SWEET SOLUBLE FIBERS
• 2022 BUYING GUIDE •
On my quest to discover all sweeteners with soluble fibers sold in supermarkets,
I found over 40 products
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Quick Facts about Sweet Fibers
Sweet soluble fibers are composed of short chains (aka oligomers) or long chains (aka polymers) of fructose or glucose. Soluble fibers are not digested in the small intestine, and so provide fewer calories than sugars. They reach the large intestine intact. Being fermented by microbes in the large intestine, they offer a variety of health benefits such as improved bowel function. The side effects of soluble fibers are that if eaten alone on an empty stomach or in excess, they may cause digestive discomfort, bloating, stomach rumble, flatulence, and diarrhea. Those effects vary from person to person and are more common in unaccustomed consumers as adaptation may happen over time. They are similar to when you have too many high-fiber foods, such as beans.
Dietary fibers used as sweeteners include inulin, fructooligosaccharides, and isomaltooligosaccharides. Inulin is a mixture of short and long chains of (2 to 60) fructose molecules. It can be extracted from Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, or agave. It can also be produced by enzymes from sugar cane. Fructooligosaccharides or oligofructose (FOS) are linear chains of (< 9) fructose molecules. FOS are present in yacon syrup, yacon powder, and can be made from inulin. You'll see them listed as chicory root fiber on the label of sugar alternatives. Isomaltooligosaccharides (IMO) are short chains of glucose molecules produced from tapioca (cassava) starch [since January 2020, IMO cannot be listed as a dietary fiber on food labels].
The sweetness of soluble fibers is mild. Inulin is only slightly sweet, 10 to 30 percent as sweet as sugar. FOS and IMO are 30 to 65 percent as sweet as sugar. They provide less than half the calories of table sugar, varying from 1 to 2 calories per gram or about 10 calories per teaspoon.
Quick Facts about Yacon
Yacon is a plant farmed in Peru and its root, which looks a lot like a sweet potato, is rich in fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Yacon syrup and powder are obtained from the juice of the yacon root. I found 15 products (see above) imported from Peru.
Yacon syrup & powder are not just pure soluble fibers. They are blends of sugars (fructose, glucose, sucrose) and FOS. Both yacon sweeteners are low GI and about 30% less sweet than table sugar. Yacon syrup has a dark color and consistency similar to cane molasses. It provides about 7 calories per teaspoon. Yacon powder works well in baked goods as it does not readily dissolve in liquids. It provides about 25 calories per teaspoon.
Disadvantage: Eating alone on an empty stomach or in excess may cause adverse gastrointestinal effects.
What happens to dietary fibers in our body?
To draw a comparison, let's take a digestible carbohydrate (table sugar) and a non-digestible carbohydrate (soluble fibers):
Digestible carbohydrates: Table sugar (sucrose) is broken down into two simple sugars – fructose and glucose. Some of the sucrose is broken apart in our stomach by acids. In the small intestine, sucrose is further split by the action of enzymes. Only fructose and glucose are absorbed from the small intestine into the bloodstream to be metabolized in the body. Table sugar is completely digested providing 4 calories per gram.
Non-digestible carbohydrates: Sweet dietary fibers (inulin and oligosaccharides such as FOS and IMO) are not broken down and absorbed in the small intestine. They reach the large intestine intact and are completely fermented by intestinal bacteria. So, even though we cannot metabolize them, microbes in the lower digestive tract can. That's why their caloric value is not zero. It is estimated that those sweet dietary fibers provide about 2 calories per gram. They offer a variety of health benefits such as improved bowel function. Eaten alone in an empty stomach or in excess may cause adverse gastrointestinal effects.
Blood Glucose Level: As opposed to table sugar, sweet fibers do not increase blood sugar levels because glucose is not produced in the fermentation by gut bacteria.
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