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The Role of Fiber in Digestion

Fiber is an important element of proper digestion. Once the enzymes have broken down the food, fiber binds to the food (& toxins) in your intestines and keeps the waste moving through. Too much fiber and things may move faster than you'd like. Too little and the waste can move through too slowly and build up in your system. Fiber also helps our bodies absorb beneficial minerals within our food, it helps fight free radicals, supports healthy intestinal bacteria, and helps us maintain healthy cholesterols levels already within normal limits.

Insoluble vs Soluble Fiber

  • Insoluble fiber passes through the body virtually unchanged. It allows waste material to be soft which in turn helps it to be eliminated faster. Most often you'll see these labeled as cellulose or lignins. Good sources of insoluble fiber include whole grain cereals and bran. 

  • Soluble fiber on the other hand, absorbs water and slows digestion making you feel fuller. Soluble fiber is often also found under the names of pectins, gums and mucilages. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

It is recommended that adults have a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber each day totalling 25-30 grams.

Good Sources of Fiber

Food Daily Value of Fiber per serving
Banana 12% each
Apple 10-12% each
Strawberries 10% per cup
Kiwi 10% each
Orange 12% each
Blueberries 15% per cup
Spinach 16% per cup, boiled
Celery 8% per cup
Romaine lettuce 7% per 2 cups
Carrots 12% per cup
Raspberries 30% per cup
Broccoli 18% per cup, steamed
Pinto beans 55% per cup, cooked
Green beans 16% per cup, cooked
Eggplant 9% per cup, cooked
Flax seeds 20% per 2 tablespoons
Almonds 16% per ¼ cup

Choosing a Fiber Supplement
If adding high fiber foods to your diet isn't enough, fiber supplements can be a good option. When it comes to choosing a fiber supplement you'll want to consider a few things including:

  • Convenience: Are you okay with having a drink mix version of fiber, will you use it regularly? If not, capsules may be a better option. Or, maybe a blend of both - a fiber drink mix with breakfast and capsules in the evening.
  • The Blend of Fiber Used: When you look at a fiber supplement chances are the ingredients won't just say "fiber". Below are some of the ingredients you may see and what they do.
    • Psyllium: Psyllium is a pretty fascinating ingredient. It’s a fiber that can absorb up to 14 times its weight in water and helps lubricate the intestines, making elimination easier and more comfortable. The fiber from psyllium husk can also be used by probiotics in the digestive tract as a source of short-chain fatty acids, supporting intestinal health and repair.
    • Oat bran:  Oat bran also absorbs water in the intestine, promotes regularity, and is often identified with supporting healthy cholesterol levels already within normal limits.
    • Guar gum: Guar gum fiber supports healthy excretion like other fibers, and  has the additional benefit of being “slippery” in the intestines, making bowel movements easier to pass.
    • Pectin: Pectin from citrus is a natural fiber you’ve probably encountered if you’ve done any baking. Pectin is an interesting ingredient, because is can be used to ease both occasional constipation and loose stools. Pectin from citrus fruit is a soluble fiber that has been studied for its support of immune health.

Published February 02, 2012
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