LOS ANGELES TIMES
LAS VEGAS --To reduce the carbohydrates in processed food, the primary source of the carbs -- flour and sugar -- is reduced or eliminated. The challenge is to find a substitute for the taste and texture.
That's a tall order for a product such as bread, which is mostly flour, and it's the reason why some low-carb products have an unappealing taste or a strange texture. The quality of the products is improving, however. Here are some of the ways food companies are reducing carbs in products.
SUBSTITUTE PROTEIN FOR FLOUR
Those proteins can be derived from sources including soy beans, wheat (gluten), milk or eggs. These ingredients boost the protein counts of processed foods and substitute for some of the bulk in foods. Soy protein, for example, is made into various forms, including one called "soy protein isolate." Unfortunately for the calorie count, however, protein has the same 4 calories per gram that carbs do.
INCREASE FIBER CONTENT
"Resistant starches" can be added to increase fiber, hence reducing the "net carbs" in a packaged food. These starches are not digestible by intestinal enzymes and occur naturally in some plants. Although they are carbs, the starches are said not to affect blood sugar because they pass through the system without being digested. These functional fibers -- derived from corn, wheat, potatoes, banana or tapioca -- have names such as inulin, a chicory root derivative, and ActiStar, derived from tapioca starch. Gums and stabilizers can be added to boost fiber content.
SUBSTITUTE THE SUGARS
Sugar alcohols, called polyols, can be substituted for sugar. These are sweeteners, with names such as isomalt, lactitol, mannitol, xylitol and sorbitol. They are still carbs, but are usually subtracted in "net carb" counts because manufacturers claim they do not hike blood sugar. (Some types of polyols, however, are said to hike blood sugar more than others, so claims about their effect on blood sugar are controversial.) They pass through the large intestine and are digested by fermentation, and some can cause digestive problems or diarrhea. They contain calories ranging from 0.2 per gram for erythritol to 3 per gram for hydrogenated starch hydrosolates, coming close to the 4 calories per gram in sugar.