Do you rely on nutritional labels on food products to calculate your insulin dose?
I can’t live without them, especially when I’m baking. I always find myself adding up the total carbs of each ingredient to work out the portions in my cakes and sweet treats.
But recently I was surprised to find the label I was looking at, wasn’t as reliable as I thought.
I was in the middle of baking on of my diabetic-friendly treats using almond meal, when I noticed something strange.
Almond meal has long been a go-to low-carb alternative to regular wheat flour, for people with diabetes. I use it for most of my sweet recipes.
Normally I use the Costco Freshlife almond meal which is 4.4g of carbohydrate per 100g as it’s about $12 for a big 1kg bag – so cheap!
I was weighing out my Freshlife almond meal, when I realised I didn’t have enough to finish the recipe. I found myself scrounging in the cupboard desperately trying to find another packet.
Thankfully I managed to locate a packet of Lucky almond meal, which I hurriedly opened to finish off my cake. Something possessed me though, to check the back of the packet. I noticed something very strange.
The Lucky brand had 19.9g of carbs per 100g, nearly five times more than my regular brand. I suddenly panicked. Which label should I rely on to calculate the portions in my cake? Which version should I rely on to calculate my insulin dose?
For the first time it hit me just how reliant people with diabetes like me are, on nutritional labels, to get our insulin dose right. Too much and I could have a hypo, too little and my BGL would sky-rocket.
This worried me and I couldn’t let this go without finding an answer to this puzzle.
I was really surprised and baffled, because both brands only featured almonds under the ingredients. I couldn’t understand why the vast difference in carbohydrate total.
Was it because of the production techniques? This made me wonder whether the food production actually played a role in altering the carbohydrate total.
So, I went on a quest to find out more.
Nuts for Life have a useful breakdown of all the nutritional information for every kind of nut you can imagine. Almonds are listed as having 4.8g of carbs per 100g, visit nutrient composition of tree nuts for more information.
But I still didn’t have an answer. So, I contacted Lucky, along with the GI Foundation. The wonderful team at the GI Foundation delved into this mystery for me and worked with Nuts for Life to find an answer.
Interestingly while I was exploring this, and article came out in GI News by dietitian Dr Alan Barclay, on the confusion that surrounds nutritional labels.
It seems nutritional labels aren’t as reliable as I first thought and the way in which carbohydrates are labelled, differs around the world.
Dietary fibre for example is counted in some countries but not in others. In Australia, maltodextrins and starches are also often left out of the calculation, but are a form of sugar and do impact blood glucose, according to Dr Barclay.
This inconsistency proves a challenge for people with diabetes who rely on the information in nutritional labels to work out how much insulin they need.
Back to the almond meal puzzle….
The good news, is that after the query was raised, the team from the GI Foundation and Nuts for Life, looked into both brands and it turns out there was an issue with the Lucky label.
Thankfully Lucky have since amended the nutritional label on their almond meal packets which you can now find on shelves at your local supermarket. They now show total carbohydrate at 9.7g per 100g.
This is a significant outcome for people with diabetes, who rely on this information day in and day out. Thanks Lucky and thanks GI Foundation and Nuts for Life!
As for other foods out there, well the bottom line is you may want to do some comparisons of nutritional labels. Obviously the content of food will differ depending on the ingredients, but if you’re comparing similar food products, you can expect that the labels should be similar.