Jan 14, 2021
Dietary fiber is recognized for its numerous potential health benefits, including its ability to help prevent the development of chronic disease. But in order to reap these benefits the average adult should consume a minimum of 25 g of fiber per day. Yet, national consumption surveys in the USA estimate that only about 5% of the population meet the recommended fiber intake. Therefore fiber is now increasingly recognized as a nutrient of public health concern and is rapidly gaining interest among consumers. According to a survey conducted by the International Food Information Council in the USA, nearly 7 out of 10 consumers report that fiber content influences their decision of what packaged food products to buy – but what exactly is fiber, why is it so good for health, and how can bakeries add more to their bread formulations?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plants, but unlike other carbs, it cannot be broken down into simple sugar molecules and therefore it’s not absorbed by the body. Rather, fiber passes through the intestinal tract, exerting its many health benefits along the way!
More specifically, fiber is categorized into two different types, soluble and insoluble, both of which are present in most plant foods but in different amounts. Simply put, soluble fibers, such as pectin, gums and beta-glucans, dissolve into water to form a gel-like substance. They are the type of fiber that is found in oats, fruits, nuts, seeds and some vegetables, and even in baker’s yeast. On the other hand, insoluble fibers don’t dissolve in water and retain their shape to provide strength, structure and bulk. They are found in the endosperm (or hard outer shell) of wheat bran and other whole grains, as well as in the cellulose and hemi-cellulose of vegetables and fruit peels.
Review of the health benefits of fiber
So you’re probably aware that eating a high fiber diet can help “keep you regular”, but did you know that it also provides a plethora of other health benefits? In fact, fiber can help lower cholesterol, control blood sugars, manage weight, enhance overall digestive health and prevent certain cancers. The soluble fibers that form a gel will bind cholesterol in the gut and prevent its absorption. In the same way, the formation of this gel will also slow digestion and absorption of nutrients like sugar, which reduces the spike in blood sugars after a meal. Moreover, both soluble and insoluble fibers create bulk in the digestive tract, which increase satiety and can help prevent over-eating by keeping you feeling full for longer.
While they are commonly known for their effect in maintaining normal bowel movements and preventing constipation, the ability for fiber to increase intestinal transit also prevents the exposure of harmful substances to the intestinal walls, which has been shown to lower the risk of colon cancer. Fiber also supports digestive health by acting as a prebiotic: while they are not broken down by the human intestines per say, they serve as “food” for the bacterial flora (the thousands of good bacteria) that live in our colons and contributes to overall health and wellness. With all this potential goodness, food companies and bakeries are now striving to increase the content of their products.
Baking with more fiber
While people are choosing more and more higher fiber products, increasing the content of bread can be challenging for bakers. For example, whole grains and their fibers are known to chemically and physically interfere with the dough properties, resulting in weaker and less voluminous finished products. This is because the fibers tend to disrupt the formation of the gluten matrix, which usually acts to provide structure and strength to the dough, allowing it to rise by retaining more of the CO2 gas produced by the yeast during fermentation.
Thankfully, Lallemand offers an array of baking solutions, including clean label products, which can improve the dough strength and the quality of high-fiber breads. Lallemand products are backed by skilled technical support staff that will be happy to assist you in determining which product best suits your process and application.