You already know that high fiber foods are an important part of a healthy diet. They help regulate your blood sugar levels, keep your cholesterol in check, and, uh, make you regular. But it turns out you don’t necessarily have to eat an apple or suffer through a
cardboard bran cereal breakfast to get your daily fiber intake. According to new research from the University of Illinois, two specific types of fiber can help you stay healthy and lose weight—and they’re often found in prepared foods like ice cream, muffins, and soup. Yup, there’s fiber in the good stuff… and by good, we mean good-tasting.
For the study, researchers gave participants snack bars that contained 21 grams of the fiber polydextrose, which is a common food additive, 21 grams of soluble corn fiber, or no fiber at all. In summation, researchers discovered that participants who ate the bars with polydextrose and soluble corn fiber had higher levels of the good gut bacteria bacteroidetes, which has been linked to staying thin.
Both polydextrose and soluble corn fiber are water-soluble and don’t change the taste of texture of foods, which makes them easy to include in food products, explains lead researcher Kelly Swanson, PhD. He says that both fibers are usually found in cereals, dairy desserts, fruit fillings, flavored water, ice cream, juice, ketchup, and sauces, so they’re fairly easy to find at your local grocery store.
While loading up on sweets and snacks sounds like an amazing way to increase your fiber intake, registered dietician Sara-Jane Bedwell points out that it’s important to get a balance of soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. What’s the difference? Soluble fiber like polydextrose and soluble corn fiber attracts water and forms a gel in your digestive tract, which slows down digestion and makes you feel fuller for longer. It can also help prevent the absorption of bad cholesterol. Insoluble fibers, which are usually found in veggies and some grains, add bulk to your diet and help keep you regular, she says. These fibers don’t dissolve in water and don’t break down, so they pass through your digestive tract fairly intact. Basically, they help move things along and flush out the bad stuff that’s lingering in your digestive tract.
Despite the new research, Bedwell stresses that it’s still key to get the bulk of your fiber intake from traditionally healthy foods. “While eating more fiber from any source can be a good thing, it’s important to focus on foods with naturally-containing dietary fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains,” she says. “These foods contain many other important nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants as well.”
That said, if you’re planning to eat a muffin or ice cream anyway, you might as well opt for ones that contain polydextrose or soluble corn fiber to get an extra dose of fiber. Swanson recommends simply checking the label—they’ll be listed right there in the ingredients.
Read more: The 5 Rules of Snacking