Okay, that’s just a joke; there is no low carbohydrate toothpaste, yet.
Many of you may have been noticing more and more “low carb” products in the grocery store. Just what exactly does “low carb” on a label mean anyway? Currently, there is no legal definition of “low carb”, but the FDA is working on one, just as it did when low fat and light became popular in the early 90s.
As of now, any product can be labeled as “low” carbohydrate, no matter how many carbohydrates are in it. Not all “low carbohydrate” foods are lower in calories, and if you are trying to lose weight, that is what it boils down to. Especially for sports nutrition, carbohydrates are the body’s most preferred source of fuel. Carbohydrates are key components to pre-exercise meals and snacks. They provide ready energy to working muscles, are digested quickly and fuel both anaerobic and aerobic activities, such as snowshoeing.
Consuming just high protein bars or meals do not provide quick energy. Excess protein contributes to water loss and may accelerate dehydration. Many high protein foods or bars are also higher in fat, which can slow down digestion, and contribute to cramping.
You also may have noticed a new food vocabulary on packages and labels. “Net,” “Impact,” or “Effective” carbohydrates are now listed on many products. “Net” carbs also known as “effective” or “impact” are also undefined by the FDA. Net carbohydrates indicate the total carbohydrates, minus the fiber and sugar alcohol grams. Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates that are nutritive sweeteners, meaning that like sugar, they provide energy, or calories.
The terms “sugar” and “alcohol” refer to their chemical structure only. They do not contain ethanol, which is found in alcoholic beverages. They contain fewer calories per gram than sugar does and they are absorbed more slowly and incompletely. They do not seem to raise blood sugars as rapidly as sugars. But, they still do contain calories. They are made by adding hydrogen atoms to sugars. Examples of sugar alcohols that you might find on labels include sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. Too much sugar alcohol traveling unabsorbed through the intestinal tract may cause bloating, gas and diarrhea.
The bottom line is that “Net” carbs or “low carbs” do not necessarily mean low in calories, fat or even price. The key is to read the “Nutrition Facts” on the labels of all of these newer products. Some bars indicate two grams of “net carbs” but the nutrition fact label shows 240 calories and 21 grams total carbohydrates. You also may be spending more for more…calories that is. I have done a brief price comparison of some of the low carbohydrate products on the market today:
Light whole wheat bread – 40 cal./slice – $2.89
Low carb bread – 60 cal./slice – $3.29
Regular Pasta – 200 cal./2 oz. – $1.59
Low-Carb Pasta – 200 cal./2 oz. – $2.19
Regular nutrition bar – 110 cal. – 3.5 g. fat – 2 g. sat. fat – $1.29
Low-Carb bar – 170 cal. – 8 g. fat – 5 g. sat. fat – $1.99
The ABC’s of interpreting “Low Carb” Claims:
Always check the label- (calories and fat)
Buyer Beware- $$
Consume a variety of foods