The New Look of Fiber

Author:, by Mark Anthony, Ph.D., Technical Editor

Fiber, as a natural dietary component, continues to garner attention, and as a versatile food additive it can enhance the attraction of almost any product.

Most consumers recognize fiber is beneficial and protective of digestive health, that it could aid weight loss and lower cholesterol and provide other benefits. So much so that today, six in 10 people express a desire to get more fiber into their diets.

But expressing a desire and making the dietary change are two different things. According to the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, 14g of dietary fiber per 1,000 calories is considered adequate intake. That's about 25g per day for women and 38g per day for men.

Fiber has a dual purpose in processed foods. In addition to the health benefits, it increases moisture retention and adds texture, pliability, elasticity and heat stability, especially in non-bakery products such as meat analogs. The past few years have witnessed the development of whole new tool kits of isolated dietary fibers designed to re-create the foods Americans reach for.

But fiber now is associated more with health benefits than its mechanical properties. "Fiber for digestive and heart health plus prebiotic and probiotic abilities have experienced a sharp rise in awareness," says Deb Schulz, product manager for the Oliggo-Fiber brand of inulin from Cargill Inc. (, Minneapolis. "We offer a number of fibers to food manufacturers so that no matter the application, we likely have a solution."