Which Dietary Fiber Supplement is Best for Me & My Diet?
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FIBER 101

Which Dietary Fiber Supplement Is Best for Me and My Diet?

Dietary fiber supplements

95 percent of Americans don’t get enough fiber in their diet1. Getting enough dietary fiber is important to maintain your digestive wellness, but it can be difficult to eat the daily recommended amount of high-quality, fiber-rich foods. On average, it takes about 7 apples, 9 cups of carrots, 9 bananas or 13 cups of broccoli to reach the recommended amount of fiber Americans from 18 to 50 years old should consume each day.

Dietary fiber supplements are a fast and easy way to increase fiber without significantly increasing calories, carbs, or sugar. So, if you feel that you’re not getting enough fiber in your diet, read on to learn why you should be taking fiber supplements, and which supplement you should be taking.

  • Aren’t all fiber supplements the same?
  • What are good sources of fiber?
  • What is psyllium husk?
  • Aren’t all fiber supplements the same?

    No! 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:

    HEALTH BENEFITS OF DIFFERENT FIBERS

    INSOLUBLE

    SOLUBLE NON-VISCOUS

    SOLUBLE VISCOUS

    Wheat Bran (food Sources)

    Wheat Dextrin (Benefiber)

    Inulin (Fiber choice)

    Calcium Polycarphil (FiberCon©)

    Methyl- cellulose (Quaker Oats©)

    B-glucan (Quaker Oats©)

    Psyllium (Metamucil©)

    Poorly Fermented

    Fermented

    Fermented

    Not Fermented

    Not Fermented

    Fermented

    Not Fermented

    Helps maintain healthy blood glucose levels*

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    Reduces the risk of Cardiovascular Disease by lowering elevated serum cholesterol levels+

    Table MinusTable MinusTable MinusTable MinusTable MinusTable plusTable plus

    Treats occasional constipation

    Table plusTable MinusTable MinusTable plusTable plusTable MinusTable plus

    +: Positive effect, -: Negative effect or no data, ^If particles are sufficiently large/coarse
    All trademarks are the properties of their respective companies.

    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 plant-based 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.

    95 percent of Americans don’t get enough fiber in their diet.(1)

    COMMON FIBERS

    CHARACTERISTICS

    TYPE OF FIBER

    GEL FORMATION

    Wheat Bran(food sources)

    -Does not dissolve in water

    Insoluble

    Table Minus

    Wheat Dextrin(Benefiber©)
    Polydextrose(Vitafusion©)
    Inulin(Fiber Choice© and
    Phillips Fiber Good Gummies©)

    -Nonviscous, readily fermented
    -Dissolves and does not thicken

    Soluble

    Table Minus

    Calcium Polycarbophil (FiberCon©)
    Methylcellulose(Citrucel©)

    -Viscous, non gel-forming,
    nonfermented
    -Dissolves and thickens.

    Soluble

    Table Minus

    B-glucan(Quaker Oats©)

    -Viscous, gel-forming,
    readily fermented
    -Dissolves and thickens.

    Soluble

    Table plus

    Psyllium((Metamucil©)

    -Viscous, gel-forming,
    nonfermented
    -Dissolves and thickens.

    Soluble

    Table plus

    All trademarks are the properties of their respective companies.

    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.

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    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*, leaving you feeling lighter and more energetic**. 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*.

    Avoid overly processed or refined foods, which are usually lower in fiber since the processing can remove natural fiber.

    1. 1Quagliani, Diane, and Patricia Felt-Gunderson. "Closing America's Fiber Intake Gap: Communication Strategies From a Food and Fiber Summit." American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. July 07, 2016. Accessed May 24, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6124841/

    2. Adapted from: Lambeau KV, McRorie JW Jr. Fiber supplements and clinically proven health benefits: How to recognize and recommend an effective fiber therapy. J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2017 Apr;29(4):216-223. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28252255

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