You know that a fiber-rich diet can help us stay healthy and even maintain a healthy weight, but not all fiber is created equal. What exactly is “added fiber” in food, and is it as healthy as naturally-occurring fiber? The FDA is considering this question right now.
When you are choosing a box of crackers or loaf of bread at the store, do you consider how much fiber is in a serving? You’re not alone, and food companies know it. In an interview with NPR, Bonnie Liebman from Center for Science in the Public Interest said, “The food industry has hijacked the advice to eat more fiber by putting isolated, highly processed fiber into what are essentially junk foods.”
WHAT IS ADDED FIBER?
Added fiber kind of is what it says it is: fiber that’s added to food during processing. Food producers use all kinds of ingredients to add fiber to their foods, and the FDA is looking at 26 of these ingredients to decide whether they count as dietary fiber.
The added fiber ingredients that the FDA is looking at are:
- Gum Acacia
- Apple Fiber
- Bamboo Fiber
- Corn Hull Fiber
- Cottonseed Fiber
- Inulin/Oligofructose/Synthetic Short Chain Fructooligosaccharides
- Karaya Gum
- Oat Hull Fiber
- Pea Fiber
- Potato Fibers
- Rice Bran Fiber
- High Amylose Corn/Maize Starch (Resistant Starch 2)
- Retrograded Corn Starch (Resistant Starch 3)
- Resistant Wheat and Maize Starch (Resistant Starch 4)
- Soluble Corn Fiber
- Soy Fiber
- Sugar Beet Fiber
- Sugar Cane Fiber
- Wheat Fiber
- Xanthan Gum
That is quite a list! FDA is requesting data on these ingredients and putting out a scientific literature review to determine which of the added fiber ingredients listed above “provides a beneficial physiological effect to human health.” This new definition of dietary fiber is likely going to change how much fiber companies can list on Nutrition Facts labels.
Once the review is complete, only ingredients that meet that requirement will be able to count toward dietary fiber on a product’s Nutrition Facts label.
HOW MUCH FIBER SHOULD WE EAT?
Fiber recommendations vary by age. According to the American Heart Association and the UCSF Medical Center:
- Adults 18+ need 25-30 grams of fiber per day.
- Children ages 1-3 years need 19 grams per day.
- Children ages 4-8 years need 25 grams per day.
- Children ages 9-13 need 26-31 grams per day.
- Children ages 14-18 years need 26-38 grams per day.
They also recommend that your daily fiber intake should come from food, not supplements.
HOW TO GET ENOUGH DIETARY FIBER
Most Americans fall far short of the daily recommendations. The average American eats only 15 grams of fiber per day! Since the jury is still out on whether many added fiber ingredients count as dietary fiber, your best bet is to meet your fiber needs by eating more plants.
Only plant foods naturally contain dietary fiber, so a plant-based diet rich in whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables are your best bet for meeting the recommended amount of dietary fiber.