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Are You Getting Enough Fructooligosaccharides In Your Diet?

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Is it safe to eat a carbohydrate whose name you can't pronounce or spell? Indeed, not only is this low-calorie, nondigestible carbohydrate safe to eat, it seems to improve bone health, boost immunity and help balance the beneficial bacteria in the digestive track.

Fructooligosaccharides are naturally found in fruits, vegetables and grains such as chicory, onions, asparagus, wheat, tomatoes and Jerusalem artichokes, and they can be derived from sugar cane and seaweed. Because Fructooligosaccharides have 30 to 50 percent of regular sugar's sweetness, they can be used as a sweetening additive (for example, in cereal and baked goods), thereby reducing the amount of sugar in food products.

Fructooligosaccharides are also considered a prebiotic—they stimulate the growth of health-promoting bacteria and work to prevent inflammation, diarrhea and other intestinal problems.

Lastly, Fructooligosaccharides seem to increase the absorption of calcium—an important benefit for those who are losing bone mass.

Critics of the addition of Fructooligosaccharides to commercially prepared food products challenge these medical benefits and urge consumers to remain cautious. However, given the mounting evidence of health-promoting qualities from ingesting Fructooligosaccharides, we will likely see an increased use of this clear, stable, nature-derived additive in drinks, baked goods, milk, yogurt, snacks and cereal.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a 19th century American poet and educator, probably was not thinking about fructooligosaccharides when he wrote, "All things must change to something new, to something strange." Yet his words are particularly insightful, given the changing landscape of food technology.

Clearly, though, in all matters concerning your health and well-being, you are always the final judge on what is—and, just as importantly, what is not—appropriate for your body.

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