Many Americans simply don’t get enough fiber in their diet. With the prevalence of cheap, fast food and limited time for full-on meal planning, people often find it easier to just grab something form their local food chain or buy heavily processed, prepackaged meals. The problem with this is that many such processed food items are sorely lacking in key nutrients.
Adding fiber to your diet is a great way to promote the health of the digestive system. The question is, how can you add more fiber to your diet?
In response to an increased awareness of the importance of increasing dietary fiber, people have turned to a number of prepackaged and processed food products that contain concentrations of fiber. One of these ready-made sources of fiber would be the variety of fiber-enriched cereal bars such as the now-famous Fiber One Bars. However, are fiber bars really good for you?
Benefits of Eating a Fiber Bar
The primary reason why people eat fiber bars these days is to supplement their dietary fiber. Fiber One Bars contain chicory root extract; an ingredient rich in inulin, which is the primary source of dietary fiber in these bars.
The increase of dietary fiber from these bars can have a beneficial effect on your digestive tract. The inulin in the bars promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines, and can help keep your digestion regular. An increase in digestive health can even help you shed a little weight!
While increasing your dietary fiber can be a very good thing, there are also drawbacks to consuming Fiber One Bars…
Potential Risks of Eating a Fiber Bar
Going from the extreme of not eating enough fiber to supercharging your diet with excess fiber can have some consequences. Physical side effects of a sudden rise in your dietary fiber include:
- Abdominal cramps.
- A “bloated” sensation.
- Increased flatulence.
- Intestinal obstruction (which is rare).
Most of these side effects from increases in fiber intake are temporary at worst, and will fade as your gastrointestinal tract adjusts to the increase in dietary fiber. However, there are other risks tied specifically to inulin.
Inulin, as it promotes the growth of bacteria in the digestive tract, is classified as a FODMAP, which is a category of carbohydrates that can be harmful to some individuals. This is because even as inulin can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, other, more harmful bacteria can develop as well.
As a cereal product, Fiber One Bars contain several allergens, including soy, milk, peanut, almond, sunflower and wheat-based ingredients. If you are allergic to any of these ingredients, it is safest to avoid Fiber One bars.
So, Are Fiber One Bars Bad?
Like many other food items, Fiber One bars are not life-threatening when taken in moderation (unless you’re allergic to them). However, while they’re not really very bad for your health, there’s not much to really recommend them over other sources of dietary fiber.
For example, a Fiber One bar might have only 140 calories (per 40 gram bar) and not much in the way of other important vitamins and minerals, but it does have 10 grams of sugar to go with your 9 grams of dietary fiber.
Compare that to one 126 gram serving of a banana, which has:
- 15% of your RDA of Vitamin C.
- 1 gram of protein.
- 13% of your RDA of Potassium.
- .5 mg of Vitamin B6.
- No fat, saturated or Trans.
- No cholesterol.
- No Sodium.
- 3 grams of dietary fiber.
Now, the fiber bar does come out ahead when it comes to the sheer amount of fiber provided per serving. However, the banana has way more nutrients beyond simple fiber, and fewer calories (even though the serving size of the banana is 3x that of the fiber bar).
Because the fiber content of a banana is less concentrated than that of a Fiber One bar, you can use bananas to help you gradually increase your fiber intake slowly over time, avoiding many of the uncomfortable side effects of a sudden spike in your dietary fiber.
Other good sources of dietary fiber include:
- Wild yams.
- Apples (with skin on).
Many of these natural sources of fiber boast not only a significant amount of dietary fiber, but fewer calories per serving and numerous other nutrients needed by the human body.
So, while a Fiber One bar might not be a bad thing to have once in a while when you need fiber in your diet, there are much better sources of dietary fiber that provide other nutritional benefits.
Learn more about dietary fiber and other nutrition issues from the dietitian.
Sources Cited:Banana Nutrition Facts About Chiquita Bananas. Web. 07/03/14. http://www.chiquitabananas.com/Worlds-Favorite-Fruit/index-banana-nutrition-facts.aspx