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    Archive for the ‘Fiber One’ Category

    Fiber One’s Fiber Fallacies

    In General Mills’ extensive product catalog, Fiber One is the health and wellness darling.  What started out as a standalone cereal in 1985 is now an expanded line that includes bars, breads, brownies, cottage cheese, muffin and pancake mixes, ready-to-eat muffins, and even yogurt.  According to Susan Crocket, General Mills’ senior technology officer for health and nutrition, high-fiber offerings in the General Mills lineup (including Fiber One), are successful because they “actually taste good so people will actually eat [them]”.

    Fiber One products are essentially marketed as a “one-stop shop” for fiber needs.  One of the company’s main selling points is that a mere half-cup of their original cereal offers 14 grams of dietary fiber (56% of the low-end of the daily recommended 25 – 35 gram range).

    Consider me not enthused, for two reasons.  First, the Fiber One website resorts to misleading tactics and inaccurate figures to showcase their products.  Second, some of their products contain questionable ingredients and less-than-desireable nutrition values.

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    Why “Eat This, Not That!” Is Not “All That”

    The Eat This, Not That! books, co-authored by Men’s Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko and nutrition editor Matt Goulding, spawned from a popular monthly feature in Men’s Health magazine and quickly became best-sellers (last year, the Eat This, Not That! iPhone app achieved half a million downloads in two weeks.)

    As of now, there are nine different editions (most of them boasting a “the no-diet, weight-loss solution” banner somewhere on the cover), including Drink This, Not That! and a children’s version.  The common theme among all of them: pit two similar food products or fast food items against one another and select one as the better choice (AKA: award it the “eat this!” command).

    This is a gimmick meant solely to sell books, not communicate a message of health and proper nutrition.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber Bars

    ServeImage.aspx_I’m trying to incorporate more fiber into my diet.

    I’ve recently discovered the new Fiber One bars, and the Kellogg’s Fiber Plus bars. They have good stats as far as calories, fiber, low sugars and a pinch of protein.

    My only issue is the ingredients list. I’m a very ‘clean’ and ‘natural things only’ kind of person, and the ingredients list on the bars are a bit sketchy.

    Can you take a look and see if their alright, or if I’m basically eating a candy bar?

    — Sarah (Last name unknown)
    (Location Unknown)

    If you are a “clean” and “natural things only” gal, these bars are not for you.

    Here is the ingredient list for Fiber One bars:

    Chicory Root Extract, Chocolate Chips With Confectioners Shellac (Chocolate Chips [Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Dextrose, Milk Fat, Soy Lecithin], Ethanol, Shellac, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil), Rolled Oats, Crisp Rice (Rice Flour, Sugar, Malt, Salt), Barley Flakes, High Maltose Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Canola Oil, Honey, Glycerin, Maltodextrin, Palm Kernel Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Nonfat Milk, Peanut Oil, Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Natural Flavor, Baking Soda, Color Added, Almond Flour, Peanut Flour, Sunflower Meal, Wheat Flour. Mixed Tocopherols Added to Retain Freshness.

    Practically all the fiber in these bars comes courtesy of chicory root extract, also known as inulin.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with (or unhealthy about) inulin, it appears here as an isolated fiber.

    Remember: isolated fibers aren’t as health-promoting as fiber from whole foods since whole foods provide fiber along with other nutrients and phytochemicals.

    What you are basically looking at is simple product fortification.  Lucky Charms cereal may be fortified with 21 vitamins and minerals, but is that the criteria we should use to determine whether a product is “healthy”?  I don’t believe so.

    As you may imagine, I am not a fan of all the added sugar in these bars, either.  In fact, I am willing to bet that if all those sugars were bunched together as one ingredient (‘added sugar’), they would be listed before rolled oats!

    Here is the ingredient list for Kellogg’s Fiber Plus bars:

    Chicory root fiber, rolled oats, crisp rice (rice flour, sugar, malt extract, salt, mixed tocopherols for freshness), sugar, roasted almonds, inulin from chicory root, semisweet chocolate drops (sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, dextrose, milk fat, soy lecithin, confectioner’s glaze [shellac, hydrogenated coconut oil]), vegetable oil (hydrogenated palm kernel, coconut and palm oil), fructose, canola oil, contains two percent or less of honey, chocolate, cocoa (processed with alkali), glycerin, tricalcium phosphate, whey, salt, baking soda, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavor, sorbitan monostearate, polysorbate 60, vitamin e acetate, gum arabic, zinc oxide, nonfat dry milk, whole wheat flour, partially defatted peanut flour, soy protein isolate, bht (for freshness), xanthan gum.

    Again, highly-processed, added-sugar central.

    Sure, there are worse snacks out there.  And, yes, these bars could potentially serve as a launching pad for people with very low fiber intakes.  However, there are also plenty of better bars out there.  These are certainly nowhere near “cream of the crop” status in my book.

    When it comes to bars that offer decent amounts of fiber — and are significantly less processed — I recommend Gnu Fiber & Flavor bars, Lara bars, Kashi TLC crunchy granola bars, or Clif Nectar bars (which, despite no longer being manufactured, I see to this day all over New York City).

