Low Carb Fail? (Part 2)

In my last post, I discussed a possible low-carb fail on a low-carb tortilla wrap I got at the airport. I wrote to the company to find out what was in the food I was eating, since the label offered little information.

I heard back, briefly, from the San Francisco Soup Company. The gentleman who responded said, simply, “We buy specially made low-carb tortillas.” I asked if he could send me an ingredient list (for surely anyone who sells specialty food to a niche market  — a market with possible medical needs, as with diabetics — should have that available). If they could not give me the ingredients, could they possibly tell me the vendor so I could follow up? No reply.

So what exactly is in a low-carb tortilla? In the case of SFSCo, we may never know (though I am not done pestering them, mwah ha ha!). However, there are plenty of low-carb tortillas out there. Let’s take a look at the ingredients in two different brands in terms of quality of ingredients. Here’s a version from Mama Lupe, which have 3 net grams of carbs per tortilla:

Mama Lupe’s 7-inch Low Carb Tortillas

Ingredients: water, whole wheat flour, low carb flour (wheat gluten, corn starch, oat fiber, soy flour, soy oil, isolated soy protein, sesame flour, salt, calcium sulfate, sodium acid pyrophosphate. Contains 2% or less of: dextrose, sodium bicarbonate, fumaric acid, calcium propionate (preservative), potassium sorbate, sucralose, and sodium metabisulfate). Vegetable shortening (palm oil, vegetable mono & diglycerides, polysorbate 60). Baking powder (sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, sodium aluminum sulfate, calcium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate). Salt, sodium propionate (to preserve freshness), fumaric acid, and dough conditioner (sodium metabisulfate, microcrystalline cellulose and dicalcium phosphate).

Warning: CONTAINS WHEAT & SOY

…Whew! What a mouthful (pun intended). I think this ingredient list points up a common problem with food manufacturers hitting niche markets: low quality ingredients of questionable safety. Yes, it’s low-carb, but would you want to put that stack of chemicals and processed-beyond-recognition foods in your mouth? I wouldn’t! Isolated soy protein? No thanks! Sucralose (artificial sweetener)? Nope. Soy oil? Gak! Polysorbate 60? Here’s some information on that from eHow.com:

According to the “Journal of National Cancer Institute,” the “Journal of Nutrition” and the FAO Nutrition Meetings Report Series, polysorbate 60 can cause detrimental reproductive effects, organ toxicity and cancer in high doses. However, the FDA designated the chemical as safe for limited use in food.

Without going into a rant about things the FDA never should have approved, here are the ingredients for a competing brand, La Tortilla Factory, also with 3 grams net carbs. They do somewhat better:

La Tortilla Factory Original Low-Carb Tortilla

Ingredients: water, oat fiber, whole wheat flour, soy flour, vital wheat gluten, expeller pressed canola oil, contains less than 2% of each of the following: baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate), sea salt, guar gum, citric acid, yeast, xanthan gum, l-cysteine, to maintain freshness (sorbic acid, calcium propionate).

Not awesome, but much improved. While soy flour really isn’t good for you (truly, you should not be eating soy regularly unless fermented), I’d much rather eat La Tortilla than Mama Lupe’s.  While both of these brands are low-carb, Mama Lupe’s miserably fails the “is this healthy food?” test. I have to call it a low-carb fail. And I would love to know whether SFSCo. passes or fails, but they’re being coy.

It’s hard to eat healthy meals when you’re on the road. Unless you choose to go hungry, eating unknown food with mystery ingredients is often unavoidable. Once in a while is okay, like my on-the-run, low-carb wrap from the SFSCo. But to buy products loaded with unpronounceable gunk for every day use in the name of low-carb (or low-fat, or any diet plan) is another matter; a diet made up of highly processed fake foods is no more nutritious or healthy than the Standard American Diet…a way of eating which has given us soaring rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Niche market, highly processed foods are Frankenfoods that don’t belong in our cabinets or in our bodies.

It’s also hard for us to know if we’re eating is truly good for us, especially when marketers are clever enough to push so-called ‘healthy’ convenience items that fit our need for speed while on a specific diet plan: Atkins Advantage Bars, for example. A quick and easy meal replacement that people trust due to its name, but it’s nothing more than a mass of soy glued together with chemicals and sprayed with fake vitamins. Yech! Another low-carb fail.

If something comes packaged, do as Michael Pollan suggests and read that ingredient list before dropping that item in your grocery cart!

And if anyone knows what actually goes into San Francisco Soup Co.’s tortillas, I’d love to hear about it. Post a comment if you want to share, and thanks for reading.

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2 Responses to Low Carb Fail? (Part 2)

  1. Philippa says:

    I agree with you (and Pollan of course) about reading the ingredient list before buying the items. I find the length of the ingredient list in these tortillas a little scary – not terribly paleo, are they?

    I sometimes use a nori sheet to make a wrap, e.g. one combination I like to make is a thin cheese omellette wrapped in nori. Not quite the same thing as a tortilla, but it works for me.

    • Hi Philippa, good to see you. I very much enjoy your blog, so I’m thrilled to see you here!

      I just recently started exploring nori as a wrap. Making it with eggs, as you suggested, sounds like a wonderful way to have eggs! We eat so many eggs now, it’s becoming a challenge to keep the fiancee interested in them; I’m always on the lookout for new ways to surprise him (and keep him eating those pastured eggs).

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