Are Fortified Foods Good for You?
How Much Fiber and Folic Acid You NeedFolic acid
Some 20 years ago women were coming up short on folate. This B vitamin, found in avocados, leafy greens, orange juice, and peanuts, is a must if you're pregnant; it protects against neural tube defects and aids normal cell development. So food companies started putting a synthetic version, called folic acid, in bread, pasta, and rice. These days many of us get the recommended 400 micrograms daily, but there's a catch: Manufacturers, taking a more-is-better approach, add folic acid to foods like cereal and energy bars. While emerging research shows that it's okay to get a lot of folate from whole foods, too much folic acid may be dangerous because it may interfere with DNA synthesis or even cause nerve damage. One study has linked it to an increased cancer risk.
Bottom line: Experts don't know how much folic acid you can consume safely, so beware of supplements and enriched foods that claim to provide a big chunk of your daily intake. Companies aren't always required to post on labels the amount of folic acid products contain, but they like to brag. "Look at the box. If an enriched food has more than 20 percent of the daily value, skip it," says Hope Barkoukis, PhD, RD, associate professor of nutrition at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.Fiber
Most of us consume only about half the daily recommendation for fiber, which keeps you full, aids digestion, and helps lower cholesterol. This material is found naturally in such foods as whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, and manufacturers have added a slew of fiber, including inulin, polydextrose, and resistant maltodextrin, to unexpected products, including ice cream and yogurt.
Bottom line: If you're eating a lot of produce and whole grains and still need help reaching the recommended 25 daily grams, fortified foods are okay. Just don't start adding them willy-nilly to your diet; suddenly boosting your fiber intake can cause bloating. Increase gradually to give your system time to adjust, and check for fiber on all food labels -- even unlikely sources, like ice cream.
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