We all know fiber is important. We know it improves digestion, eases constipation, helps prevent heart disease and cancer, regulates blood sugars, contributes to feelings of satiety, provides food for our beneficial gut bacteria and helps manage our weight. In fact, we could go on and on about all the amazing benefits of a high fiber diet.
So what’s my issue with Fiber One products? Considering that daily fiber goals should be in the 25-40 gram range, what could be so bad about a cereal that provides 14 grams of fiber in a single serving?
Here is a wonderful opportunity to go behind the scenes of a brilliant marketing campaign. Unfortunately, this is a campaign that ultimately can WORSEN your health, not improve it. We call this tactic misFEEDing, and here’s why.
Let’s take a peek beyond the curtain. For this to happen, it’s important to look beyond the nutrition claims on the front of the box (57% of your daily fiber! Whole grain as the first ingredient! 60% less sugar! 10 grams of protein!). At first glance, these claims seem, well, pretty terrific. Less sugar, lots of fiber, more protein. But at what cost?
A closer look brings us to the Ingredients List, where we find the following:
- “Low sugar” products, such as the Original Fiber One cereal contain: Splenda, a potentially harmful artificial sweetener.
- “High protein” cereals/bars, such as their Protein Sweetened Granola, contain: sugar, barley malt, corn syrup, fructose and molasses, all just various names for processed sugar. End result? This cereal has 16 (yes 16!) grams of sugar per serving. That is the equivalent of 4 teaspoons. Plus the protein source is from soy protein isolate, a processed form of soy that is made from GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). No thanks.
- Lo-calorie snack bars, such as the 90 calorie Chocolate Peanut Butter contain: glycerin, invert sugar, brown sugar and fructose. This little tiny bar has 9 grams of sugar (that’s just over 2 teaspoons) of added sugar, and nothing beneficial to speak of.
- Most products contain: maltodextrin, polydextrose, inulin, and cellulose. Otherwise known as functional fibers, they are non-digestible carbohydrates that are isolated from foods and then added to products to up their fiber content. These pop up in the ingredient lists of various processed foods, such as breads, yogurt, and even ice cream. They are different from dietary fibers, which occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, and whole grains. Technically not “bad” in and of themselves, but by upping fiber contents of processed foods, they can make an unhealthy food appear healthy by virtue of a high fiber content.
I could go through every Fiber One product and point out the unhealthy ingredients and the list would go on and on. Chemicals, preservatives and food dyes are abundant and add to the list of refined sugars and artificial sweeteners.
But here’s the thing that REALLY REALLY irks me. On their website, they have a comparison chart. And do you know what it says? It indicates that a half cup serving of Fiber One Original cereal will provide the same amount of fiber as equivalent amounts of healthy foods such as lentils, pinto beans, sweet potatoes, and various types of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Are you kidding me?
Do they actually think that it’s just as good to have a bowl of artificially sweetened, preservative-filled Fiber One cereal than a bowl of oatmeal with chopped apples and some ground flax seeds? Is one of their imitation snack bars going to deliver the same nutrient quality as a fresh apple and a handful of nuts?
UPDATE 12/2018: They have since taken down this comparison chart.
Sorry if I’m getting carried away but this just flies in the face of anything remotely resembling good nutrition habits. With that in mind, here are some take-a-way lessons:
- Don’t believe everything you read on the box. Go to the Ingredients List to get the REAL scoop on what’s in your food.
- Low calorie is not usually better. When food companies promote low calorie, their products inevitably contain artificial sweeteners and other processed ingredients. Read HERE and HERE about the downfalls of consuming artificial sweeteners.
- Get your fiber from REAL food. A serving of Fiber One cereal may offer 14 grams of fiber. But this fiber source, stripped from real food (aka functional fiber), will be devoid of ANY of the amazing health benefits that comes along with eating real foods. An equal amount of fiber from whole food sources such as 1/4 of an avocado, a cup of broccoli, a medium apple, and a couple tablespoons of beans provides potassium, monounsaturated heart healthy fat, folate, magnesium, vitamins A, C, and B complex, and a host of antioxidants.
We know it’s tempting to take short cuts and purchase products that are convenient and seemingly healthy. But please be savvy when reading labels. Remember that simple short cuts can actually have long-term affects on your health.
If you need help making healthy food choices, we can help! A great first step is to check out our private Facebook group Nutrition and Energy Boost for Busy Women.
Now let’s hear from you? Where do you get most of your fiber from? Has our post inspired you to look a little more closely at your food labels? Share your thoughts with us!