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Pet peeve, fiber calories

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Old 01-08-2014, 03:11 PM   #1
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Default Pet peeve, fiber calories

Paper has calories. Calories are a measurement of heat given off when a burnable substance burns, so anything that can burn has calories.

But our bodies don't burn fiber. We'd starve to death on a diet of paper, because we can't access the calories in cellulose (dietary fiber).

So why aren't more calorie counting resources (aimed at humans) subtracting the fiber calories from the calorie counts?

Today I looked up the calorie count for cabbage calories on several popular calorie counting sites and found that they all overestimated calorie content by 100%. The useable calories amounted to half what the counters list.

In the USA, on nutrition labels and in calorie counting resources, it is permissable but not required to subtract fiber calories from the calorie total.

It really ticks me off, because it makes vegetables and fruits appear higher in calorie than they actually are.

Resistant starch, inulin, and sugar alcohols are another source of undigestible carbs. I get though why those calories aren't always subtracted. There's some evidence that the ability to digest these carbs may vary (so food containing them may provide me with more or fewer calories than they provide you)...

... but NO human being can digest fiber, so why are they still being counted for dietary purposes?

Ok, end of rant.
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Old 01-08-2014, 05:29 PM   #2
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i agree...ive often wondered the same thing....why those calories are still being marked/counted
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Old 01-08-2014, 05:40 PM   #3
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Hear hear!
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Old 01-08-2014, 07:12 PM   #4
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i'd like to know also because people like me would have never known about fiber and countable calories
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Old 01-08-2014, 09:58 PM   #5
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I don't know anything about this and my screen name is calcounter!
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Old 01-11-2014, 08:43 AM   #6
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I"ve never heard of this but i don't know why it need be such an issue. There's not a lot of calories in fruit and vegetables and generally you can eat as much as you want of these foods and not bugger up your diet.

cal counter, i just googled it and found lots of links. The one i read said that some of the fibre is broken down into short chain fatty acids and a gram of carbohydrate fibre gives about 4 calories which would be used in the body. While the insoluble fibre cannot be used. I think that was on a live strong link.

Anyway i 'm not going to let it change the way i count calories.
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Old 01-11-2014, 09:02 AM   #7
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In what way does their over-counting calories affect your weight loss? If your body doesn't count those calories, that should be what matters. Sort of like if you estimate what you eat and write "200 calories" in your tracker but really the food had 50 or 500 calories, its what your body thinks that counts, not what the tracker says.

And if someone is eating so many vegetables that the over-counting in their tracker is going to lead to malnutrition that is a bigger problem.

Seems like this might be an issue for recovering anorexics, but I'm not really seeing how it affects people who are over weight.
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Old 01-11-2014, 09:47 AM   #8
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In what way does their over-counting calories affect your weight loss? If your body doesn't count those calories, that should be what matters. Sort of like if you estimate what you eat and write "200 calories" in your tracker but really the food had 50 or 500 calories, its what your body thinks that counts, not what the tracker says.

I never said it had any impact on my weight loss. I'm smart enough to compensate for the difference. I'm also smart enough to understand that 200 calories of veggies (even counted correctly) is a better choice than 200 calories of cookies - not only for weight loss, but for general health.

I also have found that I have to restrict calories more on high carb to lose than low carb. On low-carb 1800 calories daily results in the same weight loss as 1500 caloried of high carb. I'm also hungrier on 3000 calories of high carb as on 1200 calories of low carb.

If I eat no-carb, I don't even have to count calories at all to lose weight.

That wasn't my point. My point was just that the imprecision annoys and frustrates me.

For myself, I'd rather just keep my "counted" calories lower and choose not to limit or count low-cal veggies at all.

When I make a casserole though, especially a new recipe, I try to calculate calories as accurately as possible.

I don't think the best accuracy possible is too much to ask.
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Old 01-11-2014, 11:37 AM   #9
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...sugar alcohols are another source of undigestible carbs.
Sorry - slightly off-topic, but this intrigued me. Does that mean that the calories in alcohol don't count? And what types of alcohol? Would it be the purer forms such as vodka, gin, whisky, etc.?

