Low Carb Guide to Understanding Nutrition Labels.

Have you ever looked on the back of a food package, only to find ingredients you can’t pronounce and hidden sugars you didn’t expect? For success on your path to better health through a low carbohydrate, high fat nutrition plan, it’s important that you learn what to look for on packaged food labels.

First and foremost: the Ketogenic diet is not a low calorie or low fat way of eating. It is a low carbohydrate, high fat and moderate protein nutrition plan, so while there are many things to be aware of when reading labels, total carbohydrate content is the most important.

Let’s walk through reading a Nutrition Facts label, from top to bottom.

Here’s a label for some roasted almonds.

Blog - Food Label
  1. Serving Size and Servings Per Container

The first thing you’ll see is the serving size. This is the portion of that particular food that all the other numbers – grams of fat, protein, carb, etc. – are based on.

The servings per container is the number of servings contained in the entire bag, box, can, bottle, or jar. It’s important to know the serving size and how many servings there are per container so you don’t inadvertently go over your carb limit for the day. For example, for most nuts, a typical serving is one ounce.

For sliced deli meats, a serving might be 3–4 slices. Salad dressings are usually 2 Tbsp.; other condiments are just 1 Tbsp. per serving. Even if the carb count for one serving is low, the carbs can add up quickly if you eat multiple servings.

  1. Calories

A ketogenic diet is not a low calorie plan. There’s no calorie counting. Instead, it’s far more important to keep track of carbohydrates.

Learn more about the low carb Ketogenic diet https://www.virtahealth.com/faq/ketosis-ketogenic-diet-faq

  1. Total Fat

When you’re in nutritional ketosis, fat is fuel and with this high fat nutrition plan you need not fear fat or worry about counting fat grams – not even saturated fat. The amount of fat varies for individuals, but instead of counting grams of fat, it should be consumed to satiety. 

 Also, the type of fat matters; most should come from monounsaturated and saturated fat sources. Some labels break the fat down into different types of fat. Food sources of fat contain a mix of different fats, but here’s a general overview:

Saturated: found predominantly in dairy products (butter, cheese, cream) and other animal sources (beef, pork). Some plant oils, such as coconut and palm, are also rich in saturated fat. Read more on saturated fat here. To learn more please read The Sad Saga of Saturated Fat https://2healthyhabits.wordpress.com/2019/02/01/the-sad-saga-of-saturated-fat/

Monounsaturated: found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, and also in animal sources (beef, pork, poultry)

Polyunsaturated: found in nuts and seeds, fatty fish, and vegetable oils (soybean, corn, safflower, cottonseed, sunflower)

Trans: found in vegetable shortening (Crisco), margarine, and mass-produced processed foods (cookies, crackers, muffins).

By eating a wide variety of foods, you will naturally consume a blend of all three natural fats: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. You should aim to get most of your fats as monounsaturated and saturated.

Despite consuming a higher percentage of your dietary intake from fat during a well-formulated ketogenic diet, the total amount of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) that your body needs each day does not change. So consuming sources high in omega-6 PUFA like corn and soybean oils can result in an imbalance in the body and cause poor gastrointestinal tolerance. 

It’s fine to get PUFA from natural sources, such as fish, and nuts, and small amounts of vegetable oils in the form of dressings, mayonnaise, etc., are okay on occasion, like when dining out. (Alternatively, you may decide to take a small container of olive oil with you when you plan to eat out.)

At home be sure to stock up on dressings and mayos made with olive oil. Artificial trans fats should be limited as much as possible or eliminated altogether. They are not natural fats and are linked to an increase in the risk of heart disease. Learn more at https://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/the-facts-on-trans-fats

Since they are mostly found in foods that do not fit into a ketogenic diet (packaged high-carb snack foods) your intake of trans fats will automatically decrease, but be sure to still pay attention to the amount on the label.

  1. Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found only in animal products. Vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruit contain no cholesterol. You do not need to count cholesterol. Research shows that, for most people, the amount of cholesterol in the foods you eat does not affect the amount of cholesterol in your blood.Egg yolks are welcome at the table again!

  1. Sodium

We get sodium from some of the foods we eat and salt we put on our food. (This Blogger prefers unprocessed sea salt). Sodium is an essential nutrient, and very low-carb diets change the way the body holds onto sodium, so if anything, it’s important that you eat enough sodium, rather than worrying about too much.

Aim for 5g per day: 3g from food and salting your food to taste and an additional 2g from boullion. (Do not limit sodium unless you’re taking medication for high blood pressure or are told to do so by your doctor.)

To learn more about sodium go to


  1. Total Carbohydrate

The carbohydrate count is given as total grams, and then broken down into carbs from fiber and sugar. Focus on total carbohydrate.

Sugar should be zero as often as possible (1–2g at most).

‍Fiber is a carb and should be included in your total for the day (initially 30g or less).

‍Again, pay attention to the serving size. Something might be low in carbs, but if you eat 3 or 4 servings, you can easily go over your daily limit.

