Dietary Fiber

Fiber is classified as complex carbohydrates (more than two sugar units linked together). In 2002, the Institute of Medicine created the following definitions for fiber, separating it into three components: dietary fiber, functional fiber, and total fiber:

• Dietary fiber – Includes isolated, manufactured, or synthetic oligosaccharides (complex carbohydrates that contain 3-10 sugar or glucose units) that our bodies cannot digest or absorb and that have beneficial health effects (for example, it can improve regularity, improve blood sugar and dietary cholesterol levels, and reduce disease risk).
• Total fiber – Is the sum of dietary fiber and functional fiber.

Nutrition Facts Labels on food packages currently list dietary fiber under total carbohydrates and further distinguish dietary fiber as soluble or insoluble fiber. According to the Institute of Medicine, the scientific support for using solubility to determine beneficial health effects is inconsistent, and recent studies suggest that other characteristics of fiber – including fermentability and viscosity – can be important to consider. Because of this, the Institute of Medicine recommends that the terms soluble and insoluble no longer be used.

Fiber is found in a variety of plant foods. Legumes (beans and peas), grains (especially whole grains), fruits, and vegetables all contribute fiber to the diet.

Resistant Starch

Resistant starch is a type of dietary fiber. Resistant starch is defined as the sum of starch and products of starch degradation (breakdown of starch) that’s not absorbed in the small intestine of a healthy individual.

Resistant starch is found naturally in a variety of plant foods or it is added to processed foods. The four main dietary sources of resistant starch include

• Whole-grain foods (whole or partly milled grains and seeds)
• Raw potatoes, unripe bananas, some legumes, and in high-amylose starches such as those obtained from high-amylose corn
• Cooked and cooled foods, such as potatoes, bread, and cornflakes
• Processed foods made with resistant starches

The amount of resistant starch in foods varies widely; our estimated daily intake ranges from about 3 grams to about 8 grams per day. Studies suggest that consuming 6-12 grams of resistant starch at a meal can benefit glucose and insulin levels after the meal; consuming 20 grams per day has also been shown to bulk up feces and benefit digestive health.

Fiber Supplements

Fiber supplements are often sold as bran tablets or purified cellulose or in the form of laxatives (stool softeners). Whether in pill, powder, or drink form, fiber supplements can help some people consume adequate amounts of fiber. But taking fiber supplements (or eating fiber-fortified foods) makes overconsuming fiber easy, and too much can cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Fiber supplements do not replace a diet rich in plant foods that naturally contain fiber along with other key nutrients and substances that benefit health.

Studies have shown that people who consume more dietary fiber also tend to weigh less. That’s no surprise because many high-fiber foods, especially those that contain a lot of water such as fruits, vegetables, and cooked grains, are very filling. Eating a lot of fiber-rich foods such as legumes; whole grains; and other fiber-rich grains, fruits, and vegetables can help you lower your total daily calorie intake.

Consuming a fiber-rich diet can also help you steady your blood sugar levels and keep you energized throughout the day. It can also help you manage, lower your risk of, or treat obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer as well as gastrointestinal conditions such as constipation.

Too much dietary fiber can reduce the absorption of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and energy. It can also cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, flatulence, bloating, and diarrhea if consumed in excessive amounts. To minimize these symptoms, as people incorporate more fiber into their diet to meet current recommendations, they should also take in more water and other fluids to ease the passage of fiber throughout the body.

Soluble fiber is not digested by the human body; it absorbs and retains water and forms a gel- like substance.

Insoluble fiber is not digested by the human body; it does not absorb and retain water like soluble fiber but stays intact as it passes through the body.

Cellulose is a straight-chain polysaccharide (more than two units of glucose joined together); it is the main component of plant cell walls and is not digested in the human body.

USANA Vitamins Almond Crème and gluten-free† Peach Mango Fibergy are great-tasting ways to get at least 12 grams of fiber from multiple sources in a single serving. USANA Peach Mango Fibergy is gluten free.