Finding the best fiber: which type of fiber is right for you?
If you’ve been thinking about adding more fiber to your diet, you have lots of options. There are several types of fiber and each offers different benefits. However, you may not know which type of fiber is best for you. To help you make up your mind, we’ve got answers to some of the most common fiber questions below.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FIBER?
Yes; however, not all fiber is the same. Before we talk about types of fiber, let’s take a step back and talk about what dietary fiber is and why it’s important to include in your diet. Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that your body isn’t able to digest or absorb, and is categorized by two main types: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber will dissolve in liquids. Some dissolve entirely and some thicken the liquid, even going as far as to form a gel-like material.
Insoluble fiber (which can also be called “roughage”) does not dissolve in liquids and won’t form a gel.
Beyond solubility, there are other characteristics that help categorize the different types of fiber: viscosity, gel formation, and fermentation.
Solubility tells you if a fiber will dissolve in water (which solubles do) or remain whole (as insolubles do)
Viscosity tells you if a soluble fiber “thickens” the liquid it mixes in or gets larger when it’s wet
The gel-forming ability of some soluble viscous fiber refers to the fiber’s ability to absorb and hold liquid when it gets wet.
Fermentation refers to how quickly and how much a fiber will be broken down by the natural bacteria in the gut
The four characteristics typically divide fiber sources into three categories:
One thing to remember is that most fibers in foods are not exclusively soluble or insoluble, so the fiber you’re considering may have more than one of these characteristics.
WHAT ARE GOOD SOURCES OF FIBER?
There are many sources of fiber in each of the four categories above. One place to start is by eating more fiber rich foods—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes, and seeds and nuts. You can also try foods that have fiber added to them, including some breakfast products and snack foods. Avoid overly processed or refined foods, which are usually lower in fiber since the processing can remove natural fiber.
If you’re finding it hard to get enough fiber from food alone, fiber supplements can help you get the recommended daily amount. There are many types of fiber supplements available, so it comes down to choosing the benefits of fiber you want. Remember that each fiber can have pros and cons depending on how the fiber acts and is processed by the body. We’ve included a chart below to help you compare common types of fiber.
As you can see, there are different benefits to each type of fiber. Depending on the benefits you’re looking for, you may find it easier or more convenient to take a fiber supplement that offers multiple benefits.
If you are looking for multiple benefits from one fiber, you may decide that natural psyllium husk is right for you. Psyllium husk comes from the seeds of the plantago ovato plant, a medicinal plant commonly found in southern Asia.
WHAT IS PSYLLIUM HUSK?
As you can see in the chart above, psyllium fiber, like the fiber found in Metamucil®, is a soluble, viscous, gel-forming fiber that doesn’t ferment. Not fermenting means that no gas is released, which helps it remain in your gut to soften your stool and trap and remove the waste that weighs you down*. In addition to helping with occasional constipation, studies on psyllium husk have revealed other benefits, including lowering cholesterol to promote heart health†, helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels*, and extending feelings of fullness after eating*.
Regardless of what your source of fiber is, you should talk to your doctor and discuss how much fiber is right for you. Adding fiber too quickly can lead to gas or bloating. You should add fiber gradually over a few weeks to let your body adjust, and remember to drink plenty of water when adding a fiber supplement.
*THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. THIS PRODUCT IS NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, CURE, OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE.
†Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 7 grams of soluble fiber per day from psyllium husk, as in Metamucil, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol. One serving of Metamucil has 2.4 grams of this soluble fiber. One serving of Metamucil capsules has at least 1.8 grams of this soluble fiber.
**Survey of 291 adults who self-reported that they felt lighter and more energetic after completing the Metamucil Two Week Challenge.
^P&G calculation based in part on data reported by Nielsen through its ScanTrack Service for the Digestive Health category for the 52-week period ending 04/27/19, for the total U.S. market, xAOC, according to the P&G custom product hierarchy. Copyright © 2019, The Nielsen Company.