Are Pre-packaged Low Carb Foods Really Low Carb?

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In the last couple of years there have been more and more prepackaged foods going onto shelves in supermarkets and health food shops that are advertised as having a “Low Carb” content.

To maintain a low carb diet, one must have the correct information on the carb content of the food he or she is eating. Many new pre-packaged foods today have prominent wording on the front of the packaging about it being “Low Carb” and stating that the product has only so many “net carbs” or “effective carbs” per serving.

Some of the “low carb” products that can be found on shelves are energy bars, noodles and even cookies. In inspecting several of these products, the energy bars had 2 “Effective Carbs” per serving, but when looking at the nutritional panel on the back it said Total Carbohydrates per serving was 24. The noodles advertised 5 “Net Carbs” per serving on the front, but the nutritional panel on the back stated Total Carbohydrates per serving was 43. The cookies advertised at only 2 “Net Carbs”, yet the nutritional panel stated Total Carbohydrates at 15.

How can this contradiction be and which information is correct?

Not counting carbs occurs two ways: The first is that some food manufacturers use sugar alcohols as ingredients to sweeten their products. The common sugar alcohols used are mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, and maltitol amongst others.

Because these sugar alcohols are not technically sugar (even though they do contain carbs) the food manufacturers do not count their carb content or label it as zero.

The second way that carbs are not counted is: Fiber is known to help lower blood sugar levels. Because of this, certain food manufacturers count the number of grams of fiber per serving and subtract that number from the number of carbohydrates. Of course this is not based on any scientific evidence that the fiber cancels the carbs, but these food manufacturers do it anyway.

By using the above two techniques the result is “Net Carbs” or “Effective Carbs” which are advertised on the front of the packaging as the carb contents per serving.

But if you look at the nutritional panel on the back of these products it lists the true Total Carbohydrates per serving, which is required by law to be shown there.

So, do not be fooled by misleading advertising gimmicks, judge the carb content by looking at the Total Carbohydrates in the nutritional panel on the back of the product. If you have been using these incorrectly labeled products, you now know the real carb content of the foods you are eating.

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