The Fake Fiber

We all know that fiber (fibre?) is our friend- it can help move thing along in our digestive tract, help to prevent a whole host of diseases (colon cancer, diverticulosis, etc) and lower our cholesterol. Its not always easy to eat the right amount of fiber everyday (25-30g), especially if you don’t know where to find it. So, “lucky for us”, the food industry has helped us out by enriching all kinds of food with fiber. We can now find high fiber frozen yogurt, orange juice, cookies, you name it! Its taken the brain work out of fiber intake- or has it?

Not so long ago, a “new” kind of fiber was discovered- one that doesn’t taste like cardboard or take 100 chews to get down. It goes by the name of Inulin and can be easily added to practically any food to increase its fiber content. So now we find ultra-high fiber pastas, breads, granola bars, etc. Ever heard of “Smart” Bread or “Smart” Catelli pasta? Rather than adding bran or psyllium (two other kinds of fiber) or using actual whole grains, they use inulin to boost the fiber content. This way you can eat your refined, white cereal products and not have to worry about not getting enough fiber! Is this too good to be true? YES.

Recent studies have tested the efficacy of inulin in lowering cholesterol, helping with bowel movements and even its ability to protect against disease. Unfortunately, inulin is much less effective in improving out health as its cousins bran and psyllium. Who would have guessed that refining our foods then trying to put back the nutrients may not work? Common sense could have told you that but in today’s society, quick fixes and miracle foods are all the rage. Time and time again we are proven that fortifying our foods with miracle nutrients is not the way to prevent health problems.

These fortified foods may be a way to help your family’s transition from white grain products to whole grain, but keep in mind that a transition involves continued progression! It is not absolutely necessary to avoid at all costs white pasta, rice and baguette. It is important to keep an open mind about whole grain products which means trying to include them when you can. Why not mix brown and white pasta (or rice) to help with the taste? Or try using other higher fiber grain options such as whole wheat couscous or barely as a side dish? Even making sandwiches with one slice white and one slice brown is possible.

It seems like the more we try to perfect our diets by enriching foods with nutrients like inulin (and omega 3s and probiotics), we end up complicating things. Stick to the basics and use common sense when buying these expensive specialty products.

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