Eating a diet high in fiber is important for overall health. Fiber has many benefits including promoting regularity, aiding digestion, controlling blood sugar levels, and reducing cholesterol. For those who have difficulty chewing or swallowing, a pureed or mechanical soft diet is often recommended. But does pureeing foods decrease their fiber content?
What is Dietary Fiber?
Dietary fiber refers to the parts of plant foods that the body cannot completely digest. There are two main types of fiber:
- Soluble fiber – dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
- Insoluble fiber – does not dissolve in water. It is found in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains.
Both types of fiber are important for health. Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber bulks up stools and helps with regularity and preventing constipation.
Benefits of a High Fiber Diet
Eating foods high in fiber provides many health benefits including:
- Improving digestion and preventing constipation
- Lowering cholesterol levels
- Controlling blood sugar levels
- Aiding weight loss by promoting fullness
- Reducing risk of heart disease and diabetes
- Decreasing risk of some cancers like colon cancer
The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25-30 grams per day. Unfortunately, most people only get about half that amount. Increasing fiber intake provides significant health advantages.
What is a Pureed Diet?
A pureed diet involves blending or processing foods until they reach a smooth, pudding-like consistency. Pureed or mechanical soft diets are often recommended for people who have difficulty chewing or swallowing food safely. This includes:
- Infants transitioning to solid foods
- Elderly individuals with chewing or swallowing difficulties
- Those recovering from surgery or injury to the mouth, throat, or esophagus
- People undergoing treatment for head and neck cancers
- Individuals with neurological disorders like dementia, Parkinson’s, or multiple sclerosis
Pureeing food allows it to be swallowed safely without choking while still providing adequate nutrition. A pureed diet should contain a balance of pureed fruits, vegetables, proteins, dairy, and grains.
Does Pureeing Decrease Fiber Content?
Pureeing itself does not destroy or remove the insoluble fiber from foods. Cellulose and lignin that make up insoluble fiber are structurally intact after pureeing. However, pureeing does seem to decrease soluble fiber content slightly according to research.
One study found that pureeing reduced the soluble fiber in carrots by 30-40%. Another study showed that soluble fiber decreased by 15% in blended applesauce compared to whole apples.
The reduction in soluble fiber with pureeing may be because blending breaks down cellular structures and separates the fiber from juices. Purees are also easier to digest, so less resistant starch reaches the colon.
Overall though, the total dietary fiber content remains relatively stable with pureeing. Purees still provide the bulk of insoluble and soluble fiber from foods as long as the entire food is included.
Maximizing Fiber in a Pureed Diet
There are several ways to boost fiber when following a pureed diet:
- Include pureed fruits and vegetables – Fruits and veggies provide both soluble and insoluble fiber. Include a variety like carrots, broccoli, winter squash, apples, berries, etc.
- Use whole grains – Instead of refined grains like white bread or rice, use whole grain options like whole wheat bread or brown rice which have more fiber.
- Add bran – Mix a tablespoon of wheat or oat bran into purees or cereals to add insoluble fiber.
- Include beans and lentils – Legumes are a great source of soluble fiber. Puree lentils, black beans or kidney beans well.
- Make smoothies – Add fiber-rich fruits and greens like kale or spinach to smoothies.
- Use psyllium husk – Stir a teaspoon of psyllium into purees, yogurts or smoothies to add soluble fiber.
- Keep skins on – Leave edible skins on fruits and vegetables when pureeing to retain insoluble fiber.
Focusing on high fiber options and utilizing a variety of pureed foods can help maximize fiber intake on a pureed diet. People following a long-term pureed diet should have their fiber intake monitored by a dietitian.
Sample High Fiber Pureed Diet Menu
Here is a sample menu that provides around 30 grams of fiber per day on a pureed diet:
|Oatmeal made with pureed apples, ground flaxseed and bran
|Pureed peach smoothie with spinach
|Pureed lentil and vegetable soup with whole grain roll
|Pureed carrots with hummus
|Pureed chicken with mashed sweet potato and green beans
|Pureed raspberries with Greek yogurt
Pureeing does not significantly reduce the total fiber content of foods, though it may decrease soluble fiber slightly. With planning, people following a pureed diet can meet their daily fiber needs by including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, bran and psyllium. Purees still provide the bulk of insoluble and soluble fiber as long as whole foods are used. Monitoring intake and focusing on a variety of high fiber options can help maintain fiber intake on a pureed diet.