High-fiber diets have been linked to lowered risk of serious disease, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes complications. In functional foods and supplements, fiber can be in either soluble or insoluble form. Insoluble fiber is the coarse part of a plant that does not dissolve in water, such as oat bran or wheat bran. It supports digestive health by reducing constipation, speeding the movement of toxins and potential carcinogens through the body.
Soluble fiber, derived from plant cell walls, mixes with water to form a gel-like substance. When ingested, soluble fiber binds to dietary cholesterol and reduces blood cholesterol levels. In functional food bars and many other foods, a common form of soluble fiber is inulin, derived from chicory. Inulin can be formulated to replace fats or sweeteners in functional foods, and has the added benefits of serving as a prebiotic and increasing calcium absorption. A similar substance, FOS (Fructo-oligosaccharides) is also noted for its ability to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as its prebiotic effect.