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    Nutrition Tunnel Vision

    foThe folks at Fiber One can’t stop bragging are very proud that their original cereal offers 14 grams of fiber per half-cup serving.

    Their over-confidence, however, has resulted in advertising tactics that are the epitome of nutrition tunnel vision.

    Take the Fiber One comparison tool.

    It stacks up a half-cup of Fiber One with a variety of foods, and indicates how much of that given food needs to be consumed to match the amount of fiber in their cereal.

    Numbers are unfairly tweaked for optimal effect (i.e.: although a standard serving of nuts weighs one ounce, the folks at Fiber One decided to use half-ounce servings for this tool, thereby making eleven, rather than five and a half, nut servings add up to 14 grams of fiber), and the message is ultimately misleading.

    If you go by this tool, Fiber One is a “better” choice than broccoli, carrots, blueberries, oatmeal, popcorn, and prune juice (the last one is no shocker — no juice has fiber!).  Since when do foods get judged solely by fiber content?

    Unlike Fiber One, those “inferior” foods offer exclusive and unique phytonutrients and antioxidants not found in the high-fiber cereal (and, unlike Fiber One, they don’t contain artificial sweeteners).

    A breakfast consisting of a cup of oatmeal, a banana, and a handful of almonds adds up to a still-very-worthy 8 grams of fiber and delivers an abundance of nutrients and antioxidants — certainly more than a bowl of Fiber One with milk.

    The almonds offer — among other things — vitamin E, magnesium, and monounsaturated fat.  The oatmeal is a wonderful source of LDL-cholesterol-lowering beta glucans.  And, the banana is a good source of delphinidin, a naturally-occurring pigment that helps lower cancer risk.  Start your day off with a bowl of Fiber One and some milk and you’re missing out on all that nutrition!

    I also await the day when Fiber One ditches the obnoxious “Cardboard no.  Delicious yes.” tagline.

    The grammar teacher in me wants to add the necessary missing punctuation marks.  The nutritionist in me finds the “fiber tastes like cardboard” message ridiculously old school — and untrue.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber One Cereal

    fiberone_hc2.jpegI was wondering what you thought of Fiber One Honey Clusters cereal.

    The ingredient list is a little long, but the first ingredient is whole grain wheat, then whole grain oats.

    It tastes so sweet, but the label says there are only 6 grams of sugar per cup.

    Is this cereal really good for you or not?

    — Jessie Arent
    Peterborough, NH

    Let’s examine the evidence.

    First up, the nutrition label.  A 1-cup serving of Fiber One Honey Clusters contains:

    • 160 calories
    • 0 grams saturated fat
    • 280 milligrams sodium (almost twice as much as a vending-machine-size bag of potato chips)
    • 320 milligrams potassium (roughly as much as a very small banana)
    • 13 grams fiber
    • 6 grams sugar
    • 5 grams protein

    This cereal also offers — as a result of fortification — a quarter of a day’s worth of the Daily Value of all B vitamins, iron, and zinc; 10 percent of the Daily Value of calcium and phosphorus, and eight percent of the Daily Value of magnesium.

    Let’s take a peek at the ingredient list.  Some interesting observations:

    • Sugar shows up six different times, each time under a different name (sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, barley malt extract, honey, and malt syrup).  This is a common trick used by food manufacturers.  If all of these ingredients were labeled as “sugar”, then “sugar” would show up earlier in the ingredient list.  Mind you, these six instances do not include the times sugar is part of another ingredient, as is the case with the “wheat bits.”  In total, sugar appears in some form thirteen times.
    • The high fiber content is largely due to the presence of inulin.
    • Fiber One tastes so sweet because it also contains sucralose (AKA Splenda)

    There are a few things that don’t sit well with me.

    The first is the presence of artificial sweeteners, especially since each serving of Fiber One already delivers a teaspoon and a half of sugar (which I think is a reasonable amount for a cereal to provide).

    Artificial sweeteners have the “benefit” of being calorie-free (or, in some cases, very low-calorie), but they do nothing in terms of helping our palates get used to lower amounts of sugar in the diet.  In fact, they often make it worse.  Remember, Splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar!

    While there is nothing wrong with including inulin (a prebiotic fiber naturally found in asparagus, onions, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables), I am not a huge fan of extracting it simply to boost fiber values.

    That said, it is at least being used in a whole grain product.  I have a real problem when refined grain products use inulin to give themselves a fiber boost.

    What I always tell people who consume Fiber One products is to treat it as one of many sources of fiber.  In other words, Fiber One should not be the only source of fiber in your diet.

    I specifically say that because I have come across a fair share of consumers who have told me one reason why they love Fiber One is because, if they have two cups of it a day, then they don’t really have to worry about eating fiber the rest of the day.

    Not true.  Other foods — fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other whole grains — contain different kinds of fibers (and hundreds of different phytonutrients!) that deliver their unique share of health benefits.

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