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Lifestyle

Should you be taking a fiber supplement?

Perhaps this is a better question: Are you getting at least 28 grams of fiber per day? That’s the recommended daily value based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Turns out the average American only gets 15 or 16 grams of fiber each day. While many dietitians encourage clients to consume fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes to reach that number, consumers may still turn to fiber supplements. But not all supplements are created equal, or even contain the same types of fiber.

The first thing to know about fiber is that there are two different types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is the one that slows down digestion and prevents blood sugar from raising too quickly. As it passes through your intestine, it soaks up water to help keep things moving. It also binds with fatty acids and helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Like soluble fiber, insoluble fiber also aids in digestion by remaining relatively intact and pushing things through.

Soluble fiber is the most common type found in supplements, but there are many different sources of this type of fiber. Four popular kinds include wheat dextrin, psyllium, inulin and methylcellulose.

Wheat dextrin, the form of fiber used in the supplement Benefiber, comes from wheat starch and is used to help reduce cholesterol, lower the risk of coronary heart disease and may help lower blood sugar.

Psyllium is the form found in Metamucil, and is most recognized for lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol while improving HDL (good) cholesterol and preventing constipation.

Inulin, which is usually extracted from chicory root, is considered a prebiotic as it helps increase good bacteria in the gut. However, inulin isn’t considered a “functional fiber” according the FDA, and remains the topic of a somewhat controversial debate surrounding the definition of functional fiber. Inulin can be found in Nature Made Fiber and Fiber Choice supplements.

Methylcellulose is a synthetic soluble fiber with laxative-like effects. It’s often used to treat constipation and can be found in Citrucel supplements.

Before reaching for a fiber supplement, talk to your Hy-Vee dietitian or your physician about your diet, medications and overall health. While supplements might be appropriate for some, there’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach.

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