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03 Issues & Trends
Cereal Foods World, Vol. 64, No. 5
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1094/CFW-64-5-0057
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Inclusion of Dietary Fiber in Meat Products: A Commitment to the Development of Healthy Meat Products
Sandra M. Vásquez Mejía1,2 and Benjamin M. Bohrer3

1 Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Bogotá, Departamento de Producción Animal, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y de Zootecnia, Carrera 30 #45-03 Edificio 561A, Postal code 111321, Bogotá, Colombia.

2 Corresponding author. Tel: (57) 3003516871; ORCiD: 0000-0001-7491-5930; E-mail: smvasque@unal.edu.co

3 University of Guelph, Department of Food Science, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada.

© 2019 AACC International, Inc.


In this review, the application of dietary fiber in processed meat products is discussed. In recent years there has been a significant increase in awareness of the importance (and lack) of consumption of dietary fiber around the world. At the same time, knowledge concerning the application of dietary fiber ingredients in processed foods has been developing rapidly. Most processed meat products offer unique opportunities for dietary fiber inclusion, and there is great potential for new applications in this area.

The development of health-promoting food products with functional processing properties has garnered significant interest recently from both researchers and the food industry. In the case of meat products, this trend has focused on the manufacture of processed meat products with improved nutrition, as distinguished by lower fat, calorie (particularly refined starches and sugars), and sodium contents. The goal is to accomplish all of these nutritional attributes while maintaining familiar product characteristics and convenience for consumers. The incorporation of dietary fiber has played a fundamental role in the production of healthier formulations for existing products and in the creation of innovative healthy meat products. Although ingredients that are high in dietary fiber offer the meat industry a great opportunity to improve the nutritional attributes of processed meat products, they may also present challenges in terms of processing functionality and final product attributes. In this review, the application of dietary fiber in meat products is described, and a recap of previous research evaluating the impact of incorporation of dietary fiber ingredients in processed meat products, from technological, functional, and nutritional standpoints, is provided.

Dietary Fiber Characteristics, Classification, and Consumption

Dietary fibers encompass a wide spectrum of compounds with divergent molecular structures and unique physicochemical properties. Structurally categorized as a mixture of nonstarch polysaccharides, dietary fiber compounds resist enzymatic breakdown (digestion) in the human gastrointestinal tract (22,23). Several research studies have shown an association between dietary fiber consumption and improved intestinal health and the prevention and treatment of a variety of chronic diseases (2,7,18). Health claims related to dietary fiber consumption stem from their ability to help lower blood cholesterol (40), maintain glucose homeostasis in individuals with type 2 diabetes and those who are prediabetic (12), treat several diseases related to metabolic regulation (26), and reduce the risk of intestinal cancer (10), as well as their positive interactions with large bowel microflora (4).

Dietary fiber consumption recommendations are 21– g/day for women and 30–38 g/day for men (19,31). For adolescents, dietary fiber consumption recommendations are 25 g/day for girls and 38 g/day for boys (9). Between 20 and 30% of total dietary fiber consumed should be in the form of soluble dietary fiber (11,23). Despite their established health benefits, it is difficult for most individuals to consistently consume the recommended amounts of dietary fiber due to preferences for and the availability of foods that are low in dietary fiber, particularly foods that are high in starch, sugar, and other refined carbohydrates. Several studies indicate that fiber consumption remains significantly lower than recommended levels (9,20,42). For example, over the past few decades average dietary fiber consumption for Canadians was 14.7 g/day for women and 18.2 g/day for men (19). A recent study found that in the United States (9) adolescent females and males on average consume only 9.9 and 12.0 g of total dietary fiber/day, respectively. Needless to say, fiber consumption for adolescents and adults is far below daily recommended levels across all demographics.

A potential strategy for increasing consumption of dietary fiber to meet dietary recommendations is the incorporation of ingredients high in dietary fiber in common food products. Global per capita consumption of animal-derived foods such as meat and dairy products has doubled since 1961 (28), and processed meat products may provide an excellent medium for the incorporation of dietary fiber ingredients, as many of these products rely on other sources of carbohydrates (i.e., starches and sugars) for processing and technological purposes.

