Is tapioca fiber keto or does it spike blood sugar levels?
Today we wanted to chime in on an interesting conversation that has come up quite a lot in recent times, as lots of our wonderful Uplift Food fans start to come to us to answer their questions about fiber related ingredients, prebiotics, and even to question how some products appear to be high in fiber but still seem to be able to cause blood sugar levels to spike.
We thought we would share with you all here a brief summary to explain why it is that there are some products that have tapioca fiber in them that you may notice your blood sugar levels increase from, whilst there are others that this is totally not the case.
This hopefully will help explain why some products can say they are low in sugar, and high in fiber, but still manage to spike your blood sugar levels!
First things first;
Tapioca fiber is an ingredient that is sourced from the tapioca vegetable. Unlike tapioca starch which is the starchy carbohydrate portion of the vegetable, tapioca fiber is the fiber, isolated.
It therefore is an ingredient that can be found in a lot of lower carbohydrate, higher fiber products, including protein bars, high protein ice-creams, low sugar gummies and more.
On a label it sometimes is listed as soluble tapioca fiber, soluble tapioca fiber powder, soluble tapioca fiber syrup, tapioca fiber powder, vegetable fiber, and some even list it simply as prebiotic fiber or prebiotic soluble fiber from tapioca.
What is important to understand is that although the label and ingredients list may read the same, there actually are at least two different forms of tapioca fiber that are currently readily available within the food supply, and the way these ingredients respond in our bodies are vastly different.
When looking on a package, at this point, there is not really a way to know which has been included given they are listed the same.
Both forms of tapioca fiber until recently were listed in the nutrition facts panel as "fiber" however following FDA having new fiber regulations, one of the forms is needing to be shifted from being labelled as a "fiber" to simply being a carbohydrate (not necessarily a sugar, but also not necessarily a fiber). This rule has come into effect for large companies selling over a certain threshold, whereas for smaller brands, there is a phase out period until early next year.
Both types of tapioca fiber are classified as prebiotics, however they have different dose requirements for benefit.
One type of tapioca fiber is in the form of a soluble prebiotic fiber called isomolto-oligosaccharides (sometimes written in short hand as IMO), this is the type of prebiotic fiber that you can need up at around 30g to have a prebiotic benefit. There are some studies that have shown however that the processed form used readily in the USA food supply does not actually provide much prebiotic benefit, and simply acts more like a regular carbohydrate.
This IMO is actually partially digested, and as a result, it doesn't always act in full the way you may expect a dietary fiber to behave, in everybody; And as a result of it being partially digested, it actually also means it is slightly more easily tolerated, which is why some products which may have previously been labelled as very high fiber, may still not cause you to have such an upset stomach.
Overall, the up-side of this is that we can tolerate a little more of it, and it does have some prebiotic benefits, the down-side is that it doesnt fully act as a dietary fiber, and therefore can cause blood sugar spikes if not consumed with other ingredients that would slow down the digestion, such as healthy fats or other dietary fiber and resistant starch ingredients.
This type of soluble tapioca fiber has recently had its identification changed, and must be called isomolto-oligosaccharide on a label, and does not fall under the fiber category in a nutrition facts panel anymore. It also therefore adds more calories to the nutrition facts panel of the product, and therefore the calories should read higher than they previously would when this ingredient fit under the fiber definition.
This explains why some products on the markets such as high fiber gummies or bars labels will have recently changed, and products that you used to purchase as low carb or high fiber, may not have the same nutrition facts anymore (ultimately they never had the nutrition facts that were preciously marketed, but they were just mislabelled due to the industry not keeping up with the science).
On the other hand, there is a type of tapioca fiber that is actually in the form of a resistant starch (or in the food supply called resistant dextrin) - meaning it is able to resist digestion by your digestive enzymes, and make its way to your gut, where it feeds the good bacteria and has a very strong prebiotic benefit!
This type of tapioca fiber has been shown NOT to spike blood sugar levels, and has the ability to help you feel very full - which is why some products that have tapioca fiber in them actually don't spike your blood sugar levels, and do help with satiety.
At Uplift Food, many of you know we are HUGE advocates for resistant starch and all the benefits that it can provide you and your gut health, and it is for this reason that in our Gut Happy Cookie range, and our Prebiotic Bliss Bites this is one of the top ingredients in each of our products!
If you are in doubt about which type of tapioca fiber is in a product that you are keen to try, we would simply recommend you reach out to the brand and ask them which type they are including (or of course, you can test your blood sugar levels yourself if you are keen to see how your body reacts!).
Just remember - Both types are technically prebiotics, both types may have some benefit to your gut health, both types will interact differently in each person, as well as both types will effect blood sugar levels differently based on the nutrient profile of the entire food they are incorporated into, not just based on them as an individual ingredient.
We hope you found this post informative and useful!
You know we love helping to educate you all on everything prebiotic related, so don't be shy to get in touch if you have further questions you are keen for us to cover on future blog posts.
If you want to try some cookies that are packed with the resistant starch form, that you know feeds your probiotics, keeps you full, and doesnt spike your blood sugar levels, give our variety sample pack of Gut Happy Cookies and Prebiotic Bliss Bites a try!
In good gut health,