Following a review of global fiber intake results, the BENEO-Institute has found that only six countries out of 27 analyzed(1) are consuming the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended daily fiber intake of at least 25g of total dietary fibers from wholegrain cereals, fruits and vegetables per day(2). With this in mind, Hélène Alexiou, nutrition communication manager from the BENEO-Institute discusses how food and drink producers can help consumers bridge this fiber gap.

Fantastic fiber?
Relatively recently has the importance of fiber filtered into the public consciousness.  In fact, up until the 1970s, fiber was considered by most in the food industry as not useful or “just roughage.”  It took time for nutritional scientists to find evidence of the beneficial link of dietary fiber intake to bowel function for its importance to finally be recognized. It is now acknowledged – by the medical community, academics, industry and consumers-- that dietary fibers bring forth a number of positive physiological effects. A large amount of evidence shows that a high consumption of dietary fibers is associated with:

  • a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and constipation,
  • a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes,
  • maintaining adequate weight or even weight loss in overweight subjects and
  • the possible reduction of risk of colon cancer and hypertension(3). 

21stCentury Fiber Gap
However, even armed with evidence of the positive effects of fiber, consumers seem to find it hard to reach the basic intake level of fiber recommended by the WHO. One key contributor to this is that all foods have not been “created equal” when it comes to their fiber content. As an example, a plum has 1.58g of dietary fiber per 100g, and its dried equivalent has 17.8g of dietary fiber per 100g.  With this in mind, consumers struggle to know what to eat to ensure that they have achieved the proper level of fiber in their daily diet.  The range of fiber content within foods can be seen in Table 1. 

Table 1: Common Foods and Their Fiber Content(4)


Dietary fiber in g/100g
(edible portion)









Plum (fresh)


Plum (dried)






Vegetables and legumes


Potato (cooked)


Carrot (raw)


Carrot (cooked)


Chinese leaves


White cabbage




Beans (seed, white, cooked)


Peas cooked






Rolled oats




Rice unpolished


Rice polished




Wheat whole-meal bread


Wheat (flour) bread


Fiber-enriched food (nutrient content claim)


“source of fiber”


“high in fiber”


Helping Consumers Bridge the Gap
A summary of BENEO-Institute’s literature review related to publications on nutrient (and in particular fiber) intake assessments has shown a significant fiber gap between recommendations and consumption in many countries (Table 2). This data highlight the fact that the majority of consumers still need help when it comes to ensuring they have the sufficient amount of fiber in their diets. Conventional foods, such as fruits, vegetables and wholegrain products, make a valuable contribution to balanced nutrition; however, it is difficult to integrate enough of them into a daily diet to reach the WHO’s recommendation of 38g per day for the U.S. and Canada. In light of modern eating patterns, it is unrealistic to expect consumers to eat enough fiber, even within a healthy and balanced diet, to meet the suggested amount of fiber or to gain the benefits that a diet with fiber-enriched products offers. For example, a small apple with skin contains about 3.6g of fiber, so consumers would need to eat more than 10 apples (about three pounds worth) to reach the daily recommended fiber amount -- far from a balanced diet.

Table 2: BENEO Institute’s literature review related to publications on estimated fiber intake levels across 27 countries(1)   Selected statistics for North and South America shown below:
















* World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended daily fiber intake for the U.S., Canada and Colombia is 38g of total dietary fiber from whole grain cereals, fruits and vegetables per day. For Brazil and Mexico, the recommendation is 25g/day.

Fiber Gap Opportunities
A recent survey from the U.S. shows that nine out of 10 parents believe fiber is an important nutrient to include in their children’s diets, and more than 85% of parents believe fiber is important for their own diets as well.  The study also found more than 50% of consumers always or usually read front-of-package nutritional claims, and three out of 10 consumers are looking specifically for fiber content(5). With consumers worldwide seeking ways to increase consumption of fiber-containing foods, food and drink producers are faced with both a challenge and an opportunity: how to create products that provide sufficient amounts of fiber, taste good, yet do not increase total energy intakes. In other words, products that can make a difference. 

Since fiber-enriched foods are potentially the “next big opportunity”(6), it is worth remembering thatthere are a multitude of different ingredients which are called “fiber.” Various fibers exist, including non-starch polysaccharides, oligosaccharides and lignin, as well as resistant starch. Not all of these share the same physiological benefits. 

