The latest addition to the lineup of foods touting “big fiber” promises is Frito Lay’s Smart Food Popcorn Clusters. Cute “Cathy-like” cartoon ladies chat in the commercial about “getting more fiber” and how yummy it can be, blah blah blah.
I initially saw the package at Target and I have to say, it caught my eye. I would like some stationery that looks like this box. But, when I looked at the ingredients I was disappointed that this was just another product using “faux” fiber to attract customers, specifically women.
While I can look past the fact that the first ingredient is a sweetner, specifically brown rice syrup, which is about 1/2 as sweet as sugar, and considered to be “natural.” It’s the second ingredient though that gets me, it’s chicory root fiber (otherwise known as inulin), and this is where a majority of the fiber in the snack comes from.
There is nothing inherently wrong with chicory root fiber, in fact it may be beneficial as a prebiotic promoting the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Inulin doesn’t raise blood sugar levels, so it may help people with diabetes.
In terms of other types of health benefits though, such as lowering your cholesterol or bowel regularity, there is no evidence so far that the derived fibers, such as chicory root fiber, are equivalent to the traditional sources of fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. For this reason I am hesitant to recommend or purchase these products because they seem to intentionally mislead the public into thinking that this is a good way to increase your daily fiber intake.
As a snack though, it’s definitely low calorie at 110-120 calories per 1 ounce serving, depending on the flavor that you choose. There’s about two teaspoons of sugar per serving, and some sodium. There is also 20% of the daily value for calcium in this snack in the form of calcium carbonate. Not sure why I would need to get my calcium while I am eating popcorn, but, presumably this is a nutrient that Frito Lay felt would also be a good marketing tool to attract female customers.
The three flavors are:
- Chocolate Cookie Caramel Pecan Popcorn Clusters
- Cranberry Almond Popcorn Clusters
- Honey Multigrain Popcorn Clusters
I have to mention of course that an equivalent amount of air popped popcorn has 110 calories, about 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, no sugar and some bonus nutrients like lutein, zeaxanthin and choline. If you really had a hankering for sweet you could throw in your own cranberries and/or chocolate chips. In my opinion, that’s smart food.