Human Nutrition & Food Science Team Creates Healthy Treats to Increase Daily Fiber

Human Nutrition & Food Science Team Creates Healthy Treats to Increase Daily Fiber
Graduate student Diana Frost uses a high-fiber barley product to bake healthier chocolate chip cookies in a university test kitchen.


Will a cookie a day keep the doctor away? A Human Nutrition & Food Science team is working with one of America?s leading packaged food companies to create a high-fiber cookie that will make it easier to increase an individual?s daily roughage intake.

?Most Americans are failing to meet the recommended amounts of total dietary fiber (TDF) per day, but almost everyone eats cookies, so we wanted to hide fiber in cookies,? says Human Nutrition & Food Science (HNFS) professor Doug Lewis, principal investigator of the research.

The recommended amounts of total dietary fiber (TDF) were recently modified to 25 and 38 grams per day for women and men, respectively, while amounts for children (ages 4-13) range from 25-31 grams per day, according to the National Academy of Sciences? Food & Nutrition Board. Studies show that the average American eats less than half of the recommended amount.

?It would take an entire box of oatmeal to equal to just 10 grams of soluble fiber,? says Lewis.

A type of carbohydrate that passes through the human digestive system without being broken down into nutrients, fiber is found only in plant foods such as whole-grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans.

Fiber helps to prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and obesity from overeating. In addition, proper fiber consumption improves cholesterol levels and can lower the risk of developing certain diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, diverticular disease, as well as gallstones and kidney stones.

The university?s high-fiber food research project is a collaboration between the HNFS department and ConAgra Foods Inc., a packaged food company headquartered in Omaha, Neb. Lewis and his team ? comprised of Maria Botero-Omary, co-investigator and assistant professor of HNFS, graduate student Diana Frost, and undergraduate students Elyse Petersen and S. Susan ? are using ConAgra?s high-fiber barley variety, Sustagrain?, to create fiber-enriched baking products, including cookies and tortillas, in on-campus research kitchens.

Already the team has been successful in creating a cookie with more than three times the amount of fiber found in a typical cookie such as a Grandma?s Homestyle, which contains only one gram of dietary fiber, says Lewis.

The cookies were put through an unscientific acceptance test at the university?s annual Pumpkin Festival last fall, where they were ?very widely received,? he says.

Lewis plans to use the cookies in a clinical feeding study for 18- to 36-year-olds later this year, and the team is expected to report on its research in July.

Eventually, the group hopes to develop a healthy, convenient and palatable high-fiber snack that may be commercially manufactured. The project still has many hurdles to overcome, he says, because it is difficult to increase the amount of fiber without compromising the texture and taste of the product.

?With the current methods, we can produce two cookies with fiber content equal to a bowl of oatmeal. But it?s still high in fat and sugar, and because of that, we cannot put a health claim on it by the Food & Drug Administration,? says Lewis.