Fiber’s main role is to nourish your gut and support elimination, mainly to bulk and and soften the stool. Soluble fiber softens and insoluble bulks.

What’s more, fiber feeds the bacteria in your gut, keeping your gastrointestinal tract healthy and you healthy. As we have heard, there are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble is the scrub brush that softens stools, cleans your gut of fats and cholesterol (LDL — low-density lipoproteins) and thereby increasing your good cholesterol (HDL — high-density lipoproteins).

Examples of soluble fiber are water-loving foods such as oatmeal, apple skins, broccoli, peas, potato skins, and fruits and vegetables with edible skins, such as pears, plumbs and carrots).

Insoluble fiber is not digestible and helps to bulk your stool, and helps move things along to elimination. Insoluble fiber includes foods like beans, brown rice, quinoa, nuts, seeds, wheat, figs and dried fruits.

Most fiber-rich foods actually contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, so mixing a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains will give you enough variety to keep everything working.

Women need 25 grams of fiber a day while men need 38 grams per day. A good way to get this in is to consume a total of nine servings of vegetables and fruits, several servings of nuts and seeds, and to choose whole grains, about three to six per day. One serving of a vegetable is ½ a cup cooked or 1 cup raw; fruits are one small piece or a ½ cup chopped; a grain serving is ⅓ to ½ cup of whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa or a slice of bread. One serving of nuts/seeds is typically one ounce.

The main idea is to consume a variety, and you should cover all your needs for optimal nutrition and fiber requirements. Finally, be sure to include prebiotics to feed that healthy bacteria which will also keep your gut healthy. Sources include garlic, onions, bananas, fermented cabbage and dandelion greens.

— Marcy DiGregorio is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who loves helping people with their nutritional needs, enjoys cooking, and also teaches yoga. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.