Do Packaged Foods Need a Fiber Boost?

Dietitians have been trying to get people to eat more fiber for a long time. It is recommended that we get 25-30 grams per day. Dietary fiber is found in foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans.

Fiber helps with lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, and promote digestive regularity. Also, when you eat fiber, you are more full and satisfied. You tend to eat fewer calories and maintain a healthy weight. Despite these benefits, many people don’t eat enough of these foods. In fact, 70 percent of Americans do not meet recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake. There’s a good chance they may not be getting enough fiber either. This is why one of the reasons companies are adding fiber to food products.

The fiber that is popping up in our toaster pastries, yogurt, white bread, juice, and granola bars is called inulin. Inulin is a versatile isolated fiber naturally found in plants (asparagus, jicama, onion, leeks, and garlic, to name a few). It is very versatile. Food processors can morph it into anything from a fat substitute to a prebiotic fiber.

Inulin has not been proven to lower cholesterol or even help digestion. But, according to package labeling regulations, isolated fibers (inulin, oat fiber, maltodextrin) are allowed to be included as “dietary fiber” on food packages.

Here’s the bottom line: give priority to fiber from natural sources. Make sure you get a blend of soluble and insoluble fiber.

  • Eat more fruits and veggies (especially the skin when appropriate)! A single pear has five grams of fiber.
  • Look for “whole grain” or “whole wheat” on the label of bread and other baked products.
  • Oatmeal is filling, fiber-packed, and delicious!
  • Popcorn is a great naturally fiber-packed snack (seven grams in four cups).
  • Choose wheat pasta, brown rice, and other whole grains like quinoa and cous cous.
  • Fill up on beans and legumes, leeks, garlic, onions, and jicama.

A product with a little inulin added here and there won’t hurt you, but you should know that adding in too much fiber too quickly can cause GI upset and gas. Assess your pantry and your plate. If there are lots of boxes with lots of ingredients serving as your main fiber source, reconsider what else you may be missing that is in the foods that naturally contain fiber and inulin.

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