Dietary fiber (DF) includes the remnants of the edible part of plants and analogous carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion and absorption in the human small intestine with complete or partial fermentation in the human large intestine. DF can be classified into two main groups according to its solubility, namely insoluble dietary fiber (IDF) that mainly consists on cell wall components, including cellulose, some hemicelluloses, lignin and resistant starch, and soluble dietary fiber (SDF) that consists of non-cellulosic polysaccharides as non-digestible oligosaccharides, arabinoxylans (AX), β-glucans, some hemicelluloses, pectins, gums, mucilages and inulin. The intake of DF is associated with health benefits. IDF can contribute to the normal function of the intestinal tract and it has an important role in the prevention of colonic diverticulosis and constipation. SDF is extensively fermented by gut microbiota and it is associated with carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, with important health benefits due to its hypocholesterolemic properties. Due to these nutritional and health properties, DF is widely used as functional ingredients in food industry, being whole grain cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables the main sources of DF. Also some synthetic sources are employed, namely polydextrose, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose or cyclodextrins. The DF content of cereals varies depending on cultivars, their botanical components (pericarp, emdosperm and germ) and the processing conditions they have undergone (baking, extrusion, etc.). In cereal grains, AX are the predominant non-cellulose DF polysaccharides followed by cellulose and β-glucans, while in pseudocereals, pectins are quantitatively predominant.
Keywords: Cereals; Dietary fiber; Functional foods; Health; Pseudocereals.
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