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Planters Nuts Digestive Health Mix and Muscle Milk: Are They Calorie Bargains or Calorie Rip-Offs?

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The Diet Detective investigates Planters NUT-rition Digestive Health Mix and Muscle Milk. Find out if their marketing claims are true or just hype.

Planters NUT-rition Digestive Health Mix

Are the marketing claims true? Are they Calorie Bargains or Calorie Rip-offs? That's the ongoing question with claims on food packages proliferating and food manufacturers looking for any angle to increase sales. Here are the results of two of my latest investigations.

Product: Planters NUT-rition Digestive Health Mix

Claims: "Keeping it running smoothly gets a little easier with our fiber-filled Digestive Health Mix, a succulent blend of pistachios, almonds, tart cranberries, crunchy granola clusters, and sweet cherries which helps promote digestive health."

Ingredients: Pistachios, almonds, dried cranberries, whole-grain rolled oats, sugar, brown sugar, dried cherries, high-fructose corn syrup, modified cornstarch, vegetable oil, inulin (natural extract from chicory root), molasses, salt, natural flavor, baking soda, soy lecithin. Contains: pistachios, almonds, soy.

Nutrition Information: (Serving size 32 grams) 150 calories, 8g fat, 45mg sodium, 17g carbs, 3g dietary fiber, 11g sugars, 4g protein.

Facts: "In sufficient quantities, inulin improves digestive health by helping to alleviate constipation, increasing the rate at which digested foods move through the intestine and stimulating the growth of healthy bifidobacteria in the intestine. Inulin 'feeds' the healthy bacteria, allowing them to out-compete some possibly detrimental bacteria in the intestine. Other health benefits of inulin include better blood lipid profiles, thus reducing the risk of heart disease, and improved mineral absorption and bone health," says Dr. Mary Ann Johnson, a spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition and professor of nutrition at the University of Georgia. Inulin is a "prebiotic," which means it boosts the growth and activity of the good bacteria in the intestines that may promote regularity. Additionally, the first four ingredients in the product are pistachios, almonds, dried fruit, and whole oats, all of which naturally contain fiber to help with regularity, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Fiction: "The inulin is 11th on the ingredients list after three types of sweeteners (sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup), and I don't know if that would be a therapeutic amount of inulin," says Blatner. In fact, research shows that 5 to 10 grams of inulin may be needed for a measurable health benefit, adds Johnson. The nut mix contains only 0.2 grams of inulin per 32-gram serving (about an ounce).

Concerns: The consumer wishing to avoid added sugars will see that this product has four sources of added sugars: sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and molasses. While nuts and dried fruits are healthy in moderation, these foods would need to be limited to 1-2 ounces daily because of the relatively high calorie content: 150 calories per ounce. Most sedentary adults need only about 1,800 to 2,400 calories daily, so a few handfuls of this snack would contribute a large number of calories, says Johnson. The serving size here is 1 ounce, or one-eighth of the container. With 150 calories per serving, it is important to portion wisely and not just snack out of the container, because the calories can add up fast. In addition, this product alone is not enough to promote healthy digestion: We need a fiber-rich diet, plenty of water, and exercise to get the best effects.

The Bottom Line: "There is no evidence to support these claims," says Gerard E. Mullin, MD, MHS, director of gastroenterology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "Don't rely on this to be the key to healthy digestion; instead eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts, and drink plenty of water," says Blatner.

Next:  Muscle Milk


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