November 9, 2009

Fiber Bomb! Mission 10" Carb Balance Whole Wheat Tortillas

Mission's burrito-sized carb balance whole wheat tortillas pack an incredible fiber punch! Weighing in with 21 grams of dietary fiber (84% of your daily value), these monsters are unusual given their relatively normal 10-inch serving size with 200 calories. But, the high fiber content is not a function of any ingredient that ever appeared in a traditional Mexican flour tortilla recipe (flour, fat, salt, water); rather, wheat gluten, enriched bleached wheat flour and wheat protein isolate add bulk to the tortilla and round out the list of 25+ ingredients (which also includes  a small amount of partially hydrogenated soybean oil, i.e. trans fat that raises LDL cholesterol levels).

The "carb balance" moniker comes from the outdated and debunked low-carb diet craze of counting "net carbs". Essentially, net carbs are grams of carbohydrate in a food minus the grams of dietary fiber in that same food. For example, one of the aforementioned tortillas has 31 grams of carbohydrate per serving; you would subtract 21 grams of dietary fiber from carbohydrate content to arrive at 10 grams of net carb.

The notion behind net carbs is that the fiber content of a food slows the digestive process by essentially delaying the conversion of carbohydrate to glucose in your blood sugar. While this is true, the creation of a "net carb" equation was created primarily to sell low net carb food products  through outlets like Atkins Nutritionals.

Low carb diets may help with short term weight loss, but they are no more effective at long term weight loss than is any other calorie restrictive diet. Most nutrition professionals agree that if you're concerned about losing and maintaining weight loss long term, net carb counting is the equivalent of dietary hair-splitting. Instead of minimizing net carbs, Registered Dietitians, government health agencies and the medical literature all recommend increasing exercise, limiting calories and choosing a variety of foods that are natural sources of dietary fiber as the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off.

If you're not a regular consumer of high-fiber foods, be warned that eating a tortilla with over 20 grams of fiber may lead to unpleasant GI side effects, including gas and bloating. To minimize an upset gut, work on slowly increasing your fiber by a few grams each day. Increasing the amount of water you drink along with the high fiber foods can also help reduce any unfortunate - and embarrassing - GI incidents.