Fiber and whole grains were undisputed royalty at this year's American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo.
Cereals, corn chips, crackers, cookies, and protein powders breathlessly advertised their inclusion in ingredient lists.
I certainly was not expecting, however, to come across fiber in Splenda and Diet Coke.
The Splenda folks -- who, oddly enough, suggest sprinkling their non-caloric sweetener over fresh fruit -- are making the case that this is one easy way for Americans (who are currently getting, on average, half of their recommended fiber intake) to boost their fiber consumption.
With each packet containing 1 gram of fiber, two packets in your morning coffee and another over your breakfast cereal puts you at the 3 gram mark (as much as an apple, they exclaim.)
Coca Cola, meanwhile, will be releasing Diet Coke Plus With Fiber around March or April of 2010.
Apart from the vitamin and mineral combination found in Diet Coke Plus, this beverage will contain 5 grams of soluble fiber (all derived from corn) per 20 ounce bottle.
Splenda and Coca Cola have their marketing pitch perfected.
"We're simply helping people get the amount of fiber they need!" they explain (with puppy dog eyes, I'm sure.)
I'm not as optimistic.
While the idea of including fiber in Diet Coke may appeal to some people, it serves as a complete deterrent to get it from unprocessed, whole foods that offer multitudes of other nutrients, phytochemicals, and health benefits.
As much as Splenda wants to make the case that three packets of their sweetener contain as much fiber as an apple, it's a meaningless comparison.
An apple is more than just fiber in a round shape.
It contains vitamin C, potassium, and a significant number of antioxidants, among them quercetin and epicatechin (the former has been associated with reduced cellular damage, the latter with improved blood flow.)
By relying on fortified empty calorie foods for specific nutrients, you are missing out on hundreds of health-promoting components.
What's most mind-boggling to me is that these products give the false idea that fiber is just so gosh darn hard to find, that there's no choice but to stick it inside a soda bottle.