Acacia fiber is a natural ingredient that comes from the sap of the acacia Senegal tree. Although the name may not sound like something you would find in nature — don’t judge a book by its cover.
Acacia provides an excellent source of soluble fiber, and acacia powder has a wide range of uses.
But does acacia fit into a keto diet? And what makes this form of fiber so special?
Read on to learn more about acacia and its unique health benefits.
Acacia fiber, also known as acacia gum or gum arabic, has a long history of use as a healing plant. It’s extracted from the sap of the Senegal tree (or acacia tree), which grows in Africa, Pakistan, and India.
However, the use of acacia gum dates back 5,000 years to the times of the ancient Egyptians where it was used as a binder in both cosmetics as well as mummification.
Although the word “gum” may sound unfriendly as a food ingredient, acacia is well studied for providing a variety of health benefits. Most of these benefits come from its polysaccharide components, and their functionality in your digestive tract[*].
As a natural source of fiber, acacia is also used frequently as a food ingredient to enhance the fiber content of foods, or as a functional ingredient.
Acacia is not absorbed by your intestines, but instead has an impact on your digestive flow, microbiome, and other health-enhancing aspects of digestion.
Due to its high level of soluble fiber, when you add acacia to water, it will create a gelatinous viscosity with a mild taste. Unlike some other fiber-rich ingredients, it won’t create a gritty texture making it preferable as an added ingredient in a number of food systems.
There are several different ways that you can add acacia fiber to your diet.
One of the most simple applications is to add acacia in its powdered form to water. The soluble fiber will mix evenly into the water and due to its mild flavor tends to go down pretty easily.
You can even try adding acacia to smoothies, breakfast bowls, or soups.
You can also find dietary supplements that contain acacia fiber readily available at many grocery stores or pharmacies. As a fiber supplement, it may be found in both capsule or powdered form.
#1 Source of Prebiotic Fiber
There’s a lot of talk about prebiotics and probiotics these days, and for good reason. The health of your gut microbiome is linked to the health of almost every other system in your body. Although research is still in its infancy, more and more trials both in labs and in humans continue to uncover the potential for your gut bacteria to provide healing to your body.
While probiotics are the “feet on the ground” in your gut when it comes to balancing your microbiome, prebiotics have a crucial role to play as well. As the food for your gut bacteria, prebiotics can enhance the numbers of good bacteria you have, helping to balance out harmful organisms.
In an in vitro study, researchers aimed at determining the role that acacia fiber played in your large intestine, exploring both its fermentation and prebiotic potential.
The researchers found that under the in vitro conditions created; acacia gum was able to improve the composition of the microbiota in the large intestine.
In addition, they found that acacia gum is extensively fermented in the large intestine, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA provide a host of health benefits, not only locally in your gut, but also for heart health as well as your metabolism[*][*].
#2 May Benefit IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
Irritable bowel syndrome is an intestinal disorder marked by periods of constipating, diarrhea, or both. The symptoms associated with IBS are wide-ranging and include gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.
IBS is often referred to as a “catch-all” term for people suffering from digestive discomfort. The cause is not known, as there are potentially many different roads that can lead to the symptoms of IBS.
One of the most effective treatments for IBS is dietary change. Although for most, the changes in diet will be unique to the individual[*]. Certain types of foods, however, are known to help ease the distress of IBS — soluble fiber being one of them.
In one study, a total of 130 IBS patients were randomly assigned to either a control group or an active group. Both groups consumed yogurt, with the active group consuming yogurt that had acacia fiber and B. lactis added.
The researchers wanted to determine if the addition of acacia and B. lactis would have an affect on the symptoms of IBS. The patients were evaluated before and after the trial began with a questionnaire to determine any changes that took place.
After eight weeks, the active (acacia and B. lactis) group reported significant improvements in their symptoms of IBS. Both the constipation-predominant and diarrhea-predominant groups reported enhanced satisfaction in their bowel movements, supporting acacia enriched yogurt as a therapy for IBS[*].
#3 Supports Kidney Health
One of the complications of diabetes is something called diabetic nephropathy (DN). In DN, poorly controlled blood sugar can eventually lead to damage in the blood vessels of your kidneys. These blood vessels are essential components of your detoxification system, helping your body eliminate wastes from your blood.
Over time, DN can lead to complications like kidney damage and high blood pressure[*].
Researchers are always on the lookout for ways to treat conditions like DN naturally.
In Middle Eastern countries, acacia gum has been used for centuries to treat kidney-related diseases. This not due primarily to its fiber content, but instead to the mineral content of acacia.
As a natural source of minerals, acacia is rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium — all essential nutrients for kidney health and function.
In one study, researchers gave a group of diabetic mice 10% acacia gum in their drinking water and measured its effects on kidney health. Former studies had shown that acacia was able to increase clearance on creatinine from the kidneys in healthy mice.
This study, however, showed that acacia could also decrease blood pressure, increase calcium clearance, and decreased plasma phosphate and urea concentrations. In addition, the mice experienced increased urinary flow rate and reduced proteinuria. All factors which prove acacia beneficial for diabetic nephropathy[*].
#4 May Lower Cholesterol
Increasing your intake of dietary fiber is one of the most effective ways to reduce your cholesterol levels naturally.
While the debate around cholesterol and heart disease is still up in the air, one thing is for sure — oxidized cholesterol is strongly linked to heart disease.
As keto dieters, this may set off alarms, but it’s important to understand that eating a diet high in fat does not mean you’re eating a diet that will cause oxidation of cholesterol. The link between cholesterol and oxidation is much more tightly tied to inflammation than anything else[*].
