The benefits of soluble fiber for health and digestion are well known. A diet rich in soluble fiber is recommended for both weight loss and to improve metabolic health.
Since soluble fiber can absorb water, it turns into a kind of gel in the digestive system. This makes foods with soluble fiber the best allies for microflora and is associated with other benefits for gut health.
Read on to find out what soluble fiber is and what are some examples of soluble fiber.
Soluble Fiber – What is it?
Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate found in plant foods. Due to its ability to dissolve in water, fiber can be classified as insoluble and soluble.
Soluble fiber turns into a jelly-like substance in the gastrointestinal tract. On the other hand, insoluble fiber has a thicker structure and passes through the stomach without undergoing major changes.
Both types of dietary fibers are of vital importance for the proper functioning of the body. For example they serve for the mechanical movement of food through the intestines. But soluble fiber is associated with other health benefits.
Types of soluble fiber
Pectin polysaccharide is the most common type of soluble fiber. Pectins are found in large quantities in fruits, the structure of jams and preserves is due precisely to the presence of said soluble fiber. When pectin absorbs water it turns into a dense gel.
Chewing gum is another kind of water soluble fiber. This group includes carrageenan, agar, beta-glucan, guar gum, and others. These substances are mainly used in the food industry to achieve density and consistency, for example in yogurts and smoothies.
Examples of soluble fiber
Most natural foods contain both types of fiber at the same time. However, some foods such as legumes, chia seeds, and avocados have higher amounts.
Vegetables and cereals (with the exception of oats and barley) have mainly insoluble dietary fiber.
Here are 10 foods with a high amount of soluble fiber.
Oatmeal containing one type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. The health benefits of beta-glucan include its ability to lower bad cholesterol levels in the blood, as well as it may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Additionally, oatmeal provides long-term satiety.
2. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are the leaders in mineral content and contain a rare type of soluble fiber that can absorb large amounts of fluid, ensuring long-term satiety and proper stomach function.
Legumes (both beans, chickpeas, and lentils) are an important source of healthy soluble fiber. On average, 100 g of dried beans represent up to 9-13 g of dietary fiber, and about half of this is soluble.
In addition to avocados being one of the most complete foods in terms of vitamins and minerals, another of its properties is that it is a good source of soluble fiber. An avocado contains 13.5 grams of dietary fiber of which 3.6 grams are soluble.
Dried mushrooms are not only an excellent source of high-quality plant protein, but also a high-fiber food. Depending on the type of mushrooms and the degree of drying, they can have up to 5-10 g of soluble fiber on 100 g of product.
Soluble fiber makes up about half of the total dietary fiber content in nuts. They are found in greater quantity in walnuts. However, remember that nuts are rich not only in fiber, but also in calories, so you should consume them in moderation.
Most fruits are high in soluble fiber. In apples it is found in the form of pectin, approximately 2 g per 100 g of product. Strawberries, wild strawberries, blueberries, and other berries also have comparable amounts.
9. Sweet potatoes and carrots
Strictly speaking, in vegetables, fiber is mainly found in the skin, and it is mostly insoluble. However, some vegetables contain soluble fiber in their pulp. An example are sweet potatoes and carrots.
10. Pearl barley
The pearl barley owes its name to the pearls (in English pearl), since the pearl grains resemble it in shape. The volume of pearl barley is 5-6 times greater than the volume of the original dry cereal; this great capacity to absorb water is explained precisely by the large amount of soluble fiber.
Recommended amount of soluble fiber per day
The recommended fiber intake per day is approximately 20-30 g. Since most food products contain soluble and insoluble fiber, most nutritionists do not give separate recommendations on the types of dietary fiber.
Keep in mind that the typical city dweller’s diet contains 2-3 times less fiber than is necessary for health. (1,2) That is why doctors recommend the daily consumption of not only vegetables, but also 1 to 2 fruits, even as a source of soluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is a non-digestible type of carbohydrate that can absorb water. Once in the stomach, this fiber turns into a gelatinous substance that serves as a breeding ground for beneficial bacteria. Soluble fiber also helps control blood glucose and cholesterol levels and can help you lose weight.