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?
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.
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 on impact of carbohydrate 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
So i wanted to dig in and find out how healthy are these low carb tortillas and rotis? I selected three "Low Carb Tortillas/Rotis breads" to analyze and compare -
Two leading Low Carb Tortilla brand - Mission and La Tortilla Factory and
One artisan Low Carb, 100% Natural Roti (Indian Wheat Flat Bread) - Get Fit Roti
Here is the ingredients list:
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.
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 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.
Since then I tasted several other Low Carb wraps. The Get Fit Roti wraps is the clear winner both for its taste, purity and health quotient. It is conveniently delivered directly to consumer across the country. It is bit more expensive, but health wealth!!
Obviously my family has switched to Heart N Spice FIT Rotis!