  1. Protein

Protein comes from both animal and plant foods and is very important for overall health to preserve critical structures and functions – like muscles, heart, liver, and practically every other part of the body.  Additionally, it helps keep you satisfied and is the building block that powers important chemical reactions in the body. Consuming enough protein every day is critical, but eating too much can interfere with nutritional ketosis. Read about how much protein you need in nutritional ketosis in this Blog Post https://2healthyhabits.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/how-much-protein-do-you-need-in-nutritional-ketosis/

  1. Vitamins and Minerals

Your individual needs are unique; you need not pay attention to the percentages given here. To make sure you consume enough vitamins and minerals, aim for 5 servings of non-starchy vegetables daily.

  1. % Daily Value

These are percentages of nutrients based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. Because this is not a calorie-restricted diet, and you may be eating more or less than 2,000 calories, you need not pay attention to these percentages.

  1. Ingredients

On food labels, ingredients are listed in order by weight – the first few ingredients are the main ones in the product, while the ones toward the end of the list are used in smaller amounts. Here are some key things to look out for:

Trans fats: These are chemically modified fats that come from vegetable oils and should be avoided as much as possible. According to labeling laws in the U.S., if a food contains less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving, the label can say 0g, so be sure to read the list of ingredients. You can spot trans fats by the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” with oils.

Sugar-free or Low-carb: Don’t be fooled by clever packaging and slick marketing. Packages that say, “low carb” or “sugar free” may have hidden sugars and many of these that calculate net carbs (the subtraction of fiber and sugar alcohols) are likely high in total carbs. Pay attention to the ingredients and the total carb content, even when the front of the package shows “low carb.”

Vegetable oils: Try to avoid or limit as much as possible foods that list corn, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, or safflower oil among the first ingredients. Opt for condiments and marinades made from olive oil. (Canola oil may contain small amounts of trans fats, which is harmful to health. Source: Is Canola Oil Healthy? https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-canola-oil-healthy)

Hidden sugars: Sugar goes by many different names, which helps manufacturers disguise the true amount of sugars and sweeteners in their products.

The many names of sugar include:

Blog - Feb. 7 sugar chart

If you see any of these listed in the ingredients on a label, look to see if the total carbohydrate count is suitable. For example, many brands of bacon and cold cuts are cured with brown sugar or honey, but the amount of sugar remaining in the final product is very low.

As long as the total carbs per serving are 1–2g, that’s okay.The same goes for salad dressings – many perfectly good low-carb choices, such as ranch or bleu cheese, may have sugar listed in the ingredients, but the total carbs per serving will be just 1–2g.

Bottom line: Carefully read nutrition labels to limit your total carbohydrates and identify the right ingredients to help you successfully navigate your low carb, high fat lifestyle.

To learn more about how food affects blood sugar, watch Dr. Sarah Hallberg’s video here:

Dr. Hallberg on Carbs, Protein and Fat, and Their Surprising Impact on Blood Sugar (Ch 1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESL3_7sdCwU

This Post has been condensed from: Low Carb Guide to Understanding Nutrition Labels https://www.virtahealth.com/blog/low-carb-guide-to-understanding-nutrition-labels

I invite you to Follow my Blog, Facebook or be added to my email distribution list. My focus is to maximize my physical performance and mental clarity, body composition, and most importantly overall health with a wholesome diet and exercise.

I will bring you compelling articles on Ketogenic and GAPS diets, the Super Slow High-Intensity Exercise Program and supplements.

To follow my Blog, please click the Follow button to receive an email when the next posting is available. Hint: You may have to click the Accept and Close button before follow is available.

I thrive on feedback. Please let me know you are interested in the content by clicking Like, Commenting or sending me a message or email about the Post.

If you wish to contact me by Email, please email lpolstra@bell.net

Live Long Healthy.


Lydia Polstra

The Sad Saga of Saturated Fat

In the US and Canada dietary guidelines do not take into consideration the recent extensive scientific research into role of saturated fats.

  Blog butter image.png

Two generations of researchers have tried to prove that eating saturated fat (such as beef, pork, dairy, eggs, chocolate, and tropical oils) causes heart disease. This hypothesis is false.For proof look to multiple recent meta-analyses of large populations followed carefully for decades, examining what they eat and what they die of.  All show no consistent association between dietary saturated fat intake and risk for heart disease or death from all causes.In fact some of these studies show just the opposite – they suggest that one’s risk for a coronary event increases when dietary saturated fat is reduced and replaced by carbohydrate.

By continuing to provoke fear about the harmful effects of saturated fat, the likely response is that people will seek out foods low in fat and higher in carbohydrate. In fact, according to a government-funded survey, Americans have decreased their consumption of saturated fat and replaced those calories with an even greater amount of carbohydrate. In the same time interval rates of obesity and diabetes have rocketed skywards.

Much of what we’ve been taught about dietary fat is wrong. How could this be – a good place to start would be to read Good Calories, Bad Caloriesby Gary Taubes andThe Big Fat Surpriseby Nina Teicholz, both highly regarded investigative journalists.

