Consumers’ attitudes towards health are shifting. Likely triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen consumers take a more proactive approach to health – hoping to reap the benefits of a longer-term, comprehensive self-care strategy. Consequently, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of gut health on overall wellbeing.
According to a 2022 FMCG Gurus report, 76% of global consumers recognize the link between digestive health and overall health – up 4% since 2020. The increased awareness evidenced by this statistic has resulted in actionable intentions. According to the same report, 56% of global consumers plan to address their digestive health within the next 12 months.
But how do we address our gut health? One way is by consuming enough dietary fiber.
You’ve probably heard a lot about dietary fiber. Maybe you’ve seen it in market trend reports, read it on food labels, or heard about it from USDA recommendations. For many, the word brings up vague understandings of its importance to your digestive health.
However, despite the efforts of public health campaigns, consumers are not consuming enough dietary fiber. This means they’re also missing out on all the benefits of dietary fiber found in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Food and supplement producers have the opportunity to continue education and help consumers fix their fiber problem by creating convenient dietary fiber products. In this post, we will answer these four important questions about dietary fiber to help you better understand how to seize this opportunity:
- What is dietary fiber?
- Why do we need to eat dietary fiber?
- Why is dietary fiber missing from our diets?
- How can you help consumers fix their fiber problem?
1. WHAT IS DIETARY FIBER?
Put simply, dietary fiber is made up of the parts of plants that our bodies can’t digest or absorb. Other elements of food such as fats and proteins are broken down and absorbed by the body. Fiber can’t be broken down, so it is instead passed through the digestive system relatively intact.
Dietary fiber is often categorized into two different types of fiber:
- Soluble fiber: This type of fiber dissolves in water and can help support healthy cholesterol and glucose levels.
- Insoluble fiber: This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system by attracting water into your stool and making it softer and easier to pass.
Additionally, it is important to know that dietary fiber and functional fiber are not the same. The National Academy of Medicine makes these distinctions:
- Dietary fibers (nondigestible carbohydrates and lignans) occur naturally in plants
- Functional fibers are extracted from plants or synthetically made and are nondigestible with a beneficial health effect in humans.
Some types of fiber, which may be naturally occurring or synthetically made, might fall into both categories.
2. WHY DO WE NEED TO EAT DIETARY FIBER?
The human gut is said to be one of the most complex ecosystems on the planet. Fiber helps support our gut health by benefiting a healthy gut microbiome, which contributes to our overall health. Additionally, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, fiber may help positively impact various health-related concerns such as constipation and blood glucose levels. It may also support the management of chronic inflammation that often results from various health issues.
3. WHY IS DIETARY FIBER MISSING FROM OUR DIETS?
According to USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, more than 90% of women and 97% of men do not meet recommended intakes for dietary fiber. This aligns with consumers’ overall intake patterns, where 85% of adults are not eating the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This gap may contribute to a host of diet-related chronic health conditions for consumers.
4. HOW CAN YOU HELP CONSUMERS FIX THEIR FIBER PROBLEM?
Filling the fiber gap is not an easy proposition, but that doesn’t make it any less important. One way to help consumers fix their fiber problem is by adding ingredients that include fiber to products that consumers already love. Breakfast cereals, yogurts, smoothies, and baked items with added dietary fiber claims help provide education and clarity for buyers. And offering ingredient solutions that are sources of fiber while also being formulation friendly and great tasting can help consumers address their health holistically. For many, this will make fiber intake more approachable.