Fiber Finds New Health Benefits

Fiber's use as a prebiotic has been shown to increase calcium absorption.

By Ann Juttelstad, Contributing Editor

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Consumers have gotten the message that a diet high in fiber is a good thing. Regularity has long been associated with fiber, but there's growing awareness that fiber also can lower low-density lipoprotein ("bad” cholesterol), reduce blood pressure and inflammation and control blood sugar levels. And that feeling of fullness, which it imparts, can aid in weight loss.

Most dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble, is a prebiotic, which helps maintain gut health by improving the digestive environment.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.

Insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water but improves digestion by moving foods through the digestive system. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts and many vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber.

With the clear importance of dietary fiber and continued consumer awareness, ingredient suppliers are coming out with products that can help put more fiber into your products.

"What's really exciting and new right now with prebiotics is their positive effect on bone health” says Patrick Luchsinger, nutrition marketing manager at Ingredion Inc. (www.ingredion.com), Westchester, Ill., the new name for Corn Products and National Starch.

"Calcium is a vital component in life. It's needed to form a strong skeletal structure [and it] contributes to the release of neurotransmitters from the synaptic neuron. Food and beverage products are increasingly being enriched with calcium to differentiate themselves, but if the calcium is not absorbed by the body, the intended health benefit cannot be realized,” he continues. "Prebiotic fiber, such as NutraFlora, has been shown to increase the absorption of minerals like calcium by lowering luminal pH to an optimal level and enhancing their absorption by the body.”

NutraFlora is a short-chain fructooligosaccharides (scFOS) derived from beet or cane sugar that Ingredion has targeted at calcium absorption.

Frost & Sullivan, a business research and consulting firm, has forecasted the market for prebiotic ingredients to double in the next five years. "Soluble prebiotic fibers have the potential to fulfill this prediction because they have multiple benefits such as bone, digestive and immune health, and are easier to incorporate into products compared to other fibers,” Luchsinger says.

Another new ingredient aimed at upping the fiber content of foods is Viterra High Fiber Oat Bran. This all-natural fiber provides a minimum of 20 percent (dry weight based) beta-glucan soluble fiber without the use of solvents or aqueous extraction.

At the recent IFT Food Expo, the company sampled Dual Texture Granola Clusters made with whole-grain rolled oats, graham crumbs and chewy fruit pieces enhanced with a sweet fruit-flavored coating. "The unique process delivers dried dual-textured clusters that maintain the highly textured crunch from the granola and a chewy flavorful bite from the fruit piece,” says a spokesperson for the Calgary, Alberta, company Viterra (www.viterra.com/foodingredients). "These sensory- and texture-satisfying products are the perfect choice for ready-to-eat cereal inclusions, snack mixes or stand-alone granola cereal.”

Litesse, from DuPont Nutrition and Health (www.dupont.com), New Century, Kan., is a polydextrose bulking agent that can be used to replace sugar, reduce calories and to add fiber to breads, cereals, frozen desserts, confections and beverages.

With its low glycemic profile, Litesse is often found in products that are aimed at the diabetic market. However, with the sustained interest in fiber enrichment, Litesse can be incorporated into products aimed at a more mainstream market.

Grain Processing Corp. (www.grainprocessing.com), Muscatine, Iowa, recently introduced TruBran corn bran as a solution for adding nutrition to snacks and desserts. "TruBran corn bran contains 85 percent total dietary fiber on a dry basis, which is the highest fiber corn bran in the marketplace,” the company claims. "This fiber has a light tan color and clean flavor profile. These characteristics allow the addition of fiber without affecting the texture and flavor of the final food formulation.”

Two different particle sizes of the TruBran corn bran are available. TruBran  F75M is finely milled, making it easy to incorporate with ingredients such as flour and other dry ingredients in snacks, nutrition bars and bakery formulations. A coarser particle size product, TruBran F75R, is offered for applications where a "whole grain” appearance is desired in a snack or baked item.

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