You’d think a food label would be pretty straight-forward: a list of what is in that food and how much of the listed ingredients are in it. Oh no, no. Food labels are also marketing ploys by the food manufacturing companies to fit the mold of their target market to increase profits.
Have you ever noticed the different levels of carbohydrates listed on some food labels? There’s a number of Total Carbohydrates but then there are subheadings
for dietary fiber, sugars, and sometimes insoluble fiber, sugar alcohols, and other carbohydrates.
Total Carbohydrate is listed first in grams of the macronutrient that is present in 1 serving. This number is the sum of the different categories of carbohydrates including starches, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, added sugars, and non-digestible additives.
But, have you ever noticed that sometimes the sum of the carb categories below do not add up to the Total Carbohydrates number?
With our math expertise, we can derive that 19 + 1 does not equal 24.
So, what about those other missing 4 grams?
This is because some starches — types of carbs often used as binders or thickeners — aren’t required to be listed on food labels. You see Dietary Fiber and Sugars, and these are familiar to you, but what about Other Carbohydrates. “Other”? What are the Other Carbohydrates that don’t fit in the surrounding, more familiar categories?
Other Carbs are considered digestible carbs that are not considered sugar, natural or added, or fiber. This includes thickening agents and food stabilizers like gums, pectin, starches. Basically, added substances that affect the texture, mouthfeel, and color.
There are two obvious ways to figure how processed the food is and if it contains a large amount of the above food additives.
- The numbers just don’t add up. Look at the Total Carbohydrate number. If
the numbers listed below it in the carb category don’t add up and there is a
large discrepancy, chances are that missing number is the sum of all the
additives that the food company didn’t have to list out.
- The ingredient list looks like a page from fine-print novel. The company
listed out all the ingredients which includes the additives such as Sodium
pyrophosphate, guar gum, and Pectin and now you can stand there with the
label and do some research on what each single ingredient is. Sounds fun!
Our suggestion? Use the Total Carbohydrates number to keep it simple and sensibly carb-conscious, and eat fresh, less processed foods to avoid all the cunning marketing that food companies are playing with you and your health.