Let’s start with the basics. What is fiber? It is a group of nondigestible carbohydrates that are not broken down in the upper portion of your gut. Fiber can be described in two groups. Intact and processed. Intact fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other plains. While processed fibers are extracted from plants or made in a lab. So the question to answer, do processed fiber provide the same benefit as intact fiber?
One benefits of getting your fiber from an intact source are that fiber found in fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grain have a mixture of fibers. When you eat a plant-based diet, you get all of them. While the processed fiber may not provide any health benefits. Manufacturers add fiber for different reasons, and it may seem that the product is “healthy.” But in fact, the added fiber may not be providing you with all the benefits fiber offers. Fiber can be broken down into three characteristics. Soluble, viscous, and fermentable. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, viscous thickens or forms a gel when water is added. And fermentable is broken down by gut bacteria in the large intestines. Most processed fibers are soluble, non-viscous, and fermentable. And this makes them the least likely to do much for your health.
Labeling laws allow for any processed fiber to count as fiber on the nutrition facts label. In 2020, this will change, as processed fiber can only count if it curbs food intake or improves regularity, cholesterol, blood sugar or the body’s ability to absorb a mineral like calcium. This will be a significant change since consumers like you will be guaranteed that processed fiber is providing you with a benefit.
The take-home message is, your best and the first option should be choosing foods with adequate amounts of dietary fiber from a variety of plants. Don’t forget that fiber recommendations are coming from people who consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, not gummy bears or cookies with added fiber.