Most of us are aware that fiber in the diet is essential for a good bowel motion in the morning. The property of fiber to add bulk to the stool can help prevent constipation and abdominal problems.

But did you know that fiber also has protective effects on the heart and your blood sugar levels ?? It is a little known fact among the general public, and unfortunately there are hardly any programs that raise awareness regarding this.

There are mainly 2 different kinds of fiber in the diet – soluble and insoluble.

Most foods contain both, but these vary in proportions in different food groups. In a simple sense, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, while soluble fiber absorbs water and turns into a kind of gel.

Let's take a look at each of these.

1. Insoluble fiber

Insoluble fiber is found in the seeds and skins of fruits along with whole wheat bread and brown rice. It has a number of different health benefits including weight loss due to its 'filling' effect on the stomach. With this effect, it is able to suppress the hunger center in the brain, and can prevent hunger pangs. By reducing hunger, it can help reduce body weight by reducing overall food intake over a period of time.

Insoluble fiber also has a protective effect on the digestive health. It helps to bulk up the stool, and can help relieve constipation. By helping normal bowel motions, it can reduce the risk of developing piles and stool incontinence.

2. Soluble fiber

This is the fiber I will be talking about a little more here as it is more important. Soluble fiber is present in foods such as oats, nuts, beans and apples. It has a range of benefits on our health and heart. They have an effect on the digestive system and diabetes as well.

a. Heart benefits

In a study that looked at blood pressure recordings over 24 hours in patients consuming high fiber versus those taking low fiber, there was a significant reduction in the average blood pressure readings in the high fiber intake group. In other words, having a diet rich in soluble fiber can reduce your blood pressure.

Clinical trials have shown that regular intake of soluble fiber can reduce bad cholesterol levels by 9%. Combining this with a diet that is low in fat, this reduction is very significant.

Other cardiac benefits of soluble fiber include weight reduction and a reduced risk of stroke.

b. Diabetes benefits

A healthy intake of soluble fiber can prevent or delay the sunset of diabetes by 30%. It can also slow down the progress of pre-diabetes to diabetes. Specific types of fiber seem to have more of an effect on blood sugar spikes and diabetes control.

The best sources of soluble fiber include beans, chick peas, whole wheat flour, barley, bran and prunes. Other vegetables are good sources. However, our body needs around 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day, which is difficult to achieve. In such situation, using a supplement can provide the essential soluble fiber that has been proven to reduce diabetes risk and heart disease.