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Demystifying fiber in processed foods: What food industry professionals need to know

When it comes to processed foods, taste, texture, and shelf life often get most of the attention; however, fiber content should be considered just as important.

As awareness of health and wellness grows among consumers, understanding and incorporating fiber into food products has become increasingly vital for food industry professionals to pay attention to if they want their products to stand out.

So, if you want to know more about fiber in processed foods—from its health benefits and testing methods to labeling considerations—then read on. This blog post is for you.

Fiber—what is it?

We know it’s important, but what exactly is fiber? Simply put, fiber is a type of carbohydrate present in plant-based foods that the human body cannot digest.

But how can fiber benefit us if we can’t digest it? Isn’t that just indigestion waiting to happen?

You’d think. But fiber’s indigestible nature is actually what makes it so healthy for us. Think of fiber as a brush that scrubs you clean from the inside.

Fiber comes in two primary forms: insoluble and soluble.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water, creating a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but adds bulk to stool and aids digestion.

Both fiber types promote digestive health and help manage weight. They also help control blood sugar levels.

According to the American Heart Association, a fiber-rich diet helps lower cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The Mayo Clinic also emphasizes the importance of fiber in promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.

However, fiber offers several benefits beyond that, which is why food industry professionals and food brands should consider adding more fiber to their foods.

So, what are those additional benefits?

Understanding the top 8 benefits of fiber in processed foods

Processed foods often get a bad rap for being low in nutritional value. But what if there were a way to make these products more nutritious and appealing to health-conscious consumers?

That’s where fiber comes in.

So, what other benefits of fiber might consumers want to know about when reading the label or packaging of a processed food product?

Here are the top eight benefits:

  • Improved nutritional profile: Fiber represents a vital component of a healthy diet. Food producers can enrich processed foods' nutritional value by adding fiber from whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Digestive health: Fiber promotes digestive health by adding bulk to stool and supporting regular bowel movements. Processed foods fortified with fiber help prevent constipation and maintain digestive function.
  • Weight management: High-fiber foods promote feelings of fullness, which can help people manage weight by reducing calorie intake. By incorporating fiber into processed foods, manufacturers can create products that help consumers feel satisfied while consuming fewer calories.
  • Blood sugar control: Soluble fiber, in particular, has been shown to slow the absorption of sugar and improve blood sugar levels. Processed foods containing soluble fiber can help stabilize blood glucose levels, making them suitable options for individuals with diabetes or those looking to manage their blood sugar.
  • Heart health: Scientists have linked fiber to a reduced risk of heart disease since it helps lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health markers. By including fiber in processed foods, manufacturers can contribute to heart-healthy diets and provide consumers with options that support cardiovascular wellness.
  • Gut health: Fiber serves as fuel for beneficial gut bacteria, which promote a healthy balance of microorganisms in the digestive system. Processed foods fortified with fiber can support a thriving gut microbiome, which is essential to maintaining overall health and immune function.
  • Sustainability: Many fiber-rich ingredients, such as whole grains and legumes, offer environmentally sustainable alternatives to other ingredients typically used in processed foods. By incorporating these ingredients into processed foods, manufacturers can align their products with consumer preferences toward more sustainable food options.
  • Increased appeal to consumers: As interest in health and wellness grows, consumers are actively searching for products that offer nutritional benefits. Processed foods fortified with fiber can appeal to health-conscious consumers looking for convenient options that support their health goals.

By fortifying processed foods with fiber-rich ingredients such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, manufacturers can meet consumer demand for healthier options without compromising taste or convenience.

Testing fiber content

Ensuring accurate and reliable measurement of fiber content in processed foods is essential for product formulation, labeling accuracy, and compliance with regulations. Traditional methods for determining fiber content include proximate analysis techniques such as gravimetric and enzymatic methods.

The gravimetric method offered by Medallion Labs provides a cost-effective way to measure fiber derived from grains, fruits, vegetables, and certain starches. This test works exceptionally well for testing fiber derived from legumes, plant material, cellulose, or grains.

So, how does this method work?

Gravimetric testing involves measuring the weight of a fiber sample before and after subjecting it to specific conditions, such as soaking the food in a solvent or heating it.

The initial weight represents the total mass of the sample, while the final weight reflects the mass of the fiber remaining after the soluble components have been removed.

Scientists can determine the percentage of soluble components or fiber in the sample by calculating the difference between the starting and final weights and expressing it as a percentage.

Food producers can use information gathered through this process to determine the composition and purity of the fiber present in their products. Again, this is where Medallion Labs can help.

Using these test results, food producers can ensure they’re communicating clear, accurate information to consumers and government agencies.

Labeling considerations for fiber content

You wouldn’t release a food product into the market without labeling the amount of sodium, calories, or serving size, would you?

Consumers want to know this information, and the government requires it. The same labeling requirements apply to fiber as well.

To comply with government regulations, food producers must label the fiber content of individual ingredients and any added fiber from fortification or enrichment. Nutrient content claims such as "good source of fiber" or "high fiber" must meet specific criteria set forth by regulatory agencies to prevent misleading consumers.

According to the International Food Information Council Foundation, clear and transparent labeling can help consumers make healthier choices. By providing accurate information about fiber content, food industry professionals can empower consumers to make informed spending decisions that support their health and wellness goals.

But there’s another reason why food producers need to accurately label the fiber levels of their products—failing to do so violates the law.

In the United States, for instance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority to act against companies that fail to comply with labeling regulations.

Penalties may include warning letters, fines, product seizure, injunctions, or even criminal prosecution in cases of serious violations or repeated offenses. These penalties aren’t good for a company’s bottom line or reputation among customers.

The severe consequences of mislabeling fiber levels make it essential for food companies to invest in quality testing. This ensures accurate labeling and the satisfaction of both the FDA and consumers.

To discover how Medallion Labs can help, visit our fiber testing page.

Incorporating fiber into processed foods

There’s more to fortifying foods with fiber than adding additional ingredients.

When incorporating fiber into processed foods, food brands must consider various factors, such as ingredient selection, formulation considerations, and quality control measures.

Brands must choose fiber-rich ingredients that provide flavor and improve texture while maintaining or extending shelf life. And that’s where things get complicated.

How do you determine whether or not an additive will extend or shorten shelf life, let alone alter taste and texture?

The easy way to gain assurance is by working with experts from a food testing lab such as Medallion Labs. Their shelf life or carbohydrate testing can help ensure the quality of your products and compliance with regulatory standards.

So, whether you need to determine fiber content, shelf life, sugar profile, protein levels, the presence of vitamins, or more, the experts at Medallion Labs make testing easy and pain-free.

That’s why brands like Sunsweet, General Mills, and AGT Foods trust Medallion Labs to handle their testing needs.

Contact one of our experts today to discover how Medallion Labs can help you test for fiber content in your products.