Upon reading the chapter in science about food and health, we frequently stumble across the word ‘fiber’ as one of the major constituents in our diet. Its other name is roughage.
Fiber is that part of food that the body terms indigestible. Fibers are found in almost all kinds of food and mainly in fruits and veggies. There are two kinds of fibers known majorly: soluble fibers and the other is insoluble fibers.
Soluble vs Insoluble Fibers
The difference between soluble fibers and insoluble fibers is that soluble fibers, as the name suggests, are ‘soluble’ in water present in our body. And insoluble fibers, just as the term says, are the fibers that do not dissolve or are ‘insoluble’ in our bodily fluids.
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Soluble fibers are those fibers that can dissolve in the water present in our bodies. When we take food that contains soluble fibers, we ensure good digestion.
This fiber forms a jelly-like compound that makes our food move from mouth to stomach, from stomach to large intestine. And then it is thrown out as excreta with great ease.
These types of fibers are found in many fruits and veggies and ensure good health.
On the other hand, insoluble fibers are unable to dissolve with the water present in our bodies. It also doesn’t dissolve in the stomach acids and fluids.
Every fruit, vegetable, various kinds of pulses, oats, and brown rice also contain these types of fibers. They have another function.
They help water retention in excreta and thus helps in the process of excretion. Both these fibers together add to the weight of food. Along with their functions, make digestion an easy procedure.
|Parameters of differentiation||Soluble Fibers||Insoluble Fibers|
|Solubility in water||These types of fibers can be easily dissolved in water present in our bodies.||This kind of fiber cannot be dissolved in the water present in our bodies.|
|Solubility in the stomach (gastrointestinal fluid)||These fibers can be easily soluble in our stomach and intestinal fluids.||These are not soluble in stomach and intestinal fluids.|
|Benefits||These form a jelly-like substance that helps in the easy movement of food down the digestive tract.||These form a jelly-like substance that helps in the easy movement of food down the digestive tract.|
|Compounds included||It mostly contains compounds such as cellulose and Hemicellulose.||These contain resistant starches, dextrins, glucans, and oligosaccharides.|
|Calories||It releases some calories while digestion takes place.||It releases some calories while digestion takes place.|
What are Soluble Fibers?
This fiber, as the name suggests, dissolves or is soluble in our stomach and intestinal fluids. They help to form a jelly-type substance that easily carries the food from mouth to stomach, from stomach to the intestines, and then to the excretory system.
These fibers, along with insoluble fibers, are found in a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. We can get these fibers in some other food items.
They are peas, apples, beans, oranges, carrots, lemon, radishes, barely, muesli .etc. So we can get our hands on these fibers, which is a key to good digestion.
It has other crucial benefits. The first benefit is that when it mixes with the food that we take. It changes into a jelly kind of compound that lets the food move down from the mouth to the end of the digestive system.
This process helps us have good digestion and extract the best from what we eat. Also, this compound helps gut bacteria (which is good for health) to function, and thus the system remains safe and clean.
They also prevent any chances of our stomachs getting bloated. Eating soluble fiber doesn’t let our body take in or absorb more fatty acids, And maintaining a lean muscle mass in our body.
Because of this ability, it also keeps the cholesterol levels low and checks the blood sugar level in the body.
After providing all these health benefits, also reduces the chances of cardiac arrest as it prevents fat blockage in the arteries by not allowing fats to be absorbed when we take in food.
What are Insoluble Fibers?
These are the fibers that are not soluble in water present in our body. Be it the water we take in, saliva or blood, it won’t dissolve in it. Also, it is not able to dissolve in the fluids of our stomach and intestines (gastrointestinal fluids).
Their function is different from that of soluble fibers as insoluble fibers add weight to the food and help in water retention in our excreta. It helps in the completion of our digestion and its function is mostly seen in the large intestine.
These too are mostly found in a variety of fruits and veggies. Some examples where these fibers are present are almonds, cashew nuts, cucumbers, celery, drumsticks, guavas, coconut, brown rice, turnips, green peas, carrots, potatoes, and spinach.
These foods are easily available at low prices and can do wonders if added to our diet.
Just like soluble fibers, insoluble fiber also has many benefits, first, it aids in digestion in food and helps the excreta to absorb water and be easily thrown out of our body.
This, in turn, prevents constipation, hemorrhoids (piles), and bulging of the walls of the large intestine. It also helps the good bacteria of the gut to start functioning. It also checks the blood sugar in the body.
Fibers are good for the body, but an excess of everything causes reactions, though not so severe, excessive fiber intake causes health problems like diarrhea, bloating, excess reduction in the blood glucose levels, pain in the lower abdomen, vomiting and weight gain that might be temporary.
Main Differences Between Soluble and Insoluble Fibers
- Soluble fibers easily get dissolved in the water that’s present in our body, insoluble fibers, on the other hand, do not get dissolved in the fluid present in our body.
- Soluble fibers are also soluble in the fluids that are present in our stomach and intestines. However insoluble fibers do not get dissolved in the stomach or intestinal fluid.
- Soluble fibers form a jelly-like complex with the food that we intake, and thus aids in the process of digestion. Insoluble fibers however help their stool or excreta to absorb and retain water and help in the process of excretion
- Soluble fibers are mostly composed of the compounds of Hemicellulose and soluble cellulose. But Insoluble fibers contain resistant starch, glucans, oligosaccharides, and insoluble dextrins.
- Soluble fibers while doing their work, release some calories. On the other hand, insoluble fibers don’t release calories.
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Piyush Yadav has spent the past 25 years working as a physicist in the local community. He is a physicist passionate about making science more accessible to our readers. He holds a BSc in Natural Sciences and Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science. You can read more about him on his bio page.