- Ben Fuchs
If you’re a label reader, you’ve probably run across the terms inulin and oligofructose (also known as fructooligosaccharides or FOS) on various processed food ingredient decks including those on soups, yogurt, cereals, breads, snack and energy bars, cookies and cakes. Although naturally found in various plants and veggies, like onions and grains and bananas, asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke, and chicory root, inulin and oligofructose are also industrially prized for their ability to provide a non-caloric sweetening benefit and are most often found in the standard American diet in the form of processed food additives. In addition to their inclusion in processed foods, these ingredients can be found as stand-alone products marketed as diabetic friendly sweeteners, with names like Fruta-Fit, Frutalose or simply Inulin/FOS.
Technically inulins and FOS are “fructans”, which are long molecular chains of the fruit sugar known as fructose. By linking many fructose molecules together, the characteristic sweetness of the fruit sugar is dampened and its spiking effects on blood sugar are mitigated. From a chemical structure standpoint, the only difference between inulin and FOS involves the sizes (lengths) of FOS molecules, basically being little inulin chunks or short chains of fructose that are formed by the breakdown of the parent inulin element.