October 7, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Isolated Fibers

I ran across a juice from Bolthouse Farms and was shocked when I saw that it packs in EIGHT grams of soluble fiber in one 8 fl oz serving!

My eyes went to the ingredient list right away to see just what, if anything, was added to get that impressive number.

What I found was dextrin, inulin, and xanthan gum all added and listed as "dietary fiber".

Are these treated by the body in the same manner as more "raw" food would be when it comes to the benefits the soluble fiber can provide?

Are they mainly tossed in to get that impressive number and in reality not as effective for the body as soluble fiber from fruits or some other "raw" source?

Other than that, what are you general thoughts on some Bolthouse Farms drinks?

I still try to grab something that doesn't have a bunch of sugar in it when I just feel like something refreshing to drink while watching a movie or something but as juice goes, does Bolthouse seem slightly above the others?

-- Andrew Carney

Richland, WA

You have to love those isolated fibers -- food manufacturers certainly do!

After all, how else would you manage to get eight grams of soluble fiber in 8 ounces of a drink that is nothing more than a medley of fiber-free, sugar-loaded juice concentrates?

Although dextrin, inulin, and xanthan gum are real fibers that exist in nature, I am not a fan of consuming nutrients in isolated form.

Food science research has demonstrated on several occassions that, for optimal performance, nutrients need to play off each other (and other phytochemicals in food.)

This is precisely one reason why clinical trials involving vitamin E supplementation show different results than those in which vitamin E is consumed in the diet from food sources.

Similarly, while oatmeal offers LDL-cholesterol lowering properties thanks to soluble fiber (in particular beta-glucan, which is not in this Bolthouse drink), it also offers manganese, selenium, and magnesium at the tune of 145 calories per cup.

The drink you are asking about, meanwhile, packs in 350 calories' worth of concentrated juices and then throws in fiber, vitamins, and minerals to provide a healthier image.

The fact that one bottle contains 15 grams of soluble fiber is also worrying, as this can result in some very painful bloating for those unaccustomed to taking in such large amounts in one sitting.

My verdict? You might as well be drinking Kool Aid, stirring in some Metamucil, and popping a Centrum.

That being said, if you enjoy the drink and can afford the calories, enjoy it... as a sweet treat.

On that note, one word of caution. When it comes to juice drinks, don't hunt around for fiber, Omega-3's, or added buzz-worthy nutrients.

How come? I find that it is usually the drinks highest in calories and sugars that tack on these nutrients in order to trick consumers into thinking they are doing their health a favor.

The best thing to look for when it comes to these beverages is a small bottle.

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