The only problems? Food prep is often time-consuming, and satisfying your occasional sweet-tooth urge on keto can be challenging (and may kick you out of ketosis).
As a result, hundreds of products on the market–such as protein bars, “keto-friendly desserts,” and other packaged foods–offer to make going keto easier and tastier.
However, if you aren’t careful, you’ll end up consuming unhealthy processed ingredients by accident, including simple carbs and straight-up sugar.
Soluble tapioca fiber is one ingredient found in prepackaged keto products, but is it legit?
Keep reading to learn all about tapioca fiber, how it differs from other keto food additives, and how to read product labels to make sure you stay on track with your ketogenic lifestyle.
Soluble tapioca fiber is a unique sweetener and dietary fiber made from non-GMO tapioca starch.
Tapioca comes from the cassava root, a plant that grows in the tropics. It’s a common alternative to corn syrup or cornstarch.
Hold on, is starch keto-friendly?
Usually, the answer would be: absolutely not. But in this case, soluble tapioca fiber is produced by breaking down tapioca starch using enzymes, resulting in a totally different end product.
In truth, soluble tapioca fiber does not occur naturally, but it’s still a type of fiber.
According to a recent FDA announcement, “dietary fibers are defined as naturally occurring fibers that are intrinsic and intact in plants, or as isolated or synthetic fibers that have demonstrated a beneficial physiological effect.”
However, when you’re reading labels, don’t confuse soluble tapioca fiber with tapioca starch, a gluten-free starch alternative.
Whereas soluble tapioca fiber is keto-friendly, tapioca starch is not.
Health Benefits of Soluble Tapioca Fiber
True soluble tapioca fiber is a type of resistant dextrin or resistant starch, meaning it resists digestion in your stomach[*].
For example, a 2018 study found that compared to carbs, resistant starches result in much lower blood sugar levels after a meal, as well as less insulin release[*].
Basically, resistant dextrins are a better choice for your health than sugar or most other sweeteners because they help keep your blood glucose under control, allowing you to stay in ketosis and reduce the risk of insulin resistance.
Additionally, soluble tapioca fiber is an easy way to get extra dietary fiber, which can be challenging for some keto diet followers.
Also, a 2016 study found that resistant starches can act as a prebiotic, meaning they support a healthy gut microbiome[*].
And because they ferment in your large intestine, resistant starches like soluble tapioca fiber also contribute healthy short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate that help reduce inflammation in your body[*].
Soluble Tapioca Fiber Nutrition Facts
The most common use for soluble tapioca fiber is in products like low-carb or keto protein bars.
Therefore, as there is no recommended serving size, an off-the-shelf product could contain anywhere between 1-30 grams or more.
Here are the nutrition facts for 15 grams of most soluble tapioca fibers:
- Calories: 38 kcal
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbs: 15 grams
- Dietary fiber: 15 grams
- Net carbs: 0
Unlike typical carbohydrates that have 4 calories per gram, resistant dextrins typically have 2.5 calories per gram or less because they resist digestion[*].
And soluble tapioca fiber does not release glucose in your small intestine, which is why it nourishes your microbiome in your large intestine[*].
Also, keep in mind that this form of tapioca fiber is soluble, meaning that unlike insoluble fiber, it dissolves easily into water.
Although both forms of fiber have health benefits, soluble fiber slows digestion, lowering the glycemic index of meals. As opposed to insoluble fiber, it does not add bulk or increase the rate at which food passes through your gastrointestinal tract.
Now that you know the facts about soluble tapioca fiber, let’s take a look at one of the “bad guys” of the packaged keto food world: isomaltooligosaccharides, or IMOs for short.
IMOs are a type of syrup made from starches like corn, potato, or tapioca. But unlike resistant dextrins, IMOs are short-chain carbohydrates that are high in maltose, a type of sugar.
These sweet-tasting carbs are common ingredients in products like protein bars, but here’s the catch: they aren’t actually a source of dietary fiber.
Although IMOs and resistant dextrins do come from the same sources, the manufacturing processes are different, and the final product is very different.
As a result, research shows that IMOs do spike your blood sugar the same as regular carbs would[*].
And that’s bad news if you’re on the keto diet, because elevated blood glucose can kick you out of ketosis.
Also, to make matters worse, some unscrupulous companies mislabel their products, effectively “hiding” IMOs.
You might encounter IMOs labeled as “Vegetable Fiber,” “Prebiotic Fiber,” “Soluble Corn Fiber,” “Tapioca Fiber,” or even “Soluble Tapioca Fiber.”
Fortunately, in 2020 and 2021, the FDA has a two-phase plan to require companies to distinguish on labels between isomaltooligosaccharides (not dietary fiber) and resistant dextrins (dietary fiber).
But for now, your best bet is to steer clear of shady companies.
Bottom line: IMOs are not suitable for low-carb or keto diets, but actual soluble tapioca fiber is fine. Stick with trusted, reputable companies, and always read your labels carefully.
Whole foods are generally the best way to obtain macronutrients as well as micronutrients.
That said, keto protein bars or other keto-friendly packaged foods can make staying keto on the go easier and more convenient…as long as you pay close attention to labels.
Here’s what you should keep in mind as you browse at the grocery store:
- Stick with products with low net carbs
- Resistant dextrins like soluble tapioca starch are keto-friendly
- Soluble fiber is easier to come by on keto since it typically comes from whole food sources like fruits and veggies
- Insoluble fiber is also acceptable, but mainly occurs in non-keto foods like grains
If in doubt, you can always test your blood glucose after eating to be sure. If you’ve eaten IMOs or another falsely labeled fake fiber, your blood sugar will spike, and you’ll know to avoid that product in the future.
If you’re new to the keto diet or aren’t confident reading labels yet, whole foods are the safest way to get enough fiber and still ensure you stay in ketosis.
Soluble tapioca fiber and other resistant dextrins are sweet-tasting as well as keto-friendly. However, IMOs and other non-fiber carb sources sometimes hide under misleading names like “Vegetable Fiber” or “Tapioca Fiber.”
Therefore, if you’re branching out into keto-friendly packaged foods for convenience, make sure to stick with honest companies and read nutrition labels carefully. Also, if you’re looking for keto-friendly ways to satisfy the occasional sugar craving, don’t miss Your Guide to the Top 4 Keto Sweeteners and 35 Keto Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth Quickly & Deliciously.