Ingredients & The Food Label

Ingredients on the Food Label

True or False?

The first couple ingredients listed in descending order on the food label “ingredient list,” means that the product contains the MOST of the first few ingredients. For instance, if sugar is listed first, then sugar is the main ingredient in the product.

While this used to be true, it is not so now. The food industry out-smarted a lot of us. They know people are looking out for sugar on the top of the list so they put teeny tiny portions of several types of sugars in the product so SUGAR does not show up in the first couple ingredients, but listed more toward the end of the ingredient list because of the small amounts of each sugar.

Some common words for sugar include: (this list is not exhaustive)

Organic brown rice syrup                              Evaporated fruit juice
Corn syrup solids                                             Crystallized cane sugar
High Fructose corn syrup                              Turbinado sugar
Raw sugar                                                          Maple syrup
Brown sugar                                                      Evaporated cane juice
Invert sugar                                                       Fruit juice concentrate
Dextrin                                                               Malt syrup
Date sugar                                                         Cane sugar

True or False?

To calculate “added sugar” from a food label, look for the grams of sugar listed under Sugar on the label.

Answer: True and False! It depends on the product and the ingredient list.

Example: Dates – serving size 5-6
Total Carbohydrate: 30 grams
Fiber: 5 grams
Sugars: 25 grams

Would you calculate “added sugar” as 25 g because it is listed under Sugar? NO!
Read the ingredient list and you’ll find the only ingredient in the bag is dates. Dates are a natural sugar. No sugar has been added to them. Remember, “added sugars” are sugars that have been added to a product to make it sweet that are not made up of natural sugars. Fruit is a natural sugar/carbohydrate.

Example: Plain yogurt – serving size 6 oz.
Total carbohydrate: 8 grams
Sugars: 7 grams

The ingredient label reads: Whole milk and then lists several different enzymes. No sugar is listed because the sugar that is in the milk is natural sugar made up of lactose and galactose. We do not count these as added sugars.

Example: Peach flavored low-fat yogurt yogurt – serving size 6 oz.
Total carbohydrate: 23 grams
Sugars: 19 grams

The ingredient label reads: Milk, real peaches, organic brown rice syrup, pectin and enzymes. How much is “added sugar?” This is an educated guess. You must remember in the plain yogurt example 7 grams listed under sugar is from milk, a natural sugar. So immediately you subtract 7 from 19 that equals 12 g. Now you see real peaches are in the product along with organic brown sugar. You know peaches are a natural sugar, but organic brown rice syrup is not. I typically subtract ½ of the 12 to equal 6 g from natural sugar (peaches) and 6 g from “added sugar”.

Questions? I know it can be confusing, but do your best in estimation. You get a pretty good idea how much added sugar you are eating or drinking by reading the ingredients and comparing the total carbohydrate with sugar and fiber.

Remember, sugar can be addictive and children’s intake of added sugar should be closely monitored. Stay tuned for sugar alcohols and non-nutritive sweeteners and children.

Think Twice

Processed verses Whole Foods

While sometimes an Emergency Meal (July 15th Blog) is needed, we must be careful in regards to processed foods as routine eating. There are times we may need to use processed foods for convenience sake, but whole foods are always best. Label reading becomes of upmost importance, even though labels can be “off” by several percentage points.

Whole foods are much better and should be your first option.

Whole food examples:
Fresh fruits – raw or cooked
Fresh vegetables – raw or cooked
Dried beans, cooked
Plain yogurt, milk, eggs, hard cheeses, cottage cheese without additives
Nuts and seeds
Fresh beef, poultry, fish

5 important “looks” when label reading

# 1 Look at the list of ingredients. If there is more than 3 or 4, think twice.

# 2 Look for the serving size

# 3 Look for the sodium (if 200 mg or more for a serving, think twice)

# 4 Look for the calories from fat (if 25% or more comes from fat, think twice)

# 5 Look for “added sugar” (no more than 25-37 g of added sugar per day)

We will discuss added sugar another day. It is too much to tackle today. Stay tuned.

Low Fat, Yet Creamy?

Today is Friday, January 17

 The Topic or Question of the Day?

Do you know what makes food products taste rich and creamy?

Answer:  Carrageenan, Xanthan gum, Guar gum, carob bean gum, locust bean gum, inulin, and pectin.  What is with all the gums and oddly named ingredients?  My Dad used the phrase, “You gummed it up,” meaning, I made a mess or ruined something.  I believe the food industry is “gumming up our foods” and I also see a connection with many gastrointestinal problems from these additives.  Foods such as salad dressing, yogurt, ice cream, milk, almond/coconut milk, coffee creamers, and cream soups often contain ingredients that make a food taste and feel rich and creamy. These ingredients are used in many low fat or fat free products to make them low calorie by taking fat out, or by taking a fluid food and thickening it to have that good mouth feel.  I urge you to read food labels and the ingredient lists. 

I am not an alarmist, but over the years, I see these ingredients permeating our food supply.  I spent over an hour at the grocery store looking for items that do not contain these ingredients.  I only found one type of cottage cheese (Daisy), 3 types of yogurt (plain Fage, plain Chobani, and plain Voskos), and 1 coffee creamer (Coffeemate Naturals, sweet cream flavor) at my grocery store that did not contain one or more of these phonies.  You can find foods that are pure, but will take some time and effort.

Inulin is a fiber infiltrating many of our food products and is found naturally in the Chickory root and Jerusalem artichoke.  It doesn’t digest in our upper GI tract and reaches the colon where it is fermented by intestinal bacteria.  People react differently to various amounts of inulin with side effects from mild to severe.  A balanced article, presenting both sides is:  Inulin:  Friend or Foe by Patty Donovan. 

The ingredient that scares me the most is carrageenan.  It is manufactured from seaweed and algae.  I have read numerous articles both defending and condemning carrageenan and I have also seen many people negatively affected by consuming it.  I encourage you to read articles for yourself and decide.  Like I said, I am not an alarmist, but if I can find a product I like without these fillers, I would rather eat the real food whenever possible.  

Tip or Quote of the Day:

Try not to buy fruited yogurt, as most contain the ingredients mentioned above.  Use plain yogurt with out these fillers and add honey, pure maple syrup, or honeyed fruit if you like your yogurt sweet.

Take action today:

* Research some articles and think for yourself.   

* Try making honeyed fruit for your plain yogurt.

 Honeyed Fruit

Place any fresh or frozen fruit in a saucepan such as peaches, berries and pears and barely cover with cool water.  Sweeten to taste with honey.  Bring to a boil for a few minutes until reduced a bit.   Chill in glass container.  Lasts at least 2 weeks in the refrigerator.



Read Labels Carefully