A case in point is inulin and oligofructose.  As soluble prebiotic fibers, these are not digested in the stomach or small intestine, and consequently, they reach the large intestine intact. Unlike many  dietary fibers, they are selectively fermented by the intestinal flora, promoting optimal intestinal function. Inulin and oligofructose favor bacteria are considered representative of a healthy microflora (mainly bifidobacteria). The concept encompassing this selective increase is called “the prebiotic effect” and designates a specific class of colonic nutrients. 

With the easy integration of inulin and oligofructoseinto many food and drink applications, including dairy, bakery, cereals, beverages and confectionery, these functional ingredients are now used for a wide variety of products from as far afield as Malaysia to Brazil.  Products containing a sufficient amount of inulin or oligofructose (3 or 6g/100g depending on national legislation) can be claimed as “source of fiber” or “rich in fiber” respectively.  

Inulin and Oligofructose
BENEO’s Orafti inulin and oligofructose are non-digestible carbohydrates that are isolated, using hot water extraction, from chicory roots and subsequently used to enrich the fiber content of a wide range of food and drink products. They can be used to replace fat or sugar and reduce the caloric value of the product, without altering taste and texture. Besides their beneficial effect on the human gut flora, studies also show that inulin and oligofructose may also help to absorb more calcium(7) as well to lower energy intake, and so support weight management(8-10).

Putting It Into Practice -- Simply
By including just one or two fiber-enriched foods within a healthy, balanced diet, it is possible for consumers to bridge the fiber gap with potential ease. In the menu illustration, extra fiber levels of 10g can be achieved simply by choosing a fiber-enriched cereal for breakfast and a similarly enriched snack bar later in the day.      

By using prebiotic fibers such as inulin and oligofructose, it is possible for food and drink manufacturers to take existing products and re-vitalize them, making the most of the opportunity to address this “fiber-gap.”

Example for an Increase of Daily Fiber Intake by Adding Fiber-enriched Foods:
Breakfast: If a 40g portion size of cereals, an apple (150g) and 125ml of milk or yogurt is chosen:Choosing a fiber-enriched cereal which may contain between 2.5g and 5g fiber/40g and the fiber intake of the apple = 7.2g of fiber at breakfast

Snack: A morning snack could include: a yogurt (e.g. Nestlé Activia/Muesli, 2.2g fiber/115g portion) combined with dried fruits (20g plums) = 5.7g fiber as a snack.

Lunch: A fiber-rich lunch might combine fresh/cooked vegetables with lentils or beans. If pasta or rice is offered, choosing the whole grain version increases fiber levels.

Snack: In the afternoon, a cereal or snack bar could boost fiber intake levels significantly, depending on the product. Cereal bars (25g) might contain 1.4g fiber/bar (e.g. Apricot & Peach Cereal Bars, U.K.) but also could provide up to 5.4g/30g bar (e.g. Fiber Plus Kelloggs, Spain).

Dinner: Dinner could consist of pulses and brown rice with a mix of vegetables, or potatoes. 


1. BENEO-Institute Windows to Science, Edition 1, 2011, “The Dietary Fiber Gap.”
2. Nishida, C. et al., 2004. “The Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases: Process, Product and Policy Implications.” Public Health Nutr. 7(1A): 245.
3. Kumar, V., et al. 2012. “Dietary Roles of Non-starch Polysaccharides in Human Nutrition: A Review.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 52(10):899.
4. Souci, S.W., et al. 2008. Food Composition and Nutrition Tables, 7th edition, Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Stuttgart, Germany.
5. Tate & Lyle Latest Research Finding: “Consumers Want the Nutritional Punch of Fiber in Their Favorite Foods and Beverages,” 2012.
6. Product scan Online. Database of New Products. Naples, N.Y.
7. Abrams, S.A. et al., 2005. “A Combination of Prebiotic Short- and Long-chain Inulin-type Fructans Enhances Calcium Absorption and Bone Mineralization in Young Adolescents.” Amer J Clin Nutr. 82:471.
8. McCann, M.T., et al. 2011. “Oligofructose-enriched Inulin Supplementation Decreases Energy Intake in Overweight and Obese Men and Women.” Obesity Rev. 12[Suppl. 1]: 263.
 9. Cani, P.D., et al., 2009. “Gut Microbiota Fermentation of Prebiotics Increases Satietiogenic and Gut Peptide Production with Consequences for Appetite Sensation and Glucose Response after a Meal.” Amer J Clin Nutr. 90:1236.
10. Parnell, J.A. and R.A. Reimer, 2009. “Weight Loss During Oligofructose Supplementation is Associated with Decreased Ghrelin and Increased PYY in Overweight and Obese Adults.” Amer J Clin Nutr. 89:1751.