Tuesday night on The Biggest Loser, Bob recommended to Mandi and Aubrey that they can increase their fiber intake by eating a Fiber One bar. While I am not usually bothered by these product placements, the subject of fiber is one I am very passionate about (see “Cracker to Satisfy Carb Cravings” and “Brantastic Crackers“), so I felt compelled to look into the high fiber claim.
Since I have never tried the bar and it sounded so impressive, I checked out the nutrition information available on the website. So, here’s the info:
1 Fiber One “Oats and Chocolate” bar is 40 g
140 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrate, 9 g fiber, 10 g sugar (a little over 2 teaspoons), 2 g protein
So, it does seem to have a good bit of fiber. But, where is the fiber coming from? The first ingredient is chicory root extract. Since, ingredients are required to be listed in the order of their predominance in a product, this means that there is more chicory root extract by weight, than anything else in the product.
So what is chicory root extract? Chicory root extract is also known as inulin. Inulin is known as a prebiotic, meaning it’s good for your digestive system.
There is some question though as to whether inulin offers the same benefits as dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is the kind we get naturally from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, legumes etc. The benefits of fiber are promoting satiety, reducing cholesterol and improving bowel regularity. In fact, the Center for Science in Public Interest (CSPI) has requested that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans be updated to advise consumers to differentiate between these different types of fibers when choosing foods. You can access CSPI’s full comments on several food issues at the following link: Comments regarding Dietary Guidelines for Americans Submitted to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee,.
The next ingredient is chocolate chips with confectioners shellac, then rolled oats (some fiber likely comes from here as well), crisp rice (which includes sugar), barley flakes (similar to oats, these may also contribute some fiber), high maltose corn syrup (aka sugar), high fructose corn syrup (also sugar), sugar, canola oil, honey (some more sugar, albeit natural), glycerin (common food additive, helps food keep its water content), maltodextrins (another food additive made from starch), palm kernel oil (~82% saturated fat), tricalcium phosphate (anticaking agent), soy lecithin (emulsifier), salt, nonfat milk, peanut oil, cocoa, natural flavor, color added, almond flour, peanut flour, sunflower meal, wheat flour, mixed tocopherols (vitamin E).
So, I gather that this bar is tasty on account of the chocolate and sugar, and in terms of calories is definitely moderate. It is probably fine if you are looking for a quick, in between meal snack.
My only concern is that when the Biggest Loser is touting the bar as a good way to increase your daily fiber, and the product is not a good source of whole grains, fruit, vegetables or legumes, this is misleading the public.
Wouldn’t Bob have been better off telling the contestants to eat an apple, banana or slice of whole wheat bread with some peanut butter? The contestants have been grappling with overeating and cravings their whole lives, and to encourage them to eat a chocolately bar to help meet their fiber recommendation seems misinformed in my opinion.
All that being said, I have tried a few high fiber bars and one that has even more fiber than the Fiber One bar is the Flavor & Fiber bars by Gnu Foods. They have a few different flavors, I prefer the Peanut Butter and Orange Cranberry flavors. They have roughly the same calories as the Fiber One bars, and they use a proprietary blend of whole grains to give the bar a whopping 12 grams of fiber! I will caution that this bar also uses the chicory root extract to add to the fiber, but it has less sugar (in the peanut butter flavor) and twice as much protein, so it may also fill you up longer. The rest of the ingredients are easily recognizable, and they don’t use high fructose corn syrup or tropical oils. I have found that I have to drink a lot of water when I eat these bars, otherwise you start to feel dehydrated pretty quickly.
An even better solution is to make your own granola bars. Earlier this week I had attempted to make a granola bar from some stuff that I had on hand, they included the following:
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup Kashi honey toasted oat cereal
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp honey
Cinnamon (to taste)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients together (except for the chips), then added the egg and vanilla, stir until mix is fully coated, then stir in the chips. Pour into an 8″ x 8″baking pan, and bake for about 20-25 minutes. They will be done when the edges start to become golden brown. Once they cool, you can cut them into roughly 12 bars.
I liked these a lot, though I think they probably could have used a little oil to make them less dry. By the second day, they seemed even more moist though. I will play around with the proportions next time, and try some other whole grains and/or use peanut butter and see what happens. The nice thing about making your own bars is that you can control what you are putting into it, and the nutrition you will get out of it.
The Fiber One bars do have a lot of fiber, but, the jury is not out on whether this type of fiber can offer the same health benefits as dietary fiber.
Your best bet is to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. If bars offer you convenience in a hectic lifestyle, there are some more healthful options or try to make your own.
Unfortunately for Mandi, who really liked the Fiber One bars, she was the contestant who was eliminated this week. I’m sure it was just a coincidence that it was on the same episode that Bob introduced the Fiber One bars…or was it?