How To Read Food Labels
To avoid eating hidden carbs and to ensure that you are picking food that is low carb, here is a guide how to do it the smart way, by reading and understanding the labels. (Excerpt from the Decarb Diet book - section on Preparation before starting Decarb)
Net Carbs (Digestible Carbs or Glycemic Carbs)
Make sure that you understand what Net Carbs are! This term refers to the digestible portion of carbohydrate in your serving and means the same thing as Digestible or Glycemic carbs. The carbs in a food source are often made up of a digestible portion and fiber which is not digestible. The number given for Total Carbohydrates includes both of these. If you are ever in doubt then just avoid any foodstuff that has a high percentage of carbs. Anything over 15% (15 grams of carbs per 100 grams of the item) should be avoided.
For example a packet of rice:
It lists carbohydrates as 72 grams in a 100 gram portion. They will also tell you that there is less than half a gram of sugar in the portion.
Sounds like something you can eat because it is low in sugar (0.4 grams)? Not! Look again at the label. It lists Glycemic Carbohydrate at 70 grams. This is the business end of the stuff. Eat it and it will raise your blood sugar higher than the price of petrol.
You can also deduce that there is a scant 1.3 grams of fiber in the rice. (72 grams minus 70.7 grams). So despite all the “healthy for you” marketing blurb on the packet, this wild brown rice packs a potent carb punch that will make you fat in no time.
These are often added to low carb or “lite” products to reduce the sugar content and the glycemic index. They mostly end in “…ol” – like xylitol, sorbitol etc.
They are not a free meal and do count as carbs even though they will not sharply raise your blood sugar and thus stimulate insulin release. In general, they can be added in to your Net Carbs calculation at half their listed carb value.
More On Reading Nutrition Facts Labels
On the pages that follow I present a series of product’s nutrition facts labels and explain how to read them. I suggest that you go through the examples and try to learn to spot the important (dangerous) ingredients.
You are most interested in:
· Glycemic carbs (sugars) – the stuff we are trying to avoid
· Portion size
Example: Full Fat Cream
I recommend cream as a milk substitute. It has less carbs that milk, tastes better and has the major benefit of making you feel full a whole lot quicker than milk does. (If you have to have milk make sure it is full-cream and not a low fat variety that has substituted milk sugar for the wholesome fat).
The 100 ml size here is useless until you know the actual container size, in this case 250ml.
Serving Size 15ml
This is an average portion size and you can usually estimate your carb load from values in this column. These are the numbers that we are MOST interested in! We want to know total carbohydrates that are glycemic (i.e. will cause insulin to rise). Believe it or not, this cream is good stuff to eat!
Example: Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is a common ingredient in salads and is viewed as a healthy choice. It may be, but be cautious as to how much of it you pour onto your salad. A quick read of the label below should alarm you enough to know that this particular brand needs to be applied sparingly. (Since balsamic vinegar is made by double fermenting various fruits, the carb count will vary widely between brands; make sure you select a low carb variety.)
This Balsamic Vinegar has a lot of carbs! A tablespoon (15ml) will have almost 6 grams of carbs.
Be careful to use only a small amount, a big splash of this stuff could ruin your whole day.
Example: Breakfast Cereal
Remember that it is the glycemic carbs that affect your blood sugar levels. There is no prize for figuring out that this stuff will make you fat.
This breakfast cereal is hardly the breakfast of champions!
One serving has 23 grams of carbs.
You can consume your entire day’s allocation of carbs in one bowl!
Example: Sugar the King of Carbs
Sugar, as you may have realized by now is the star of the show in terms of packing on weight and damaging your health.
“..,if only a small fraction of what is already known about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, that material
would promptly be banned.”(6)
John Yudkin - Pure White and Deadly
Note the conversion at the bottom of the image below from a sugar packet. 1 teaspoon of sugar equals 4.2 grams of carbs.
Nice glycemic load here!
As a rule of thumb 1 teaspoon of sugar equals almost 5 grams of carbs. Just imagine 7 teaspoons of this stuff in your Coke or 9 of them in your “healthy” fruit juice.
Example: Maize (Corn/Mealie Meal)
Maize is a cereal grain that is part of the staple diet of many people throughout the world.
It is America’s largest crop and corn is grown on over 400,000 American farms (7) A genetic variant is called Sweet Corn. Corn is high in carbs and has very little fiber. Somewhere around 6% of America’s corn crop is converted to High Fructose Corn Syrup and appears in many foodstuffs.
Corn and High Fructose Corn Syrup should be avoided.
Maize (Corn Meal)
Almost pure starch with little fiber, even though it is low in sugar. A bowl of this stuff should give your pancreas, which makes insulin, something to think about! Eat this stuff at your own risk.
Example: Whole-wheat Pasta
Don’t eat pasta – here’s why!
Most pasta is about 70% pure carbs. Highly active and easy to digest, it quickly spikes blood sugar and since it is usually eaten in big bowlfuls it is a danger to be avoided.