There are two types of fiberEkaterina Markelova/Shutterstock
According to U.S. dietary guidelines, adults should consume anywhere between 25 and 30 grams of dietary fiber from food (not supplements) daily, but most are only getting about 15 grams, about half the recommended amount. (Here are 30 ways to get more fiber.) There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and both play important roles in helping us to maintain healthy digestion and fight off diseases—here’s a list of fiber’s impressive health benefits. “Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel, acting like a sponge in binding cholesterol-rich bile acids, which are then eliminated as waste,” says Melissa Majumdar, RD, senior bariatric dietitian at Brigham and Women’s Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. This cholesterol-lowering type of fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus, carrots, barley, and fiber supplements that use psyllium husk, she explains. Insoluble fiber, which is found in wheat bran, whole-wheat flour, nuts, beans, potatoes, and vegetables such as cauliflower and green beans, adds bulk to our stool and helps move food through the digestive tract. “Insoluble fiber aids in digestion by acting like a broom and cleaning out our intestinal track,” says dietitian Angel Planells, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Lower your cholesterol and risk for cardiovascular diseaseVladislav Noseek/Shutterstock
Adding whole-grain dietary fiber as part of a healthy diet may help improve blood cholesterol levels, and lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. Soluble fiber is what lowers LDL cholesterol—it can also reduce inflammation in the body and lower blood pressure, says Planells. “When soluble fiber enters the small intestine, it acts like a sponge and binds the cholesterol, and doesn’t allow it to be absorbed into the body,” he says. Good sources of soluble fiber include legumes, psyllium, flaxseeds, oats, and oat bran. “Start the day with either steel cut or regular oats—both are a great way to reduce your cholesterol levels.”