Fiber: The New Superstar Nutrient | Reader's Digest

Fiber: The New Superstar Nutrient

Find out why getting fiber from whole foods is important for a healthy diet.

By Janis Graham from Reader's Digest | November 2009
Fiber: The New Superstar NutrientBeans are an excellent source of fiber.Beans are an excellent source of fiber.

See 10 high-fiber recipes

Fiber has never been what you’d call a sexy nutrient. Suddenly, it’s a superstar: Manufacturers are adding it to yogurt, juice, even artificial sweetener. But as with many celebrities, there’s an unseemly backstory: Experts aren’t sure that these fiber-boosted foods are worth trying.
Yes, you should eat lots of fiber. There’s no question that a diet rich in high-fiber foods is a powerful lifesaver—it’s known to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and it helps prevent weight gain. Recent studies show a fiber-rich diet cuts the risk of breast cancer, too, and the chances you’ll develop cancer of the small intestine.

But the new foods might not count. That’s because many of them use “isolated” fiber—stuff that’s been stripped out of the foods that originally contained it, says nutrition expert Tara Gidus, RD. Isolated fibers like inulin, polydextrose, and maltodextrin are flavorless and don’t turn juice and yogurt into a gummy, grainy glop. The downside: There’s no evidence that they protect against chronic diseases.

So go ahead and try a glass of fiber-boosted grape juice, or stir some fiber into your coffee along with your artificial sweetener. Just don’t forget to also eat more whole grains, beans, and fruits and veggies—they’re proven lifesavers.

Tastier Than You Think
Not crazy about stewed prunes (4 g fiber per 1/2 cup)? Try these surprising high-fiber foods:
1 artichoke – 10 g
1 pear – 6g
1/2 cup raspberries – 4g
1/4 cup hummus – 4g