2 Types of Fibre & Their Benefits: More Than Just Constipation Relief

With their different functions, these two types of fibre offer health benefits beyond merely improving your bowel movements.

A woman sitting cross-legged on the floor while holding an apple; small hand weights and a laptop lying around her.

Did you know that there are different types of fibre, but what are they exactly? We’ve all heard how fibre can make us lose weight and keep us healthy, but what exactly is fibre, and how many types are there? This article will delve into what fibre is, its benefits, the different kinds, and the many foods that are an abundant source of the nutrient. 

What is Dietary Fibre?

Dietary fibre, or the fibre we eat, is a plant material that resists enzymatic digestion. In other words, dietary fibre cannot be broken down and absorbed by our body, unlike substances like fats or proteins.

When we consume fibre, the nutrient will simply pass through our digestive system before being removed from our body through excretion. For this reason, it’s advisable for people who are looking to reduce their weight to eat more fibre because it can help them control their appetite. Fibre can keep us full without having to consume more calories.

Types of Fibre 

Dietary fibre is usually divided into two basic categories based on its solubility – soluble fibre and insoluble fibre.

Soluble fibre 

Soluble fibre has a few characteristics. It is:

  1. Dissolvable in water 
  2. Well-fermented by the bacteria in the large intestine 
  3. Able to bypass the digestion process in the small intestine 
  4. Able to increase the food’s transit time through the digestive system, resulting in slower blood sugar absorption 
  5. Gel-like after dissolution in water

Soluble fibre can take many forms, including pectin, gums and mucilage, beta-glucan, inulin and resistant starch. Foods potent with soluble fibre include: 

Pectin Gums & Mucilage Beta-glucan InulinResistant starch
FruitsGuar gumOatsOnionsBread
Vegetables Gum arabicBarleyGarlicPasta
LegumesLocust beanYeastWheatLegumes
Sugar beet Seaweed extract. Algae Artichokes Nuts
PotatoVegetablesMushrooms Bananas Firm bananas
Psyllium husk Wholegrain cereals
An over-the-shoulder shot of a woman holding a bowl of cereal while sitting on the floor next to a bunch of bananas.
Cereal is a type of insoluble fibre.

Insoluble fibre

Insoluble fibre is different from its soluble counterpart; it:

  1. Doesn’t dissolve in water 
  2. Is less fermented in the large intestine 
  3. Doesn’t turn to gel 
  4. Adds bulk to the stool, thus solidifying it 
  5. Increases excretion of bile acids, which help with cholesterol conversion
  6. Decreases the food’s transit time through the digestive system 

Insoluble fibre can be broken down into three forms, such as cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Foods that have insoluble fibre include:

Cellulose Hemicellulose Lignin
Vegetables Whole grains Fruits
Whole wheat Bran Vegetables
Whole grains Nuts Flaxseed
Sugar beet Legumes Wheat bran
Bran Seeds
Green beans

In short, fibre is mostly found in cereals, vegetables, fruits, nuts, bread and milk. Moreover, it can also be utilised to fortify foods, snacks and beverages. For example, you can add pectin, guar gum and inulin during cheese processing to decrease the fat content. Meanwhile, you can incorporate oats into drinks like cappuccinos, juices, milkshakes, and sports beverages. It can also be used to make porridge and wine.

Adults should eat between 20g to 35g of dietary fibre every day. As they‘re available in different amounts in various foods, it’s best to consume both soluble and insoluble fibres. This is important because fibre’s composition can change during food processing.

For instance, resistant starch forms when cooked foods – rice, pasta, potatoes – cool. In contrast, the heating of starchy foods can deplete their resistant starch levels. 

A partial view of a hand stirring a glass of fibre supplement with a spoon with a bowl of psyllium powder beside it.
Different types of fibre supplements are also available.

The Benefits of Various Types of Fibre 

  1. Regulation of appetite 
  2. A prebiotic, feeding the friendly bacteria 
  3. Ability to lower blood sugar levels 
  4. Reduce the risk of heart diseases and diabetes 
  5. Improve bowel functions and relieve constipation 
  6. Decrease the risk of colorectal cancers 

Different types of fibre can be found in a wide range of foods and beverages. Variety is the key to getting the most out of the nutrient. Remember, healthy eating could make all the difference in your overall health. Add more fibre to your diet today.

This is an adaptation of an article, “3 Types of Dietary Fibres to Make You Feel Full”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang’s website

References

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2012. Dietary fibre in foods: a review [online] [Accessed 8 April 2022] 
  2.  Research Gate. 2017. The Interaction Between Insoluble and Soluble Fiber [online] [Accessed 8 April 2022] 
  3.  CSIRO. 2021. Resistant starch facts [online] [Accessed 8 April 2022] 

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