As much as dietitians love to throw the F word around (fiber, obviously), the vast majority of people in the US aren’t getting enough of it. Like, basically no one is. According to data that took into account more than 14,600 adults in the US, only nine percent of women and five percent of men were meeting the recommended daily amounts. (For the record, that’s between 25 and 38 grams, depending on your age and weight.)
This news is enough to cause health experts to start shouting the, well, other F word. Fiber is vastly important for both short- and long-term health. Not only does it keep the digestive tract functioning properly, it’s also linked to preventing chronic inflammation (which can manifest into diseases, including cancer), and even connected to brain health.
To help fill the fiber gap, brands are releasing new fizzy drinks that are bubbling with the nutrient. The logic is that if we’re not going to fill up on fruits, veggies, beans, and other fiber-rich foods, perhaps we’ll guzzle it if it’s more akin to soda (minus all the sugar and chemicals). Three brands doing exactly this include Olipop, Gist, and Halfday.
Shop these high-fiber drinks:
What exactly is in these new high-fiber drinks and would a registered dietitian recommend them? Keep reading for everything you need to know about the latest beverage trend taking over the wellness world.
How to make high-fiber drinks actually taste good
These new canned drinks certainly aren’t the first high-fiber beverages to hit the market. The original high-fiber drink is, of course, the smoothie. It makes sense that blending fruits and veggies together is a great way to get your fiber on the go. But these new digestion-friendly drinks are nothing like a fruit smoothie. Instead of being thick and heavy, they’re essentially sparkling water (or in Halfday’s case, tea) with fiber added into in. They’re also different from kombucha, which is made completely differently and is often high in sugar because it’s a necessary part of the fermentation process.
For each of the three brands highlighted here, the fiber is not sourced from fruits or vegetables. Instead, the focus is on prebiotic fibre, specifically sourced from Jerusalem artichoke inulin. (Gut health vocab refresher: Prebiotics are the food source for probiotics, aka the good bacteria in the gut.) “Incorporating multiple types of prebiotic fiber is most beneficial, so the Jerusalem artichoke was a way to mix it up a bit for most consumers [since it’s not a source many people typically eat],” says Gist founder Lizzy Haucke, of what attracted her to the ingredient.” It also gives Gist this almost silky texture. It’s not fibrous at all, the way a lot of prebiotic or fiber drinks are.” To her point, none of these canned drinks taste grainy; they are just taste refreshing.
Halfday co-founder Kayvon Jahanbakhsh says he and his business partner Michael Lombardo were drawn to Jerusalem artichoke inulin because of the wealth of scientific studies proving how beneficial it is. “[We] really dove into scientific studies to see what the best prebiotic fiber sources to include would be,” Jahanbakhsh previously told Well+Good.
Besides the Jerusalem artichoke inulin, all three brands make a conscious effort to only use natural ingredients (not chemicals) to make their drinks taste good—and none have any added sugar whatsoever. “At its core, Olipop is designed to increase everyone’s consumption of fiber and prebiotics through a nutritionally diverse mix of botanicals and plant extracts,” co-founder Ben Goodwin previously told Well+Good. For example, in Olipop’s drinks, some other ingredients you’ll find on the label include cassava root inulin, chicory root inulin (both for their prebiotic fiber), nopal cactus, kudzu vanilla root, green tea caffeine, natural flavor, cinnamon, and stevia
Halfday’s ingredients list is even more simple: besides the Jerusalem artichoke inulin, there’s agave inulin (for fiber), organic apple juice concentrate, lemon juice concentrate, stevia, and each tea flavor. Gist’s drinks are formulated similarly. In the chamomile flavor, for example, the only ingredients besides the prebiotic fiber are organic lime juice, chamomile flower, and rosemary extract.
Haucke, the Gist co-founder, says that another piece of the fiber puzzle she was mindful of when creating the drinks was not adding so much fiber to each can that it would lead to feeling uncomfortable. “I wanted to set the soluble fiber at a level that provided meaningful benefits (14 percent of your daily value) but that also did not cause digestive distress,” she says.
Okay, so the ingredients lists look pretty good. But winning the approval of a registered dietitian is a whole other matter. Let’s see what one has to say, shall we?
What a registered dietitian thinks of the new high-fiber drinks
When it comes to getting your fiber in this way, Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen, has some thoughts. “On the one hand, if folks were just eating their fruits and veggies, they wouldn’t need to be getting fiber from their fizzy drinks. On the other hand, since beverages are such a huge category and are becoming part of how modern people hydrate and fuel, it makes sense to add fiber to them,” she says.
In other words, she’s into them but still emphasizes the importance of getting fiber through food. “People should not attempt to get all of their fiber from beverages,” Largeman-Roth says. “The primary sources should be fruits, veggies, and whole grains.”
That said, she is into what these high-fiber drinks are made with, particularly the Jerusalem artichoke inulin. “Jerusalem artichoke, aka sunchoke, is a fantastic source of prebiotic fiber thanks to the inulin it contains,” she says. But she does say that it is known to cause gas. “So don’t be surprised if you feel that effect after drinking these beverages,” she says. She also calls out that both Olipop and Halfday pack a lot of fiber into one can, which may be more than some people are used to getting at once. “If you’re using these beverages to wash down a bean burrito or a large salad, keep in mind that you may experience some bloating. It might be best to have these types of drinks between meals instead of with meals,” she says.
The bottom line: Food is still the best place to get your fiber. But these canned fiber-filled drinks can help play a role in upping your intake if you’re not getting enough. And, hey, it’s a heck of a lot more nutrient-rich than soda.
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