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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.

    Share

    2 Comments

    1. Brandon said on September 17th, 2009

      According to MyPyramid, I need 38g of fiber a day, so 2 cups of this as my only source of fiber would definitely not be enough.

      Even though there’s ‘sugar’ added 6 times, I think that the fact that there’s only 6g of ‘sugar’ makes it ok.

      As you allude to, this, and any food for that matter, can’t really be classified as definitely either “good” or “bad”. It has its place.

    2. Andy Bellatti said on September 17th, 2009

      Exactly. That is why I don’t conclude if it is “good” or “bad”.

      Many people require 25 grams of fiber a day; for them, 2 cups meets their requirement. That is my issue with things that are VERY high in fiber; sometimes, they are used as an excuse to otherwise not eat fruits and vegetables (this is not the manufacturer’s fault, but it is a reality among some consumers).

      The 6 grams of sugar are fine (as I mentioned, that is a reasonable amount for a cereal to have). I just wish they had left it at that and not added the sucralose…. all it does is reinforce the extreme sweetness Americans are used to in their food!

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