Incorporation of Dietary Fiber in Processed Meat Products

Meat is a common food source around the world and has been recognized as a good source of important nutrients such as complete proteins, B-complex vitamins, iron, and zinc (3,16). Processed meat products are one of the most common forms of meat sold and consumed globally due to their convenience, affordability, and availability, as well as consumer acceptance and familiarity. For these reasons, incorporation of dietary fiber in processed meat products is a promising application that has gained interest in the meat industry. There have been many research initiatives investigating the use of ingredients with high concentrations of dietary fiber in meat processing. Dietary fiber sources from agricultural enterprises (i.e., plant-based sources) are less expensive and easier to obtain compared with other carbohydrate ingredients (23). In addition, other sources of dietary fiber, such as algae and animal-derived compounds (e.g., chitin, chitosan), have been successfully applied in meat products (14,30). The general aim of most research initiatives has been to investigate the technological functionality of processed meat products prepared with dietary fiber ingredients compared with processed meat products prepared with other carbohydrate ingredients. The parameters typically measured include macrocomponent-binding capabilities (e.g., water-retention, protein-binding, and fat-binding properties), textural characteristics, and color.

Soluble Fibers Commonly Included in Meat Products

Carrageenan. Carrageenan is a soluble fiber that consists of linear chain polysaccharide structures extracted from edible seaweed. There are three different varieties of carrageenan, which are categorized based on their sulfate content: kappa-carrageenan has one sulfate group per disaccharide; iota-carrageenan has two sulfate groups per disaccharide; and lambda-carrageenan has three sulfate groups per disaccharide. Each type of carrageenan may function slightly differently in terms of technological functionality (36). Carrageenan has been used in processed meat products primarily to enable the reduction of fat content (35,36). Carrageenan contributes to gel formation and water retention in low-fat meat products, and unlike other binding ingredients, carrageenan improves the textural characteristics of various processed meat products by reducing toughness and improving water retention during thermal processing and preparation (27,36). The use of carrageenan is limited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) to 0.5% of the product formulation. Generally, the goal for using carrageenan in meat processing has centered on processing functionality and technological properties; however, carrageenan also is useful for improving the nutrition of processed meat products through reformulation with less fat, calories, and sodium.

Inulin. Inulin is a dietary fiber that consists of polyfructose structures derived from the root system of the chicory plant. Inulin can be classified as either a soluble or as an insoluble dietary fiber based on the degree of structural polymerization (6). Inulin has been studied extensively for use in processed meat products (25,32,41). Inclusion levels for inulin typically range from 2 to 5% of the product formulation; however, concentrations as high as 18.7% have been tested (41). Reviews on inulin have determined that it is a useful ingredient for processed meat in terms of its technological functionality and nutritional benefits (25,41). Expanded research and increased industry use of inulin in processed meat products are emerging trends.

Gums. There are several different gums that can be used as ingredients in processed meat products, many of which are categorized as soluble dietary fibers. These include xanthan gum, which is fermented using the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris; gellan gum, which is fermented using the bacteria Sphingomonas elodea (Pseudomonas elodea); guar gum, which is extracted from guar beans; gum karaya, which is extracted from the exudate of sterculia gum trees (Sterculia urens); acacia gum, which is extracted from the acacia tree; and locust bean gum (6). Gum ingredients are primarily used to add viscosity to processed meat products, but various gums have also been shown to elicit nutritional effects related to improved digestive health (6,23). The inclusion level for gums is typically limited by the textural properties elicited by the increased viscosity gums create in meat mixtures (6,23).

beta-Glucans. Cereal beta-glucans are defined as soluble dietary fibers that contain a combination of 1-3 and 1-4 beta-glycosidic linkages and are mostly found in the aleurone and subaleurone layers and the cell walls of cereal endosperm. These soluble dietary fibers have been applied in meat products in combination with other types of dietary fiber such as inulin, which increases the stickiness of meat emulsions (1). In combination with starch and carrageenan, cereal beta-glucans improve water retention but increase the hardness of emulsions when the inclusion level is >3% (38). Meat emulsions formulated with cereal beta-glucans are more yellow (b*, Konica Minolta Sensing Americas) and less hard, adhesive, cohesive, gummy, and chewy compared with meat emulsions formulated with microcrystalline cellulose or tapioca starch at inclusion levels of 1, 2, and 3% (37). The greatest challenge associated with the incorporation of cereal beta-glucans to help meet dietary fiber intake requirements is that inclusion levels >3% have negative impacts on textural parameters due to the high viscosity of the fiber.

