Ever since I started keto dieting I’ve been very aware of how many carbs I’m taking in. Too many I’m out of ketosis, bummer. I’ve found that if I keep below 50g it’s no problem but sometimes 50g just isn’t enough. I’ve been keto for over a few months now and I have turned into that guy who skips ice cream, chocolate, biscuits and all the good stuff, yep I’ve become a total loser, but occasionally I need to dip my toes in the pool.
If you’ve ever read a food label you would know that carbohydrates are listed as total carbs, sugars and dietary fibre. We all know about sugar but how many calories are in fibre? Surely if fibre is indigestible stuff your bowls chew on to keep things pushing along it should have zero calories, and maybe we should exclude it from our carb intake totals, giving me more chocolate allowance!
If we can’t digest it can we forget about it?
As with everything in nutrition the answer is never yes or no. To determine whether or not to count fibre as calories depends on the context and requires some background. In nutrition a calorie is the unit used to measure energy, much like how Watts are used to measure electricity. One calorie (small c) is the amount of thermal energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1 degree Celsius . Proteins, fats, carbohydrates and alcohol all provide energy or calories to the body.
The traditional estimates are that 1 gram of alcohol provides 7 calories, each gram of either carbohydrates or proteins provide 4 calories and 1 gram of fat offers 9 calories. However, this does not account for the differences in digestibility and the nutrients that are eventually available to the body. This is a particularly important consideration when it comes to dietary fibres.
Dietary fibres are basically complex carbohydrates, so some nutritionists estimate that each gram of fibre provides 4 calories just like any other carbohydrates. Others say calories from fibres should not be counted because the digestive enzymes cannot break them down. It is however important to note that fibres differ in how well they can be digested, and so how much energy is available to the body. In this regard, fibres are classified as soluble and insoluble.
These are fibres that either absorbs water and form gels, or dissolve in water and are digested by bacteria when they reach the stomach. During this digestion, soluble fibres are converted into short-chain fatty acids that provide energy to your body. The FDA estimates that fibres digested by bacteria produce about 2 calories per gram of fibre. Soluble fibres include pectin’s, mucilages gums and some hemicelluloses.
Insoluble fibres, a.k.a. roughage, travel to your intestines with very little change. They cannot be digested, instead, they increase bulk, shorten transit time through the intestinal tract and soften stool. Since they are not digested at all, insoluble fibers don’t contribute any calories to the body.
How much fire do you really eat to be so overly worried about how many calories they carry? Food labels do not differentiate between soluble and insoluble fibre so rather than concerning yourself so much about the accuracy of calorie counting and the relatively small calorie difference contributed by fibre in your diet, it may be best to concentrate on eating the recommended amount of fibre per day; 14 grams of fibre for every 1,000 calories is an ideal estimate – most don’t even manage 14g a day!
RELATED ARTICLE: 5 Simple Food Choices for Long Term Health Results