LAKE OCONEE — Question from our inbox: Can you please explain how there can be fiber in things that don’t generally contain it, i.e. yogurt, artificial sweetener. And is this fiber as good for us as the kind we get in fruits and vegetables? LE
There are many health benefits of fiber. These include lowering blood glucose and cholesterol levels, helping to maintain a healthy weight and lowering the risks of certain kinds of cancer. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that occurs naturally in food and cannot be digested by your body. There are two types of fiber. Soluble; which absorbs water, and insoluble; which does not. Both types are important for health. Soluble fiber becomes viscous or “gummy” when digested and can help lower LDL (Bad) cholesterol, and help control blood sugar. Sources of soluble fiber include: barley, citrus fruits, dried beans, legumes and oatmeal and oat bran. Insoluble fiber is what we call ‘roughage” and aids with elimination and keeping your digestive tract healthy which lowers the risk of colon cancer and other digestive disorders. Insoluble fiber can be found in fruit and vegetable skins, wheat bran and whole wheat cereals and bread.
Its’ recommended that we consume 25-35 grams of fiber a day. Considering most Americans get only about half of that, manufactures are now “helping” people get more fiber in their diet by adding manufactured fiber to their food products. Manufactured fiber is what we call isolated fiber. Isolated fiber is non-digestible fiber that has been removed from the plant and added to foods to increase their fiber content or give them fiber that they never had before. Isolated forms of pectin, gums, resistant starch and inulin are used in processed foods for their thickening and stabilizing properties. Pectin, for example, is extracted from citrus or apple peels and added to jams and yogurts to thicken them. Foods with isolated fiber do not provide the same health benefits as the fiber found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. When looking to improve fiber consumption consumers are enticed by products that boast their fiber content. Items such as yogurt, cereal bars, bread and even artificial sweeteners provide us with fiber. The unfortunate thing is that the nutrition facts panel on the food label does not differentiate between “whole” (intact) fiber and isolated fiber. When reading the food label it is important to look at the ingredient list. The words “oat bran” or “wheat bran” are acceptable. When either of these fibers is added to your food product you will be guaranteed to be getting the fiber-rich nutritious outer layer of the whole kernel. Isolated fibers like “wheat fiber” or “oat hull fiber” are insoluble fibers. Though they can provide benefits for your digestive system, but do not provide the benefits of heart health. Watch out for the words “inulin,” “polydextrose,” and “maltodextrin”. There is little evidence that these isolated fibers provide any of the same disease-protective benefits that whole (intact) fibers do.
To make get your quota of 25-35 grams of fiber a day don’t rely on products that have added fiber, instead replace your processed foods with whole grains, dried beans, legumes, citrus fruits, berries, nuts and seeds also gives you even more of a health benefit from the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber all working together.
If you have a nutrition question you’d like answered in this column send it to email@example.com with “Question for the Breeze” as the subject title.
Lisa Eisele, RD, CSO, LD, can be reached at (706) 473-5801.