Study: Adding Fiber Can Be a Pain the Gut

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I'm a fan of fiber. In addition to keeping your GI system happy and healthy, fiber helps fill you up and ward off hunger--if Mother Nature put it in your food, that is. When fiber is added to processed foods by manufacturers, a new short-term study found that this functional fiber lacks the same hunger-busting benefits--and might even cause discomfort.
This "stealth" fiber is added to foods like granola and snack bars, breads, crackers, cereals, and even yogurt in the past few years. Inulin, polydextrose and maltodextrin are among the added fibers used by food manufacturers to add health benefits to foods.
Back in 2010 I wrote about the adverse reactions I have with inulin, so I avoid it and other forms of functional fiber to prevent bellyaches and bloating. The women in the study, who were given four snack bars with no added fiber and one with extra fiber, had the same reactions. When they consumed a high-fiber bar, they felt no difference in hunger levels versus when they ate the low-fiber bar, but they did report more gas and bloating.

I understand the appeal of added fiber foods. But if you're eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, consuming the recommended 25-35 grams of fiber daily is within reach.

Let's look at a sample meal plan to see how fiber adds up:

  Fiber (grams)
1/2 cup oats cooked with water 3  
361 calories
1 cup soy milk 1
1/2 large banana, sliced 2
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts less than 1 gram*
Total 6
  Fiber (grams)  
328 calories
1 slice whole-wheat bread 2
1/2 ounce hummus 1
3 cups spinach 2
1/2 cup grated carrots 2
3 ounces cooked chicken breast 0
1 tablespoon ginger vinaigrette 0
Total 7
  Fiber (grams)  
157 calories
1 small apple 3
1 tablespoon chunky peanut butter 1
Total 4
541 calories
  Fiber (grams)
3 ounces extra lean beef 0
1 cup cooked brown rice 4
1 cup stir-fry veggies 4
1 cup skim milk 0
Total 8
Snack 2    
  Fiber (grams)  
1/2 serving reduced-fat whole-wheat crackers 2  
1 ounce low-fat Cheddar cheese 0  
Total 2 109 calories
Daily totals 27 g fiber 1,496 calories
Looking for ways to naturally increase fiber intake?

Do you consume functional fiber, or do you prefer it to occur naturally in your food?
*Walnuts do contain fiber, as a reader noticed, but in one tablespoon there is only a scant amount.