Dietary fiber offers many health benefits and so it is essential for a healthy diet. This is why foods with dietary fiber have become the important players in the food and supplements market. Since the market is growing rapidly, various players are launching innovative products according to end user tastes and preferences. With the rise in the consumption of functional foods dietary fiber supplements already has a strong market base.
So what is dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber is also called roughage by the medical fraternity. It is that part of the plant that is indigestible. A plant has two main components one is made up of soluble fiber that is readily fermented into gases. Soluble fiber once fermented produce short-chain fatty acids as by products which have a wide range of physiological activities. Medically speaking soluble fiber binds to the bile acids in the small intestine and prevents them from entering the body so this helps to lower cholesterol levels in the blood and therefore reduces risk of heart disease. Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion. This traps carbohydrates and slows absorption of glucose which leads to lowered blood sugar levels.
The second component is the insoluble part of plants that cannot be metabolised but it absorbs water as it passes through the digestive system. It also changes the nature of the contents in gastrointestinal tract and also how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed. Insoluble fiber speeds the passage of foods through the digestive system and adds bulk to stool which encourages regularity and reduces constipation. This also reduces the risk of colon cancer. One good thing about fiber is that it does not bind to minerals and vitamins and so do not cause restriction to their absorption. In fact fiber aids in the absorption of calcium.
Dietary fiber is found in plants. While all plants contain some fibre those with a higher concentrations are the best source of dietary fiber. These plants can be
- eaten directly
- made into supplements
- processed into fiber-rich foods
Plants contain both types of fiber in varying degrees. Therefore food sources of dietary fiber are often divided according to how much soluble and insoluble fiber they predominantly have.
Sources of soluble fiber are:
- legumes like peas, soybeans and other types of beans
- oats, rye, chia, and barley
- some fruits and fruit juices like plums, berries, bananas, and the insides of apples and pears
- vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions
- psyllium seed husk
Sources of insoluble fiber are:
- whole grain foods, wheat and corn bran
- nuts other edible seeds like flax seed
- potato and tomato skins as also skins of certain fruits
- plant lignin
- vegetables like green beans, cauliflower, zucchini, courgette and celery
- fruits like avocado, and bananas
Why dietary fiber supplements?
To be effective a person requires 30 grams of fiber per day but gets only about 10 to 15 grams from daily diet. This is because people tend to eat products made with highly refined wheat flour and do not eat many fruits and vegetables. Even if they eat fruits and vegetables then an average serving of fruit or a vegetable, or cereal contains only 2 to 4 grams of fiber. Meat and dairy foods do not contain fiber. It is fiber supplements that can provide the rest of the fiber required per day. Various types of supplements like wheat bran, ispaghula husk, sterculia, psyllium methylcellulose and sterculia increase the intake of fiber in a normal human diet. Also fiber supplements are the foods that provide fiber to a weight loss diet.
Both soluble and insoluble fiber add bulk to your diet which makes a person feel full faster and this reduces appetite and aids in weight control. Fiber supplements are also recommended for patients who suffer from chronic diseases like coronary heart diseases, constipation, low cholesterol, gastrointestinal disorders, colon cancer and diarrhoea because dietary fiber helps to reduce some of the problems caused by these diseases.
As dietary fiber provides health benefits the worldwide dietary fiber industry is a rapidly growing industry. The current size of the market is approximately $2272.4 million and is growing at a CARG of around 13 per cent. It is estimated to grow to $4,210.0 million by 2019. The dietary fiber market is led by North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific in terms of revenue earnings. Presently it is the conventional insoluble fiber that are in demand but now the trends have shown a move towards novel fiber. New findings show that dietary fiber are now in high demand in India, China, Brazil, and Argentina and these countries are likely to exhibit a swiftly growing trend for dietary fiber consumption.
As per the ICMR guidelines, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of dietary fiber for Indians is specified as 15.7 gram.
The Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011 have specified that the complete nutritional information of all types of packaged food must be clearly mentioned on the label of the pre-packaged food.