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Benefits of isolated fiber examined

October 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Most health experts want us to get enough fiber in our day to help regulate our blood sugar and assist in digestion and elimination. To help us out, some food manufacturers are adding isolated fibers to their products as a selling point. However, they are not always as good as what we get in nature."Fiber is the new halo ingredient and manufacturers are fortifying everything with fiber. Foods that didn't normally have fiber, like dairy foods, water, even you can get Splenda with fiber in it," said dietician Patricia Bannan.

Bannan cautions that these are isolated fibers. They are not the same as intact fiber that you'll find in produce and whole grains that offer vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals.

Some examples of products with added fiber:

  • All Bran crackers with 5 grams of fiber that does contain whole wheat flour but adds oat fiber
  • Some V8 juice supplies maltodextrin, an altered starch resistant to digestion
  • Thomas's Light English muffins largely containing fiber powders from things like modified starch and even sugar cane fiber
  • Fiber One bars with chicory root extract, often called inulin
  • Skinny Cow ice cream with inulin and polydextrose, a modified starch

"Fortified foods with fiber, they're not bad for you, they may have a benefit, but you certainly can't have fortified ice cream with fiber instead of your fruits and vegetables. You really need to have a combination," Bannan said.

"The research on the health benefits of fiber is on intact fiber, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. That's what we know is good for heart health and for your digestive system," she said.

But keep in mind, many of the companies that are offering these high-fiber alternatives, have original products that contain a good source of whole grains, like All Bran and Fiber One cereal, along with Thomas's 100 percent whole wheat muffins.

If you're looking for fiber, take an extra minute and check out that ingredient list to make sure your high fiber is worth a high five.


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