Project Description

High Fiber-Foods: Not All Are Created Equal

Many packaged foods contain added fiber, which may not have the same health benefits as naturally occurring fiber. Learn how to tell which type you’re getting.


THE CLAIM: High-fiber foods are good for you.

If you’re looking to get more fiber in your diet, and most of us need to, the food industry is happy to help. They’re adding it to a growing number of products from potato chips to ice cream to energy bars. But this added fiber may fall short when it comes to our health.

Foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes, which are naturally rich in fiber, are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer.

The fiber in these foods has been shown to help prevent constipation, control cholesterol and blood sugar, and promote weight loss by making you feel full.

But the fiber added to packaged foods is different. Known as processed or isolated fibers, these are not as well studied as natural fiber and may not have the same benefits. Still they count toward a food’s fiber total.

Tongue-twister words on the label, including Inulin, Polydextrose, and Resistant Maltodextrin, are indicators that a food’s fiber is added. What the package doesn’t say is that some of these fibers can cause gas.

For someone eating a 2000 calorie diet, the recommended amount of fiber is 28 grams a day.

To get this from real food, you can include, for example, bran cereal with blueberries for breakfast; a sandwich on whole wheat bread along with baby carrots for lunch; brown rice and broccoli for dinner; and for snacks an apple and a handful of almonds.

That’s a far healthier approach than relying on highly processed foods, no matter how much fiber is added. High-fiber junk food, after all, is still junk.

For more on diet and nutrition claims, check out my book, Coffee is Good for You, which reveals the truth about everything from red meat to red wine.

Helping you be a healthy skeptic, I’m Robert Davis.