FoodHealthHealthyNutrition

For Fiber Variety!

As laboratory procedures have improved, consumers now know the “dietary fiber” content of food, which reflects both soluble and insoluble fiber content. Today you’ll find dietary fiber listed on the Nutrition Facts panel on the labels of most packaged food products.

Foods for Fiber

Do you like to nibble on popcorn? It’s a whole grain snack that helps boost the fiber factor in your diet. Again, dietary fiber comes only from plant sources of food: fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. Plant based foods actually contain a “mixed bag” of dietary fibers, having some of both types: soluble and insoluble. Good sources of soluble fiber may supply some insoluble fiber, too, and vice versa. For  example, fruits and vegetables have both pectin (soluble) and cellulose (insoluble). However, fruit usually has more pectin; vegetables, more cellulose. Both oatmeal and beans have some of both: soluble and insoluble fiber. (Beta glucan is the soluble fiber in oats and barley.)

Here are some specific foods that provide significant amounts of insoluble and soluble fibers. Their texture is a clue to their presence.

  • Insoluble fibers: whole wheat products; wheat, oat, and corn bran; flaxseeds; and many vegetables (such as cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes), including the skins of fruits and root vegetables, and beans. In fact, their tough, chewy texture comes from insoluble fibers.
  • Soluble fibers:dried beans and peas, oats, barley, flaxseeds, and many fruits and vegetables (such as apples, oranges, and carrots). When they’re cooked, the soft, mushy texture comes from their soluble fibers. Psyllium seed husks also supply soluble fiber.

For the record: Any nondigestible carbohydrate in animal-based foods is not currently defined as “dietary fiber” on food labels. But stay tuned in the future for possible changes in fiber labeling on food.

From grain to grain, brans aren’t all alike. The bran layers in different grains—wheat, rice, corn, oats, and others have varying types and different amounts of fiber. Wheat bran, for example, has a higher concentration of fiber than most other bran, and its bran is mainly insoluble. To compare, oat bran contains mainly soluble fiber.

The fiber content of vegetables and fruits varies; some are better sources than others. A heaping bowl of fresh lettuce greens may seem loaded with fiber. However, one cup of lettuce contains just about 1 gram of fiber; instead, it’s mostly water. In contrast, 1⁄2 cup of a three-bean salad (mainly legumes) supplies more than 3 fiber grams.

Food preparation or processing may alter the fiber content of foods. Just as a sponge changes in its ability to hold water when it’s chopped into very fine pieces, so properties of fiber may change a bit when the structure is altered by food processing or preparation. Fiber content drops, too, when the fiber rich part of a food is removed.

When it comes to making food choices, don’t get hung up on which fiber is which—just consume enough overall. By adding a variety of fiber-rich foods to your meals and snacks, you usually get the health benefits of both soluble and insoluble fibers.

 

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