nutrition graphicNot all breads (or cereals) are created equal

Posted May 28, 2010 by Katie

If you’re a health-conscious consumer, when you pick a bread, pasta, cracker or cereal, you’re probably looking at not only its calorie and fat count, but its fiber content as well.

Dietary fiber, found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, helps digestion, controls blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and assists in weight loss. A general guideline for fiber intake is 25 and 35 grams a day from healthy foods.

Getting our fiber where we can

Most of us don’t have the time or generous schedules to allow for meals with fiber-rich veggies and fruits. If you’re anything like me, I’m lucky I eat one fruit a day. 

So, it’s no surprise when we gravitate toward food that touts “Now more fiber!” or “56% of your daily fiber intake!” But it just seems a little deceiving to see “good source of fiber” on a box of Froot Loops, when I know it’s chock full of sugar.

Grain guidelines

How do you choose a good grain? There are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. The first ingredient should be whole grain. “Whole” means that the “bran” and “germ” of the kernel, what makes grain nutritious, are still intact. In processed breads, cereals and rice, these have been stripped away. One-ingredient whole grain products are the best (like oatmeal, shredded wheat). Also, “whole wheat” doesn’t mean “whole grain.”
  2. The shorter the list of ingredients, the better, and sugar, if any, should be lower down on the list. Just because bread is brown, doesn’t mean it’s healthier. Molasses or artificial coloring adds that deceptive color.
  3. The fiber content must be at least 2 grams per serving (e.g., 2 grams of fiber per slice of bread)

Where’s the “more” coming from?

In products like bread and crakers, fiber can be increased by adding more whole grains, artificially created fiber sources, like maltodextrin and polydextrose, or other sources. Maltodextrin isn’t harmful, but polydextrose can cause digestion issues for sensitive individuals.

In the case of the Froot Loops, the added fiber is legit; whole grains are listed in the ingredients. But looking at Fiber One’s 90 calorie chewy chocolate cereal bar, though it has whole grain oats listed as the third ingredient, it also contains maltodextrin. Not to mention corn syrup.

The skinny

Simply put, to eat healthier, choose whole foods and avoid processed foods.

With an on-the-go lifestyle, it’s not always the easiest or most convenient choice to stay away from the processed foods, but even if you can eliminate one processed food from your day, the better you’ll be.

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The information written about in this blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please seek care from a medical professional when you have a health concern.