Is All Fiber Created Equal?
Research shows there are many benefits to a high-fiber diet, including its ability to prevent or relieve constipation, help maintain a healthy weight and potentially lower your risk for diabetes and heart disease. Most Americans get only half of the recommended 25 to 35 grams a day, leading many to consider turning to fiber-enriched foods and supplements to get what they need.
In recent years, new ”high-fiber foods” have appeared on the store shelves, luring consumers who need to boost their fiber intake. Many of these foods, such as ice cream, yogurt and extra-fiber breads, are made with functional fibers such as inulin, a natural substance extracted from chicory root, and polydextrose or resistant maltodextrin, long chains of glucose and other molecules manufactured in the lab. They don't have a grainy or gummy texture, so manufacturers can add them easily into creamy yogurts or clear drinks, places you would never have seen fiber before. Because the fiber additives pass undigested through the gastrointestinal tract, the FDA accepts them as they do natural fiber.
But is eating fiber-fortified food the same as eating a food that’s naturally full of fiber? Research isn’t available showing whether additive fibers have similar health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol or helping with regularity or weight loss, as naturally occurring fiber. However, many fiber-fortified foods do not provide all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients found in naturally high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, wheat germ and whole grains such as barley, quinoa and whole wheat pasta. The position of the American Dietetic Association states that “few fiber supplements and additives have been studied for physiological effectiveness, so the best advice is to consume fiber in foods.”
Looking to add more fiber to your diet? Here are some easy ways. If you don’t currently consume much fiber, remember to add it slowly and increase the amount of water you drink to give your body time to adjust and to avoid bloating and cramping.
- Add more vegetable-filled salads to your diet, like this Lentil Salad with Wheat Germ and this Asian Lemon Ginger Salad with Wheat Germ Dressing.
- Make your yogurt parfait in the morning with plain fat-free yogurt and fresh raspberries, and sprinkle some Kretschmer Wheat Germ on top. Among popular berries, raspberries contain the most fiber.
- Instead of snacking on potato chips or pretzels, cook up a batch of edamame with a little bit of salt on top or pop some fresh popcorn—they both contain naturally occurring fiber.