Friday, September 26, 2008


Eat your cake and get your fiber too?

One of the positive legacies of diet guru Dr. Robert Atkins is that people have become more aware of the carbohydrates and sugars they consume.

There have also been more high fiber foods available in the grocery stores. Recently I have noticed that everything seems to contain fiber – soy milk, juice, yogurt, even ice cream. It’s like a dream come true, I can eat my cake and get fiber too.

My kids do not like whole wheat pasta, but lo and behold I find on the grocery store shelf a pasta that is high in fiber, but tastes just like regular pasta. My kids like it, in fact I have pulled the wool over their eyes, so I buy more. Reading the label I discover that the fiber source is inulin, so my dietitian curiosity gets the best of me and I start checking this out, what is inulin and what is it doing in my pasta?

Inulin is an isolated fiber, as are polydextrose and maltodextrin. These indigestible carbohydrates do little to change the texture of the foods they are added to and add a slight sweetness.

Because they are not digested, manufacturers are considering them dietary fiber on the nutrition facts panel. These fibers are not shown to have the same effects in the body as the soluble and insoluble fibers found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Isolated fibers can be found in juices, fiber bars, ice cream, soy milk as well as pasta. I am sure there are also other food sources that I am leaving out.

Insoluble fiber found in whole grains is useful in the prevention of constipation and diverticular disease. Soluble fiber found in oats, barley, fruits and vegetables are linked to lower risks of heart disease and diabetes. Both types of fiber are useful in weight control. Isolated fibers have not been shown to have these same beneficial effects.

Recommended fiber intake is for 21-25 grams for women and 30-38 grams for men per day. These recommendations are for a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber, and are based on the amounts that seem to lower risk for heart disease. However, other factors in foods, such as antioxidants, vitamins and minerals may play a role.

Either way you can not go wrong with natural fiber containing foods; whole grain cereals, whole grain pasta, whole grain breads, fruits, vegetables and dried beans.

Your daily fiber goals can be easily achieved by eating two servings of fresh or frozen fruit, two servings of fresh or frozen vegetables, two servings of whole grain bread or pasta and a serving of dried beans or nuts each day.

For a high fiber sweet, try homemade oatmeal cookies, fruit crisp made with an oatmeal topping or simply add ground flax seed or bran to home made baked goods, ice cream, yogurt or pudding.

Mary Beth Dahlstrom Green is a dietitian at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you would like to comment on this column or others, go to the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Green and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?