The importance of fiber to overall health is well documented, yet more than nine out of 10 American adults and children do not get enough fiber, according to USDA’s What We Eat in America, NHANES 2001-2002: Usual Nutrient Intake From Foods as Compared to Dietary Reference Intakes.
The problem appears to be two-fold, according to a recent survey conducted by Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich. For starters, many consumers say they do not know where to find fiber. Second, they mistakenly believe products that tout “whole grain” always provide fiber.
“The consumer confusion around fiber and whole grains is staggering,” says Nelson Almeida, vice president, global nutrition for Kellogg. “Survey results highlight the fact that even people who are trying to improve their diets may be failing to do so because of this confusion.”
Leslie Bonci, a nationally recognized dietitian working with Kellogg, adds: “Fiber brings big benefits. Yet only 5% of Americans get enough of it. Confusion about how to find foods with fiber likely contributes to America’s fiber deficit.”
Dairy foods are turning out to be an excellent carrier of the many soluble, and even some insoluble fiber ingredients now in the marketplace (see this month’s new product examples).
According to the Kellogg survey, nearly 70% of American adults are making an effort to increase the amount of fiber in their diet by eating more whole grains. Of those surveyed who see the words whole grain on a food package, 75% assume the product is either a good or excellent source of fiber. But as it turns out, this is not always the case. The fiber content of whole-grain foods can vary greatly. Further, not all foods made with whole-grain ingredients are good (delivers at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving, or 10% of the recommended Daily Value) or excellent (delivers at least 5 grams of fiber per serving, or 20% of the recommended DV) sources of fiber. And some fiber-rich foods do not contain whole-grain ingredients at all.
Survey results also show that consumers expect foods “made with whole grains” to provide digestive-health benefits (63%) and help reduce cholesterol (47%). In reality, the powerhouse nutrient in whole grain that is consistently linked to these and other health benefits is fiber. With this information, it is easy to see why consumers are confused about which foods to eat to increase their fiber intake.
“Kellogg is taking a leadership role in helping consumers understand how to get more fiber in their diets,” says Almeida. To help consumers better understand fiber and choose foods that offer its important health benefits, Kellogg has teamed up with Bonci to offer “FIBER-pedia: A comprehensive look at fiber” (www.fiber-pedia.com). This online report provides consumers with knowledge they need to incorporate good sources of fiber into their diets. Unfortunately, it focuses on grain-based foods and fruits and vegetables, not fortified products such as milk, yogurt and even ice cream.
FIBER-pedia also explains how fiber can be beneficial to a healthy weight, digestive health and heart health, as well as the important role fiber plays in helping to keep children’s digestive systems healthy so they can absorb nutrients.
“Along with Kellogg Company’s FIBER-pedia, flipping to the Nutrition Facts panel can help people understand how to find foods that provide fiber, which is the first step in bridging America’s fiber gap,” said Bonci.
Dairies can formulate with ingredients that boost fiber levels on the Nutrition Facts, which, as consumers begin to take more notice of thanks to Kellogg’s efforts, can be an effective marketing tool. First Kellogg gave the cereal to pour milk on, now they are steering consumers to read fiber contents on product labels. Make sure yours is not zero.