Sunday, January 19, 2020

Retrospective #337: Facts and Fallacies about the Nutrition Facts Panel

Probably more than half my readers are women, but I’ll venture that almost all my readers (both men and women) are deceived – I believe intentionally – by the USDA’s design of the Nutrition Facts Panel on manufactured “food” products. Many women especially have been handicapped by their refusal to use their intelligence to do a little simple math. Claiming a math “block” just doesn’t cut it with me.
The most recent example came to light when my pre-diabetic friend (and new LCHF acolyte) thought she was in compliance with her announced plan to eat only 15-30g of carbohydrates per meal. For her convenience, she wants to continue to drink a meal replacement or “snack” beverage called Glucerna Hunger Smart Shakes, which, according to their website, is “specially designed for people with diabetes.” The Nutrition Facts Panel on the product says it contains 180 calories, with 8 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein and 16 grams of carbohydrate.
I told my friend that this beverage was 35% carbohydrates and that that was a higher percentage of carbs than I thought she wanted to eat (on her new LCHF 60/20/20 eating plan). She replied by sending me the percentages on the label that she apparently believed were the percentages of calories in that serving: FAT 12%; CARBS 5%, and PROTEIN 30%. SHE THOUGHT THAT THE PRODUCT SHE DRANK WAS JUST 5% CARBS. In fact, the actual percentages of calories in that serving are 40% FAT, 27% CARBS (see footnote*) and 33% PROTEIN. How do I explain that?!!!
Well, the percentages on the Nutrition Facts panel are the percentages of the USDAs catastrophic recommendations for “% Daily Values (%DV)”: That recommendation is CARBOHYDRATES: 300g a DAY for women and 375g A DAY for men; PROTEIN: 50g; and FAT: 67g. By percentage of calories, that’s a whopping 60% CARBOHYDRATE for both men and women, 10% PROTEIN AND 30% FAT. The USDA doesn’t care if you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, young, old, active, or sedentary. The USDA’s Nutrition recommendation is ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL.
So, the % Daily Value then – the % that appears on the label on the Nutrition Facts panel – is a percentage of the government’s horribly flawed DAILY recommendation, which is WHOLLY UNHEALTHY FOR ANYONE, much less someone with INSULIN RESISTANCE who has been told they are PRE-DIABETIC. My friend thought the drink was 5% carb; it was actually 27%. And this trap is easy to fall into, as I believe intentional. The USDA wants you to eat carbs.
But if you disagree with the USDA’s bias in favor of carb, you need to know a little about how to find the truth. The Nutrition Facts panel doesn’t tell you that. You have to do the math.
     Protein contains 4 calories per gram, so to get protein calories, multiply the protein grams by 4 and then divide that by the total calories to get the percentage of protein in the product.
     Carbs also contain 4 calories per gram, so to get the carb calories, multiply the carb grams by 4 and then divide that by the total calories to get the percentage of carbohydrate in the product.
     Fat contains 9 calories per gram, so to get the fat calories, multiply the fat grams by 9 and then divide that by the total calories to get the percentage of fat in the product.
The math is easy. I do these in my head to get a rough number, which is good enough. But if you don’t want to do that, you could just buy and eat real food. Real food doesn’t need a Nutrition Facts panel to tell you it’s good to eat.
The recent changes in the Nutrition Facts panel only reshuffled the numbers in the panel and change the font size. They did not, however, make any substantive changes in the content. They did not change the % Daily Value of the macronutrients. A “mostly plant based” diet that is 60% carbohydrate is still the USDA’s/HHS recommended “eating pattern” – with the same macronutrient distribution that, since 1977, has MADE US FAT AND SICK.
* The micronutrients listed on the label added up to 196 kcals (not 180) so I had an online chat with a Glucerna nutritionist who said “some sugar alcohols in the product contain fewer than 4 kcal/gram and some fiber is not absorbed.” So, I calculated that the number of carb grams contributing to the 180 calories was not 16 but 12.)

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