What about wine, beer? Why do people get beer bellies?
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Old 01-11-2014, 12:08 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Robsia View Post
Sorry - slightly off-topic, but this intrigued me. Does that mean that the calories in alcohol don't count? And what types of alcohol? Would it be the purer forms such as vodka, gin, whisky, etc.?

What about wine, beer? Why do people get beer bellies?
Nope. There are no free alcoholic beverages in calorie counting. All of the calories in alcoholic beverages count including those in the ethanol (the alcohol in alcoholic beverages). Thus one of the reasons for "beer bellies".


Sugar alcohols are nothing like drinking alcohol. They won't even give you a buzz. They have more in common with sugar than drinking alcohol.

Sugar alcohols are naturally occuring sweeteners, usually ending in the letters -ol (with the exception of isomalt): sorbitol, maltitol, manntol, erythritol, xylitol,...



These are often found in sugar free chocolates, chewing gum, and processed diet and diabetic foods.
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Old 01-11-2014, 01:53 PM   #11
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Fiber does have calories that the body uses, about 1.5-2 cal/gram. So if they subtracted those calories completely, the purists would make posts about why don't companies include the fiber calories in the total calorie count.

For the record, I subtract fiber from my carb count in my spreadsheet. The caloric content is small and my intake isn't significant enough. My total calorie count for a day might be understated by 60-100 calories because of it. Not a big deal.
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Old 01-11-2014, 03:08 PM   #12
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Fiber does have calories that the body uses, about 1.5-2 cal/gram. So if they subtracted those calories completely, the purists would make posts about why don't companies include the fiber calories in the total calorie count.
.

Could you provide support for this assertion - authors, titles, research citations, something to help me confirm this. Everything I've ever read has stated that cellulose (the most common form of fiber) is entirely undigestible. Zero calories per gram.

Fiber supplements like Metamucil often contain 1.5-2 calories per gram, or even more, but that's because of the other ingredients in the supplement (usually sugar and other carbs) not in the fiber itself.

Inulin is sometimes considered a form of fiber (and some consider it to be in it's own class and consider only cellulose dietary fiber). I'm not as familiar with inulin's caloric availibility, so perhaps this is what you're referring to.

Likewise resistant starch and sugar alcohols are incompletely digested, but resistant starch research is pretty new, and researchers have only begun to quantify calorie absorption ratios for resistant starches.

And "carbs" aren't the only inaccurate calorie count. Some proteins and fats are more easily and completely absorbed than others (making more or fewer calories available). The protein in gelatin and collagen for example is not very digestible.

Regardless, I would think purists (and most moderates too) would want accurate information, whatever that is. If that means 1 calorie per gram or 4 - the count should reflect digestible calories - the fuel energy available to humans, not for cows or bonfires.


More and more research is proving that "a calorie is a calorie" is outmoded thinking at best, especially the way calories are being counted, at least in the USA (some countries do a better job)


I also believe that even for weight loss, calorie minimums are often as important as maximums, so the "worst case overestimation" of calorie counting resources can be as problematic as underestimation, at least in theory.

In a practical sense it doesn't matter. You can lose weight without accurate calorie information, or even without any calorie information at all, but it still would be nice to have the most accurate information available.
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Old 01-11-2014, 09:54 PM   #13
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I"ve never heard of this but i don't know why it need be such an issue. There's not a lot of calories in fruit and vegetables and generally you can eat as much as you want of these foods and not bugger up your diet.

How I wish it were true that I could eat as much fruit as I wanted and still lose weight. I would be in weight loss heaven. In fact I have to limit it 1 to 2 small servings of high fiber fruit a day.
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Old 01-12-2014, 11:35 AM   #14
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Could you provide support for this assertion - authors, titles, research citations, something to help me confirm this. Everything I've ever read has stated that cellulose (the most common form of fiber) is entirely undigestible. Zero calories per gram.
My numbers were off - it's actually 1.5-2.5 cal/gram. I don't know where I first read it, but if you google fiber fermentation, you'll find quite a few references. Not all, but certain types of fiber are fermented by bacteria in the intestines. One of the by-products is short-chain fatty acids that are reabsorbed by the body. It just depends on the type of fiber consumed.

Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids
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