Ask Amelia Nutrition

Wait, Is This REALLY High In Fiber?

You have probably noticed that there are tons of “high fiber” products on the market these days that look and taste just like regular old refined foods — things like Fiber One bars, “whole grain white” breads, Light English muffins, and even high-fiber fruit yogurt.  How can these heavily processed foods have so much fiber?  Because they contain “isolated fibers” — inulin, oat fiber, cellulose fiber, polydextrose, and maltodextrin — which are added to otherwise low-fiber foods so that a company can claim their food is an excellent source of fiber.

Are these processed products as healthy as the naturally-occurring fiber found in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits?  Probably not.  Though the fiber content on the Nutrition Facts Label may be high, we don’t know if these foods are as beneficial as whole, intact fiber found in unprocessed foods because their effectiveness has not been studied.  But as always, it’s best to get your nutrients from real food (would you eat Cheetos and Oreos all day then take a multi-vitamin and call yourself a healthy eater?).  So aim to get your 25-30 grams of daily fiber from real whole grains (here’s how to tell if a product is really whole grain), vegetables, and fruits.

Still not convinced?  You will be after you consider these points:

  • Isolated fibers often cause unpleasant side effects like gas, bloating, and diarrhea.  (I dare you to eat a Fiber One bar and then go on a date — you’ll never eat one again).
  • Highly processed foods, high-fiber or not, are usually high in sugar, salt, preservatives, and other additives — not things you need more of in your body.  Check out the ingredients in these supposedly healthy Light English Muffins:

Thomas’® Light Multi-Grain English Muffins

Ingredients:  UNBLEACHED ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR [FLOUR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, REDUCED IRON, NIACIN, THIAMIN MONONITRATE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), FOLIC ACID], WATER, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, YEAST, WHEAT GLUTEN, FIBER (CELLULOSE AND/OR SOY), POLYDEXTROSE, FARINA, CORNMEAL, TOASTED CORN GERM, NATURAL FLAVOR, PRESERVATIVES (CALCIUM PROPIONATE, SORBIC ACID, POTASSIUM SORBATE), SALT, CRACKED WHEAT, RYE, GRAIN VINEGAR, WHEY, DATEM, LEAVENING (MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, BAKING SODA), MALT EXTRACT, GROUND CORN, SOYBEAN OIL, DEXTROSE, CELLULOSE GUM, BROWN RICE, OATS, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, XANTHAN GUM, ETHOXYLATED MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, SOYBEANS, TRITICALE, BARLEY, FLAXSEED, MILLET, SUCRALOSE, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, SOY FLOUR, NONFAT MILK.
High fiber or not, who wants to eat something with this many (unidentifiable) ingredients?!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Mark
    May 21, 2015 at 4:33 am

    Amelia,

    I appreciate that natural fiber is better for you for many reasons, including being accompanied by vitamins and minerals. But I think you have missed the point of things like Fiber One bars for people like me.

    Fiber is not why I buy Fiber One bars. The choice is not between an apple and a Fiber One bar. It’s between a Snickers and a Fiber One bar. I always, always crave a little sweet after lunch. And even though I’ve had my salad and my baked tomato or spinach or whatever, I eat a Fiber One bar when I get back to my desk so I don’t go buy a Snickers, or a Mars, or M&Ms. Half the calories, 1/3 the fat, plus the fiber. That’s truly a win/win. And no, I don’t work for the company. 🙂

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      May 21, 2015 at 9:33 am

      Hi Mark, Thanks for your take on this and I see where you’re coming from. I agree a Fiber One bar is a better choice than high calorie candy. But there are some better more natural choices if you’re interested in trying something new. These choices don’t have synthetic fiber but they’re at least made from natural ingredients: Annie’s Homegrown chocolate chip granola bars, Nature’s Path Dark Chocolate Coconut granola bar, Justin’s mini Peanut Butter cups (one has about 70 calories) or Clif Kids bars in chocolate chip or honey graham — these all have between 110-150 calories. Or, continue feeling good that you’re eating a healthy lunch and topping it off with something that’s not candy 🙂

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