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Some brands are labeling heavily processed foods as fibrous, but do they actually add any nutritional value?

Zee Krstic
October 23, 2017

It’s not uncommon to see makers of processed foods trying to appeal to health-conscious consumers by including ingredients that "boost" fiber levels without altering the taste. The problem? Consumers can be misled about what food is really loaded with fiber, so the Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on manufacturers that sneak added fiber into products and attempt to market them as “healthy".

NPR reports that the FDA has decided to review 26 different ingredients that are most likely being used to market a product as "high" in fiber. If you frequently peruse labels, you might be familiar with big names from this list–polydextrose, a sugar replacement; sugar beet and sugar cane fibers; and xanthan gum, a powerful go-to thickener for most foods.

Some companies might seek out the additives in question in the sole interest of adding an edge to an otherwise non-fibrous item, and many professionals have been calling for the FDA to restrict nutrition labels from listing these added fibers.

Some of the most popular–and seemingly wholesome–items in the supermarket contain added fiber, including Fiber One’s portable snack bars and a slew of Kellogg’s breakfast cereals.

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

At Cooking Light, we’ve tackled how to naturally source 38 grams of dietary fiber for men and 25 grams for women. Jamie Vespa, MS, RD, advocates for high fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

The FDA says a high-fiber diet can be an valuable asset against many different diseases, including certain cancers and Type 2 diabetes, and can also help to lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol as well. If you're looking to up your fiber intake, you should naturally find yourself eating less meat and more whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Going forward, the FDA is hoping to discern whether added fiber can provide health benefits to processed foods. According to this FDA guide to nutritional labeling, the FDA must be able to determine a single proven benefit of added fiber in a product before labeling the product as containing dietary fiber.

Alongside increasing natural consumption of fiber, this move by the FDA might help you discern what truly could help introduce more fiber into your diet – and what might be a thinly veiled attempt to mislead customers into thinking otherwise.