However, when it comes to cholesterol, heart disease or not, it may be a good move to try to keep your levels within a healthy range. While many physicians are quick to prescribe statin drugs, consuming more soluble fiber may just do the trick (without the nasty side effects.)
Several mechanisms are responsible for soluble fibers cholesterol-lowering properties[*]:
- The prevention of bile salt reabsorption. Bile salts are made up of several compounds, including cholesterol. When bile salts are released into your intestines, soluble fiber binds to them and pulls them out in your waste. This creates a new demand for bile salts to be created in your body, pulling more cholesterol out of circulation for use in your bile.
- Reduced glycemic response. Soluble fiber slows down the absorption of glucose in your intestine. This decreased spike in glucose leads to a decrease in insulin secretion as well. Insulin is required for your liver to create cholesterol. Therefore, lower insulin leads to lower levels of cholesterol being produced.
- The creation of fermentation products. When soluble fiber travels through your intestinal tract, much of it is fermented. This fermentation creates byproducts that have physiological effects in your body. One such product, propionate, may be partly responsible for soluble fibers cholesterol-lowering effects.
In one study, participants receiving acacia gum supplementation for three months experienced a reduction in their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, with an increase in their healthy HDL cholesterol[*].
Another study showed that the addition of acacia gum to a statin drug regimen resulted in significant reductions in LDL and total cholesterol, compared with the statin alone group[*].
#5 Supports Weight Loss
Getting enough fiber in your diet can help you feel full longer and improve your digestive health. And when it comes to weight loss, both of these aspects are crucial.
In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers gave a group of women either acacia fiber or pectin for six weeks. Although many animal studies have supported the weight-loss potential of acacia, the researchers wanted to explore the benefits in a human trial.
The women underwent a pre and post-analysis of their body composition, including BMI (body mass index), skinfold tests, and body fat percentage. After the six weeks, the acacia group showed significant reductions in both their BMI and body fat percentage.
The researchers concluded that acacia gum might be a beneficial supplement for those struggling with obesity[*].
#6 Enhances Oral Health
Oral health is an often overlooked aspect of gastrointestinal health, but just like any other part of your alimentary canal — your mouth needs proper nourishment as well.
Along with its potential to reduce gingivitis, acacia has been shown to reduce plaque build-up in your mouth.
When plaque builds up in your mouth, it can carry bacteria that can cause damage to the enamel of your teeth and lead to cavities. Over time, plaque that is not removed from your teeth can harden into something called tartar.
Tartar can further lead to tooth decay and even cause some forms of gum disease.
In one trial, researchers gave a group of participants either acacia gum or an alternative sugar-free gum to assess the plaque-reducing capacity of acacia. The researchers found statistically significant inhibition of plaque deposits for those chewing acacia as compared with the sugar-free group[*].
What’s more, due to the high levels of calcium that can be found in acacia gum, it’s also been studied for its tooth remineralization properties. Remineralization becomes important after cavities are formed, these tiny holes can eventually lead to permanent damage and tooth decay[*].
Therefore, acacia gum not only prevents plaque formation on your teeth, but it may also prevent cavities.
#7 Balances Blood Sugar
Keeping your blood sugar stable is a cornerstone of health no matter what your current health conditions may be. For those with diabetes, however, blood sugar control becomes twice as important.
Research shows that acacia gum may support blood sugar in diabetics, while also enhancing their blood lipid profile.
In one study, researchers gave a group of diabetic volunteers either acacia or a placebo and measured their health markers. Over three months, the acacia group received 30 grams of acacia daily, while the placebo group received 5 grams of a placebo.
At the end of the trial, the researchers reported that the acacia group gained better glucose control (with changes to both fasting glucose and HbA1C). In addition, the acacia group showed reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels and experienced reductions in their BMI[*].
While acacia has many health benefits to offer, there are some potential risks that go along with this source of dietary fiber.
Depending on the health of your digestive tract, too much acacia may cause symptoms of indigestion like nausea, mild diarrhea, gas, and bloating. However, these symptoms usually subside with use[*].
Digestive discomfort aside, acacia gum is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and should pose no significant side effects[*].
Be sure that when you consume acacia in any of its forms, you also get plenty of additional fluids along with it.
Although acacia fiber is technically mostly made up of carbohydrates, the carbohydrate content is non-digestible. Therefore, it won’t cause any spike to your blood sugar and subsequent insulin response.
If anything, acacia fiber will actually slow down any glucose absorption and support a keto diet by keeping insulin spikes at bay.
Acacia may also be helpful if you experience constipation, which can be an issue in the early stages of transitioning into keto.
What’s more, due to its binding and water-retention qualities in food, acacia can be a great ingredient in keto baked goods. It enhances softness and moisture — two aspects of baked goods that can be lost when you omit keto-unfriendly ingredients like wheat.
Fiber is an essential part of the diet, whether you’re following a keto diet or not. Proper gut health leads to intestinal regularity and a healthy GI environment, which provides benefits for nearly every system in your body.
Acacia not only enhances digestive health, but it positively impacts your beneficial bacteria and may improve IBS symptoms.
In addition, it provides benefits for your blood glucose, oral health, blood lipids, weight loss, and your kidneys.
If you’re looking for a natural fiber supplement, acacia should be at the top of your list.
And if you experience any initial symptoms of indigestion, don’t worry, they will most likely pass with continued use. Just be sure to start slow and drink plenty of water.