Carbs a summary on nutrition label

nutrition label Q:What should I know about regarding carbohydrates listed on the Nutrition Facts label?

A:We have divided the Nutrition Facts label into pieces of a puzzle over the past few weeks.

We started our discussion with portion sizes. Then we uncovered the role calories and percent daily value play in meal planning. Learning how to read labels for fat, cholesterol and sodium followed.

Now the relevance of using the Nutrition Facts label for carbohydrates is revealed.

Puzzle Piece 7 - Total Carbohydrate: Carbohydrates play an important role in overall health. They are the preferred energy source for our cells, are found in an abundance of foods and can directly affect an individual's blood sugar control.

Due to their importance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend having 45 percent to 65 percent of your daily calories come from carbohydrates.

The significance of carbohydrates is clearly seen on the Nutrition Facts label, as they are divided into three topics: total carbohydrate, dietary fiber and sugar.

Total carbohydrate is the sum of all types of carbohydrates found in a food item. This includes starches, fibers and sugars.

Total carbohydrate is listed in grams (g) and percent Daily Value. Which listing is most helpful depends on your needs.

Carbohydrate counting, often done by people with diabetes, requires keeping track of the grams of carbohydrates consumed at each meal and snack. This population benefits much more from using the gram amount of carbohydrates listed on the Nutrition Facts label than the percent daily value.

For those not dividing up their daily carbohydrate goals throughout the day, the percent Daily Value for total carbohydrate can be a good guide. A 100 percent daily value for total carbohydrates on the Nutrition Facts label is 300 grams (or about 60 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates for a 2,000 calorie meal plan).

As with any listing of percent daily value, if following a 2,000 calorie meal plan, one can aim toward reaching 100 percent of one day's goal for carbohydrates by keeping track of the percent daily value of carbohydrates they eat throughout the course of a day.

The percent Daily Value for total carbohydrate does have its limitations. Since total carbohydrate is the amount of starches, fibers and sugars of an item added together, it's important to remember that the percent daily value does not distinguish between a sugar and a fiber.

Although a food item may provide a high amount of carbohydrates (with a percent Daily Value of 20 percent or more), that does not mean it is nutrient dense. A food could very well provide 50 percent of the daily value of carbohydrates. If this item's source of carbohydrate is added sugar, then it probably is not the healthiest, or most nutrient dense, option and should be thought of as a "treat."

Dietary fiber and sugar help distinguish whether an item is nutrient-dense or simply full of empty calories.

© 2007