Dietary fiber (fibre), sometimes called roughage, is the indigestible portion of plant foods that pushes food through the digestive system, absorbing water and easing defecation.
Chemically, dietary fiber consists of non-starch polysaccharides such as cellulose and many other plant components such as dextrins, inulin, lignin, waxes, chitins, pectins, beta-glucans and oligosaccharides. The term "fiber" is somewhat of a misnomer, since many types of so-called dietary fiber are not fibers at all.
Dietary fiber can be soluble (able to dissolve in water) or insoluble (not able to dissolve in water). Soluble fiber, like all fiber, cannot be digested. But it does change as it passes through the digestive tract, being transformed (fermented) by bacteria there. Soluble fiber also absorbs water to become a gelatinous substance that passes through the body . Insoluble fiber, however, passes through the body largely unchanged .
Food sources of dietary fiber are often divided according to whether they provide (predominantly) soluble or insoluble fiber. To be precise, both types of fiber are present in all plant foods, with varying degrees of each according to a plant’s characteristics.
Potential advantages of consuming fiber are the production of health-promoting compounds during the fermentation of soluble fiber, and insoluble fiber's ability (via its passive water-attracting properties) to increase bulk, soften stool and shorten transit time through the intestinal tract.
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