Fiber is essentially the parts of a plant that, when eaten, cannot be broken down for digestion by the human body. There are two types of fiber: insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, and soluble fiber, which does. When consumed in adequate amounts each day, soluble fiber can bring about significant health benefits, such as improved cholesterol levels and regulated blood sugar balances. Learning to recognize soluble fiber foods can be a valuable first step toward improving one’s diet and overall health.
As fiber is derived from plants, some of the most beneficial soluble fiber foods are those which have not been broken down from their original plant form — namely fresh vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Vegetables high in soluble fiber include potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. Fruits include apples, plums, and citrus fruits. Among the best legume sources of soluble fiber are peas and pinto beans.
Grain and cereals are another important source of soluble fiber foods. Again, the less the fiber source has been broken down from its original form, the higher its soluble fiber content tends to be. Thus, whole grain oats and barley are two of the best grain-derived soluble fiber sources.
Cereals and grains are commonly present in more processed forms in foods like bread, pasta, and breakfast cereal. Whether these products are high soluble fiber foods depends on the extent to which they have been refined. White breads and pastas are usually highly refined, leaving little of the grain from which they are made intact. As a result, these products tend to be low in soluble fiber. Comparatively, whole grain pastas, breads, and cereals usually contain fair amounts of soluble fiber, and should be chosen over highly processed grain products.
Choosing high soluble fiber foods can have important health benefits. Soluble fiber can reduce the body’s levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, resulting in reduced overall cholesterol. This cholesterol reduction can translate to improved heart health. In addition, soluble fiber can reduce the rate at which the body absorbs sugar, thus providing a natural method for regulating the blood sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends that the average adult should attempt to consume around 25 grams of fiber each day. In order to experience cholesterol-lowering benefits, some physicians suggest that at least three of these 25 grams should consist of soluble fiber. To determine the fiber content of store-bought food products, study the nutrition facts label included on their packaging.