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You Ask, I Answer: “Other Carbohydrate” on Food Label

FiberAfter reading your post on Fiber One cereal, I noticed the food label lists “other carbohydrate”.

What does that mean?

– Dustin Apasda
St. Petersburg, FL

According to regulations set by the Food & Drug Administration, all food labels must disclose the amount of total carbohydrates in a food or beverage product (except bottled water), and specify amounts of fiber and sugar (naturally-occurring and added).

Consider the values on the Fiber One Honey Clusters cereal food label:

  • Carbohydrates: 42 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 13 grams
  • Sugar: 6 grams

In this case, you are looking at a product that contains 23 grams of starch (42 grams of total carbohydrates minus 13 grams of fiber and 6 grams of sugar).

And, ta-da, 23 grams happens to be the value for “other carbohydrate”!  Mystery solved.

Back in the low-carb craze of 2003, many food companies advertised “net carbs”, a value obtained by subtracting fiber grams from total carbohydrates to determine the amonut of carbohydrate would have an effect on blood sugar levels.

What most people don’t know is that the Food & Drug Administration never approved that terminology, nor considered it a nutritionally-relevant concept.  Not surprisingly, once the low-carb 2.0 craze went bust, the “net carbs” stickers soon disappeared off supermarket shelves.

In any case, “other carbohydrates” is nothing more than food companies doing some basic math for you and letting you know how much of their product is starch.

In a few cases, too, “other carbohydrates” factors in sugar alcohols like xylitol and maltitol.

For consumers, “other carbohydrates” doesn’t have much meaning.  It’s certainly not worth fretting about.  The most important carbohydrate-related values you should be looking at are fiber and sugar.

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