In short, 50 years ago diseased coronary arteries were found to contain buildups of cholesterol and saturated fat. Professor Ancel Keyes of the University of Minnesota hypothesizedthat too much of these two nutrients in the diet were the cause – i.e., his hypothesis was built on the flawed concept that you are what you eat. Then came well-done studies showing that blood levels of saturated fats predict future cases of heart disease and diabetes, thus appearing to support Keyes’ hypothesis. But this works only if you believe “you are what you eat”,a concept that doesn’t pass the common sense test.

Obviously, the key question here is, what’s the precise relationship between dietary saturated fat and blood levels of saturated fat?”The scientific evidence clearly shows that dietary saturated fat intake has little to do with saturated levels in our blood, then what does? There is, in fact, sound evidence that dietary carbohydrate is a major determinant of serum saturated fat levels.

 We know this because two respected research groups fed humans carefully measured, weight-maintaining diets either high in carbohydrate or moderate in carbohydrate. In both studies, blood levels of saturated fats went up dramatically on the high carb diets, even though they were very low in fat.

We (Virta) performed a weight loss study during which we fed diets varying from 32 up to 84 grams of saturated fat per day, with “healthy carbohydrate” making up the energy difference when dietary fat was reduced. In blood triglycerides and cholesteryl esters, saturated fat levels trended upwards when the high carbohydrate, very low fat diet was consumed, despite the diet being energy restricted, causing on-going body fat loss.

A high carbohydrate intake has two effects in the body that promote higher levels of saturated fat.

First, carbohydrates stimulate the body to make more insulin, which inhibits the oxidation of saturated fat. Thus, when insulin levels are high, saturated fat tends to be stored rather than burned as fuel.

Second, a high carbohydrate intake promotes the synthesis of saturated fat in the liver.

This is particularly problematic for individuals with insulin resistance, characterized as “carbohydrate intolerance” in our recent book, (Volek J, Phinney SD. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. Beyond Obesity, May 2011.) Available through Amazonhttps://www.amazon.com/Art-Science-Low-Carbohydrate-Living/dp/0983490708

Insulin resistance makes it harder for muscles to take up and use blood sugar, thus causing a higher propensity for the liver to convert dietary carbohydrate into body fat.

This combination of decreased oxidation and increased synthesis of saturated fat therefore results in accumulation of saturated fats in the blood and tissues.The culprit then is clearly not dietary saturated fat, but rather consumption of more carbohydrate than an individual’s body can efficiently manage.This threshold of carbohydrate tolerance varies from person to person, and it can also change over a lifetime.

In addition to the studies mentioned above in which high carbohydrate feeding increased blood levels of saturated fats, we conducted a pair of studies allowing 6-12 weeks for adaptation to moderate carbohydrate or very low carbohydrate diets. Because these were not very low-calorie diets, the low-carb diets were naturally pretty high in fat, containing 2-3 fold greater intakes of saturated fat than the moderate carbohydrate diets used as controls.

The results were pretty striking: compared to low-fat diets, blood levels of saturated fat were markedly decreased in response to the low carbohydrate, high fat diets.Our data indicates that this occurred because the low insulin levels accelerated the oxidation of all fats (and particularly saturated fat); plus the relative few dietary carbohydrates meant there wasn’t much of it to be converted into saturated fats. Thus, from the body’s perspective, a low-carbohydrate diet reduces blood saturated fat levels irrespective of dietary saturated fat intake.

There is convincing evidence that dietary carbohydrate exerts an important influence on how the body processes saturated fat. Thus, saturated fat, whether made in the body or eaten in the diet, is more likely to accumulate when aided and abetted by high levels of dietary carbohydrate, particularly in insulin-resistant individuals (as in type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome*).

* Metabolic syndrome is a clustering of at least three of the five following medical conditions: central obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high serum triglycerides, and low serum high-density lipoprotein. Metabolic syndrome is associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metabolic_syndrome

A one-size-fits-all recommendation to aggressively lower saturated fat intake with the expectation of lowering blood saturated fat levels is intellectually invalid and likely to backfire.

SOURCE: The Sad Saga of Saturated Fat by Jeff Volek, PhD, RD and Stephen Phinney, MD, PhD https://blog.virtahealth.com/the-sad-saga-of-saturated-fat/?fbclid=IwAR28z406CUcbrwZ-kdEWAoko7-gOMgPNJ4fgxy0HSeLkdLfZW1co244xP3cIn Categories: Science & Research. Please see the extensive list of studies under References.

I invite you to Follow my Blog, Facebook or be added to my email distribution list. My focus is to maximize my physical performance and mental clarity, body composition, and most importantly overall health with a wholesome diet and exercise.

 I will bring you compelling articles on Ketogenic and GAPS diets, the Super Slow High-Intensity Exercise Program and supplements.

 To follow my Blog, please click the Follow button to receive an email when the next posting is available. Hint: You may have to click the Accept and Close button before follow is available.

I thrive on feedback. Please let me know you are interested in the content by clicking Like, Commenting or sending me a message or email about the Post.

If you wish to contact me by Email, please email lpolstra@bell.net using this form.

May you Live Long Healthy.

Yours truly,

Lydia Polstra

Email: lpolstra@bell.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/2healthyhabits/

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Disclaimer: The content of this email or Post is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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