- Research suggests reformulating commonly consumed foods to include fiber could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
- A model intervention shows the potential for doubling the number of children meeting the recommended daily value for fiber.
- Experts agree that the consumption of foods that are naturally rich in fiber should be prioritized.
Fiber is part of an overall nutritious eating plan. Yet, many of us struggle to meet the daily recommended intake.
A new study conducted in the U.K. suggests that reformulating foods such as baked goods, yogurts, soups, and beverages has the potential to help individuals meet their daily fiber goals. It also suggests that this will help with weight management, while also reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
About the Study
The study evaluated the dietary intake of 2,723 subjects ages 1.5 years and older utilizing data from the U.K. National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) over the course of two years. While the survey, itself, collected data over the course of eight years, researchers focused on the last two in order to capture the most current available trends.
Upon analysis of the intake, researchers then identified 915 foods and beverages that qualified for fiber enrichment. These foods were those that were already being consumed consistently based on the NDNS data, meaning these hypothetically reformulated foods were not entirely new foods.
Finally, researchers plotted the inclusion of these foods to determine the potential for the reformulations to increase fiber intake for all 2,723 subjects. Based on this model, the reformulated foods would result in more than twice as many children ages 10 and younger meeting fiber requirements, as compared to the baseline. Additionally, 50% more adults ages 17 to 94 also would meet requirements, as compared to the baseline fiber intake.
While these results may sound like a great way to increase fiber intake, there are some other things to consider. Here is what nutrition experts are saying about increasing fiber intake and why choosing foods that are naturally fiber-rich might be a better strategy.
More Than Just Fiber
While fiber-fortified foods may have added fiber, it is also important to note which type they are being fortified with. For instance, there is soluble fiber, which is helpful in lowering cholesterol levels, and insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to stool. The former is found in foods such as oatmeal and beans, while the latter is found in items such as whole grains and nuts.
“Plant foods—from fruits and vegetables to nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains—not only provide plenty of fiber (provided only by plants), but you also get a host of other essential nutrients and phytochemicals that may not be found in fiber-fortified foods,” says Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, author of “From Burnout to Balance: 60+ Healing Recipes and Simple Strategies to Boost Mood, Immunity, Focus, and Sleep.”
Deepti Loomba, BSc, MBDA, PT, HCPC
— Deepti Loomba, BSc, MBDA, PT, HCPC
While common fortifiers like chicory root are mostly comprised of soluble fiber, too much too soon has the potential to cause GI distress. Whichever route you choose to increase fiber intake, it is advisable to take things slow.
“We should continue opting for ways to increase our fiber intake to meet the daily recommendations, but make sure to do this gradually while getting six to eight glasses of fluids a day (for adults) while following an active lifestyle,” says Deepti Loomba, BSc, MBDA, PT, HCPC a U.K.-based dietitian and registered FODMAP certified practitioner.
While the most highly touted benefits of a fiber-rich diet are prevention of chronic disease, Brooke Rosenfeld, MS, RD, and head dietitian at NBS by Be Strong Stay Fit, also notes that fiber is your friend if you have a certain aesthetic goal, as well.
Brooke Rosenfeld, MS, RD
— Brooke Rosenfeld, MS, RD
“Foods higher in fiber also can help us feel fuller for fewer calories,” notes Rosenfeld. “We encourage our clients to eat as many non-starchy vegetables as they please on our plan due to the satiety effects and volume they provide. This is key if your goal is fat loss.”
Adding Fiber—And Making It Easy
Current guidelines recommend a fiber intake of 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. This might sound like a lofty goal for someone consuming 2,000 or more calories per day, but taking a closer look at meals and snacks and a few thoughtful additions of plant-derived foods can make all the difference. The key is to keep things simple—and cost-effective—starting with breakfast.
“Choose higher-fiber cereals,” advises Rosenfeld. “I’m a huge fan of Cheerios, and all Cheerios cereals deliver a good source of fiber per labeled serving. Fiber One Original cereal provides an excellent source of fiber delivering 65% of the daily value of fiber with just one bowl.”
Higher-fiber cereals also can serve as an excellent topper for protein-dense foods like yogurt and cottage cheese, she says. Meanwhile, canned beans can be an easy, cost-effective addition to your diet that delivers an excellent source of fiber.
Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN
— Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN
“Beans are tops for the type of fiber that keeps gut-brain communications in harmony,” says Bannan. “They also contain protein, iron, and other essential nutrients for optimal health. Canned beans are money and time savers, and good for the environment. One-half cup of canned beans provided 6 to 10 grams of dietary fiber”
Incorporating beans into your meals also helps stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day, adds Rosenfeld. When all else fails, try making half of your plate at most meals veggie-based, and choosing whole fruits over juices to get an extra boost of fiber.
But it doesn’t have to be complicated, or pricey. For instance, the freezer section can be your friend when increasing fiber intake.
“Fresh berries aren’t always in season and can perish quickly, and tropical fruits can be costly when you don’t live in the tropics,” says Bannan. “Thankfully, frozen fruit is picked at the peak of ripeness, then frozen so you can affordably enjoy it year-round. One cup of frozen fruit has about 2 to 3 grams of dietary fiber.”
While the latest study shows promise in the long-term benefits of consuming more fiber, it is important to recognize its benefits in our day-to-day lives.
“I stress the importance of fiber with all my clients,” says Rosenfeld. “Who doesn’t love a nice regular poo? Fiber is key in keeping things moving down there.”
Many foods that offer a multitude of other benefits contain fiber. Consider choosing whole foods—whether they be fresh, dried, canned, or frozen—to meet your fiber needs. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds are all sources of fiber and can fit into an overall balanced meal pattern.
What This Means For You
Read the full article here