‘Healthier, Tastier, Better for you? Really!!’
I was walking through the breakfast aisle of my local supermarket when I encountered a favored childhood cereal, Cocoa Puffs. The frosted, sugary bites brought back memories of happy Sunday mornings and as I reached for that brown box, boasting a new slogan of “Now with 50% more Cocoa!” a sudden thought occurred to check the label and see if this new and improved version of my favorite cereal really was healthier. To my dismay, I found in the ingredients list a plethora of sugar, additives and chemicals that I couldn’t pronounce, which is never a good sign, and decided to put the Cocoa Puffs back on the shelf.
A common trend among big name food companies has been to turn their typically unhealthy foods into seemingly healthier alternatives to attract the increasingly better informed public. But are the ‘healthier, tastier, better for you!’ versions of well-known foods actually better for you?
I am half Greek and half Indian. In our family we eat a lot of tortilla, wraps and roti breads. Flat breads are staple carbs in most households, especially among Indian, Mexican, Mediterranean and Middle eastern households and contribute to 75- 300 gms of carbohydrates per day.
Low Carb Foods Rock
Consumers are looking for low-carb foods because low carb meals are proven to help you lose fat and significantly decrease chronic heart and diabetes health risk.
In a systematic review of 22 studies published in Journal of American College of Nutrition concluded that foods high in carbs can cause health risks such as fatty liver disease, increased insulin production (which can worsen diabetes), development of metabolic syndrome, and obesity, but the truth is that asking an Indian to never eat roti again or a Mexican never eat tortilla is like telling us never to touch a hamburger or ice cream. It’s just not going to happen, unless we find tasty, healthy low carb tortillas/rotis
Lets Dig In!
So i wanted to dig in and find out how healthy are some of the low carb tortillas and rotis?
I selected two Low Carb Tortillas and I could only find one Low Carb Roti bread to analyze and compared the three.
One artisan Low Carb, 100% Natural Roti (Indian Flat Bread) – Get Fit Roti
I used the following Five criteria:
- Total Amount of Carbohydrates ( Not just Net Carb)
- How Pure is the Food? i.e How much added chemicals, fiber or preservatives are in the food?
- Amount of inflammation causing Industrial Oils – like Palm , Sunflower
- Total Amount of Good Fats.
Here is the ingredients list:
1) Mission Soft Taco Carb Balance Packet – 19g carbohydrates
Ingredients: Modified Food Starch, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vital Wheat Gluten, Powdered Cellulose, Vegetable Shortening (Interesterified Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and/or Palm Oil), Wheat Protein Isolate (Wheat Gluten, Lactic Acid, Sulfite), and contains 2% or less of: Salt, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Corn Starch, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Calcium Sulfate), Cellulose Gum, Preservatives (Calcium Propionate, Sorbic Acid), Distilled Monoglycerides, Enzymes, Wheat Starch, Calcium Carbonate, Antioxidants (Tocopherols, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid), Natural Flavor, Sunflower Oil, Sucralose, Canola Oil, Triglycerides, Dough Conditioners (Fumaric Acid, Sodium Metabisulfite and/or Mono- and Diglycerides) Water
2) La Tortilla Factory Non GMO Low Carb (mini size) – 10g carbs
Ingredients: WATER, CELLULOSE FIBER, ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR (UNBLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR), WHEAT GLUTEN, PALM FRUIT OIL, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF EACH OF: CELLULOSE GUM, CITRIC ACID, GUAR GUM, HONEY, NON-ALUMINUM BAKING POWDER (SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, SODIUM BICARBONATE, CORN STARCH, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE), SEA SALT, SUNFLOWER LECITHIN, WHEAT PROTEIN ISOLATE (WHEAT GLUTEN, LACTIC ACID), YEAST, TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS (CALCIUM PROPIONATE, SORBIC ACID)
3) GET FIT ROTIS – Heart N’ Spice – 8g carbs
Ingredients: WATER, ORGANIC STONE GROUND WHEAT, FLAX SEED, TREE NUTS, ORGANIC EXTRA VIRGIN NAPA OLIVE OIL. ( NO PEANUTS)
The Serious Hidden Health Risk
Let us deep dive into few of the synthetic additives in the two seemingly “healthy, low-carb” tortillas
Big name companies like Mission Tortillas and La Tortilla Factory have picked up on “low carb” trend and introduced what they call ‘low carb’ tortillas which feature and claim “less carbs” than their traditional tortillas. It is common to see a typically unhealthy food brand suddenly claim to have a healthier product on the market and consumers eat it up, literally.
