With the one possible exception of an apple in the Garden of Eden, ingesting more fruits is seen universally as a wonderful idea. One of the reasons is the benefits of fiber – whether from fruits, vegetables, grains or other sources.
Using a straw instead of a spoon and fork may be the newest way to increase fiber intake. Juices, water, smoothies and sports drinks are some of the newest products supplying fiber.
Food processors are working to bring the benefits of fiber to consumers in more and simpler ways. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo each introduced soft drinks with added fiber on the international market. More recently, Coca-Cola is seeking a patent for a sugar-free beverage with fiber.
"While the fiber-fortified beverage market is still relatively small, beverage brands and manufacturers see a lot of opportunity for growth," says Patrick Luchsinger, marketing manager for nutrition at Ingredion Inc., Westchester, Ill.
"While the old idea of fiber in a beverage may still call to mind powdered drink mixes or thick, nutritional supplement-type drinks, advances in ingredient technology now enable beverage developers to add significant levels of fiber to a range of mainstream beverages," he continues. "From juices to smoothies to dairy based-beverages, and even to enhanced waters that taste great, fiber adds functionality and provides additional value for the consumer."
Those "advances in ingredient technology" include Ingredion's Nutraflora and Nutriose products. Nutraflora is a short-chain fructooligosaccharide, a natural prebiotic fiber derived from non-GMO beet or cane sugar. Nutriose is a soluble fiber of natural origin, derived from wheat and corn.
"Functional beverages are already part of a healthy lifestyle, but consumers aren't always aware of the health impact of different types of dietary fiber," said Rhonda Witwer, head of nutrition communications (NAFTA) at Beneo Inc. "They may be looking for beverages with natural ingredients, beverages with lower caloric content, beverages with substantiated health benefit statements, or all of the above at the same time. Beneo's prebiotic fibers, including inulin and oliggofructose derived from chicory root, are quickly gaining interest for all of these needs."
Who would even think of buying a car without cup holders? Society is more on-the-go than ever, and consumers want to match their active lives, where more calories are consumed in transit, with their quest for healthier foods.
Fiber aids in digestion and helps in treatment of constipation, hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome. Fiber is also very helpful when trying to lose a few pounds as it absorbs nutrients and keeps you feeling fuller for a longer time.
Those aren't fun topics for around the water cooler, but increased fiber in the diet also helps in the prevention of diseases ranging from diabetes to heart disease and cancer. Fiber comes in two types – soluble and insoluble – and both have important effects on your health. Consumers are looking for ways to add these healthy benefits.
"According to internal research by Ingredion, high-fiber diets are more popular now than low-fat or low-calorie diets, and there has been an increase of fiber intake over the past couple of years," says Luchsinger. "This is a positive trend, as the average adult only eats 15g of fiber per day," he said. The USDA recommended intake for total fiber for adults up to 50 years of age is 25g per day for women and 38g per day for men. For those over 50, the recommended intake is 21g for women and 30g for men.
"Demand for all-natural is growing, as is the overall market for products that make people feel good about what they are consuming and help them feel well afterwards," adds Witwer.
"Overall, consumers don't want to change their lifestyle or diet. They want to be able to integrate healthy nutrition within their regular daily routine via small changes (such as an occasional beverage). Prebiotics from nature that are incorporated in beverages, without changing the taste and texture, are an ideal way to create new fiber-fortified solutions for today's consumer needs."
The USDA's food pyramid call for 2-4 servings of fruit, 3-5 servings of vegetables and 6-11 servings of cereal and grain foods. Following the guide will provide the 25-30g of daily fiber. Nobody said you couldn't drink your way to the goal.