Insoluble Fibers Commonly Included in Meat Products

Microcrystalline Cellulose. Microcrystalline cellulose is an insoluble dietary fiber that is prepared by partial hydrolysis from wood pulp heated in hydrochloric acid and by separation of the noncrystalline part of the cellulose (13). This fiber can be derived from cotton, wood, or other plant sources and can be used in the food industry as a potential fat replacer due to its water-binding capacity. Before it is used as an additive in meat products, microcrystalline cellulose is subjected to severe mechanical shearing that physically breaks down the cellulose into colloidal crystallite aggregates that can be codried with carboxymethyl cellulose and other functional ingredients (13). The properties of microcrystalline cellulose depend on the depolymerization process utilized, which often involves application of mechanical forces to generate cellulose crystals of specific sizes (29). Microcrystalline cellulose is highly compatible with meat proteins at 2%, and improves texture and juiciness and adds a fat-like mouthfeel (13).

Carboxymethyl Cellulose. Carboxymethyl cellulose is formed from heating cellulose with an alkali and then combining the mixture with monochloroacetic acid, which leads to an alteration of the glycopyranose by etherification of the hydroxyl groups with methylcarboxyl groups (13). Carboxymethyl cellulose has been successfully used in the food industry as a binding ingredient at inclusion levels of <2%. However, its effects on meat products are still being determined. For example, carboxymethyl cellulose applied in a meat modeling system (e.g., pork, fat, ice, NaCl, and 2% carboxymethyl cellulose) showed greater water retention during cooking and decreased hardness, while exhibiting a greater ability to counteract the impact of heat-induced protein denaturation on water expulsion than other types of dietary fiber (15). On the other hand, addition of carboxymethyl cellulose (inclusion levels >1%) led to the destabilization of the microstructure, unfavorable sensory quality, and undesirable texture in fried beef patties (13). This led to the conclusion that in heated samples, carboxymethyl cellulose cannot be incorporated into the protein network with coarse meat and fat particles (13).

Chitosan. Chitosan (with a degree of deacetylation of 90%) is the second most common naturally occurring biopolymer, after cellulose. Chitosan consists of beta-(1-4)-2-acetamido-D-glucose and beta-(1-4)-2-amino-D-glucose units with a low acetyl content (33) and is known for its biocompatibility, biodegradability, nontoxic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties (24). It has mainly been used as a protective film for meat products (5,21) and as a preservative and antioxidant agent (17,34). However, its applications can be extended to incorporation in meat matrices as an insoluble dietary fiber (8,15). Chitosan at an inclusion level of 2% exhibits great potential to improve water retention and sustain hardness in meat models (15).

Challenges Associated with Incorporation of Dietary Fiber in Meat Products

One of the main challenges associated with incorporation of soluble and insoluble dietary fibers in meat products is the ability to use of high enough concentrations to allow for nutritional benefits and health-related (e.g., enriched or fortified) label claims. In addition to this limitation, processing and cooking methods influence the amount of dietary fiber retained in the final product. For example, pressure-cooking has been shown to significantly decrease insoluble dietary fiber in vegetables compared with conventional cooking methods using hot water or microwave-cooking (43). Similarly, beta-glucan injected into whole muscle chicken breast does not retain a significant amount of dietary fiber in the final cooked product (39). Unfortunately, only a few studies have evaluated the amount of fiber remaining in the final product after processing and cooking. Further evaluation of dietary fiber content in final products could help to establish the extent of fiber degradation during processing (when it occurs) and the bioavailability of the dietary fiber to act in the human digestive system.

The incorporation of insoluble fiber in meat products is particularly challenging because of the required modification of the ingredient structure before incorporation to avoid unacceptable changes in the texture of meat products. These modifications can increase costs and produce waste and can even modify the original characteristics of the ingredient; as a result, a full characterization of the ingredient is required before application.

In spite of the advancements made over the last 20–30 years in the incorporation of dietary fiber in meat products, there is still much to discover. It is necessary to deepen research initiatives on the interactions of these ingredients with meat proteins, meat lipids, and other nonmeat ingredients to better understand and maximize possible applications.


The incorporation of dietary fiber in meat products is a promising application for increasing dietary fiber consumption in the general population without requiring individuals to drastically change their dietary habits; however, these initiatives must overcome the challenges imposed by the structure and physicochemical properties of dietary fiber ingredients. In addition, the declaration of the amount of dietary fiber available in the final product after incorporation, processing, and cooking is highly recommended. This is an important consideration, because the goal of incorporating dietary fiber in meat processing is to capture the functional activities of dietary fiber during digestion and metabolism.


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