The Unhealthy Trickery
To reduce carb count and increase fiber, some of the flour in tortillas is replaced by cellulose, sometimes listed as powdered cellulose or cellulose fiber, which is industrially processed from soy, bran and wood pulp!
The source of fiber in most of low carb tortillas and breads is non-nutritional wood pulp. While eating naturally occurring cellulose or fiber (like in an Apple or Spinach or Oats) is good for your health and gut health, powdered cellulose on the other hand found in many low-carb tortillas is a modified cellulose additive chemically treated with acids or bases to become a creaming agent or pill binder. These added cellulose powder confuse your body’s immune system causing uncontrolled chronic inflammation which causes fat gain, poor arterial health leading to heart disease, Parkinson’s, diabetes and pre mature aging. For people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) it is recommended to limit the intake of artificial cellulose supplements, which may cause loose stools, mild bloating, and excessive gas. Also, for sensitive individuals, modified cellulose could set off allergic reactions.
In 1984 the Food and Drug Administration proposed a regulation that would require companies to use dietary (fiber that occurs naturally in the ingredients) instead of crude fiber as the measurement in food. The regulation has not become final and some bread manufacturers do not agree with it.
”Technically, crude fiber labeling is in compliance with current F.D.A. regulations,” said Fred Shank, deputy director of the F.D.A.’s office of nutrition and food sciences. ‘‘I think we have a problem when the companies are using crude fiber measurements to say that their bread has (lower net carb) and 400 percent more fiber‘
The food industry has successfully kept FDA at bay to continue producing Low Carb tortillas and wraps packed with unhealthy processed wood pulp ingredients. Not surprising many low carb tortillas and breads taste like cardboard!
Other ingredients behind these “low carb healthy” labels reveal health damaging mono- and diglycerides as emulsifiers and processed heart damaging hydrogenated vegetable oils like palm or corn to preserve the taste and prolong shelf life.
In addition to cellulose, mono- and diglycerides are common emulsifiers in packaged foods that take the place of trans fats, even in products with ‘0g Trans Fats’ on the labels because the FDA does not consider artificial additives like mono and diglycerides to be harmful. Made up of fatty acids, mono- and diglycerides may contain trans fats if sourced from animals or plants, or if heated. Mary Enig, Ph. D., a nutrition researcher states
“as the public becomes more aware of the dangers of trans fats, the industry may be tempted to add more MGs [monoglycerides] and DGs [diglycerides] containing trans fats in order to obtain the characteristics qualities they want in a food without having to list trans fats on the label”
This spells bad news for consumers who believed they were avoiding trans fats, which are known to raise LDL bad cholesterol levels and lower HDL good cholesterol levels, and increase the risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
However, food and tortilla companies love synthetic cellulose additives because they can be cheaply bought.
DNA Take Away
- Ensure your packaged food is 100% Natural. Avoid foods that contain ingredients that you would not keep in your kitchen. Do you cook using cellulose fiber or Calcium Propionate? NO! So why allow others to put it in your food!!
- Ensure your packaged low carb food is truly, meaning naturally low carb, not low carb because of added cellulose fiber.
- The best solution is to ELIMINATE additives in your diet and avoid products with cellulose , soya, oat, fiber additives powder or mono- and diglycerides listed in the ingredients, and to buy products from trustworthy, health-oriented sources.
Since then I tasted several other Low Carb flat breads. The Get Fit Roti is the clear winner both for its taste, purity and health quotient. It is conveniently delivered directly to consumers across the country. It is bit more expensive, but health wealth!!
Ingredients: ORGANIC STONE GROUND WHEAT, FLAX SEED, TREE NUTS ( no peanuts), ORGANIC NAPA EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, WATER.
Obviously my family has switched to Heart N Spice FIT Rotis!