Companies complicate nutrition of fiber

“Cardboard? No. Delicious? Yes.”

We have all seen the Fiber One commercials that advertise a tasty way to get your daily value of fiber, which apparently is an incredibly difficult accomplishment.

Today’s food industries insinuate that instead of beginning the day with a head of broccoli at 6 a.m., we can now get our daily amount of fiber by simply mixing some unspecified powder into water that instantly turns clear — also known as Benefiber.

Or you can simply eat a Fiber One granola bar, which covers 35 percent of your daily fiber. But even then we are left wondering, what about the other 65 percent? Are these less-than-filling granola bars and this powder really the only, most delicious and healthy way to get your daily fiber?

Fiber is found naturally in fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods. Eating enough fiber is simpler than our food culture in America makes it seem.

For example, processed food industries sell prepackaged applesauce (2 grams of fiber) and apple juice (0.2 grams of fiber) when it is just as easy, delicious and more satisfying to eat an apple that naturally contains 5 grams of fiber for about the same number of calories.

Making fiber “taste good” is what the companies are claiming to have miraculously done. Really they just doctored up some oats and nuts with high-fructose corn syrup and chocolate chips. I know, they really are geniuses.

The real issue arises when we consider, “Who said fiber tasted bad?”

Food companies looking for a new marketing tool often harp on the latest health claim until it becomes a nationwide obsession that they can then profit from. The latest craze has been fiber.

In order to increase sales, companies have put fiber into to just about anything foodlike, preserved and convenient. Or they have added unnecessary amounts of sugar, sodium, food coloring and preservatives to what naturally contains fiber.

Companies make these products in hopes that they will convince consumers that this is the only way to enjoy fiber (which they hear is good for them), much less consume the necessary amount. The problem with this idea is that most consumers never actually understand what fiber is.

Put simply, fiber makes up the indigestible components of the foods we eat. For example, if you eat a plate of french fries in the cafeteria, the fries will presumably sit in your stomach until your body breaks them down and eventually turns them into fat.

Alternatively, a bowl of carrots would sit in your stomach longer and attract water, providing a feeling of fullness. Carrots are naturally more difficult for the body to absorb than fat because of their different chemical makeup. Therefore less fat is absorbed and, to be honest, you will make more trips to the bathroom.

The main point is that if our culture can become more aware of how the food industry works, we can challenge companies to compete among themselves to provide us with real, healthy and delicious food. Being oblivious to current health concerns, ignoring the growing obesity epidemic and simply not knowing what is healthy only encourages the opposite.

We are the ones asking for these products because we buy them. As a challenge this month, take a trip to Whole Foods, Good Foods or simply look at what is in your food. Does everything you eat have a label? Are there more than five ingredients you cannot pronounce? What nutrients, if any, do you eat in a day? Do you get enough fiber?

Take advantage of what you spend your money on and to whom it is going. If you pay for the Transylvania meal plan, try to eat more fresh foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are not fried and come without a label.

I can guarantee these foods have more fiber and a whole lot of other unaltered nutrients as well. And if you have a new idea for dining services, tell them about it. As Transy students we can start by changing the food culture on campus and go from there.

Food directly affects our bodies now and in our future. Simply being aware of how to eat healthy and using that knowledge when you make food choices can have an enormous impact on your well-being.

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