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Real Fiber vs. Isolated Fiber By Elaine Hammes, LD, RD

December 4, 2009
Northern-Sun Print
Dietitian with Grinnell Regional Medical Center There are many health benefits provided by fiber. These include lowering blood glucose and cholesterol levels, helping to maintain a healthy weight, and lowering the risks of certain kinds of cancer. But are you getting enough real fiber to receive these benefits? Soluble fiber is the type of dietary fiber which helps with lowering blood glucose and cholesterol levels as well as helping with weight loss. Sources of soluble fiber include barley, citrus fruits, dried beans, legumes, oatmeal, and oat bran. Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that helps speed up your food materials through the digestive system, which, in turn, can lower the risk of colon cancer and other digestive tract disorders. Insoluble fiber can be found in fruit and vegetable skins, wheat bran, and whole wheat cereals. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that you get 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories. Consider that most foods high in fiber naturally have about 2 to 10 grams of fiber per serving. How is it, then, that yogurt and drinks can have fiber in them? Or that granola, protein, and “nutrition” bars can have over 12 grams of fiber per serving? Food manufacturers are now “helping” people to get enough fiber by adding isolated fibers to their food products. But not all isolated fiber is providing the benefits of real fiber. The isolated fibers “wheat fiber” or “oat hull fiber” are insoluble fibers that can provide benefits for your digestive system, but not provide benefits for your heart health. “Oat fiber” can be either soluble or insoluble. Be aware that when the words “inulin,” “polydextrose,” and “maltodextrin” are listed as ingredients, you are getting isolated fibers that have little evidence of providing any of the disease-protective benefits that the real soluble and insoluble fibers do. Unfortunately, when you look on the nutrition facts panel of a prepared food to see how much fiber is in a serving of food, you will not be able to tell how much of the fiber is real fiber and how much is isolated fiber. Look at the list of ingredients for the words “oat bran” or “wheat bran” so that you will then know you are getting the fiber-rich nutritious outer layer of the grain kernel. Replacing your processed foods with whole grains, dried beans, legumes, citrus fruits, berries, nuts, and seeds also gives you even more of a health benefit from the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber all working together. Real fiber vs. isolated fiber. Are you really getting the health benefits that you are paying for? The staff at the Deer Creek Health Center can assist you with nutrition questions and arrange a consult with a dietitian. Call the clinic at 641-484-2602 for more information.


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