate and an essential nutrient. Sometimes referred to as roughage or bulk, fibre is the indigestible part of plant material, and comes in two main forms, soluble and insoluble fibre. The main difference between the two is that soluble fibre dissolves in water, forming a gel, while insoluble fibre does not dissolve and passes through the digestive system largely unchanged.
- Feeds beneficial gut bacteria: Soluble fibre feeds beneficial gut microorganisms, helping them thrive, reproduce, and multiply (1).
- Stabilises blood glucose levels: Foods rich in soluble fibre prevent blood sugar spikes and keep levels stable (2). This occurs because soluble fibre slows down the digestion rate of carbohydrates and other nutrients, leaving you satiated longer.
- Lowers fat absorption: Soluble fibre forms a thick gel as it dissolves in the gut, interfering with fat absorption. This helps with weight control & management (3).
- Prevents constipation: Because insoluble fibre does not dissolve, it instead adds bulk to the stool and helps food pass through the stomach and intestines more efficiently. Consumed in moderation, insoluble fibre helps prevent gastrointestinal blockages which might otherwise lead to fewer bowel movements or constipation (6).
- It’s important to note that insoluble fibre may sometimes worsen certain gastrointestinal conditions, such as IBS (7).
Both Types of Fibre...
- Improve cardiovascular health: Especially when consumed in whole food form, such as in nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains, dietary fibre is associated with improved cardiovascular health (4, 5).
- Require increased water intake: It’s a good idea to increase your water intake whenever you increase your fibre intake, especially if you have constipation (8). This helps prevent dehydration of the gastrointestinal tract, which could lead to difficulty passing stools.
- Can be found in: plants! Some high quality sources of fibre include fruits & vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts & seeds, and whole grains.
Bonus: Check out this handy infographic that summarises the differences between the two main types of fibre!