We digest only 5 grams of the 42 grams of carbohydrates per serving. So I wondered why a serving still amounts to a pretty standard level of 190 calories. That’s what it says in the nutrition facts label on each box of Dreamfields Pasta.
Note, please, that we are not talking here about 190 calories in the box, but rather that amount in a serving, which is just one-eighth of the box. That’s a pretty small serving, about half of what I usually eat for my lunch or dinner.
It’s straightforward to calculate any product’s total calorie count if you know how many grams of fat, carbohydrate, fiber, and protein it has. In round numbers, the 1 gram of fat in Dreamfields Pasta contributes 9 calories (1 times 9). The 7 grams of protein contributes 28 calories (7 times 4). The 37 grams of carbohydrates would seem to contribute 148 calories (37 times 4).
In the United States (but not in Europe) we count fiber as a carbohydrate, but each gram of soluble fiber contributes only about 2 calories. So the 4 grams of soluble fiber in Dreamfields Pasta contribute 8 calories (4 times 2). Note here that older packages of Dreamfields Pasta show only 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving, either because of a printing error or a change in formulation.
Subtract 3 calories to correct for rounding and you get the 190 calories per serving as stated on the box.
But if those 37 grams of carbohydrate are what the company calls “protected,” i.e. not digestible, shouldn’t they count for less than 4 calories per gram?
Theoretically, yes, replied Dreamfields Pasta President Mike Crowley when I asked him this question.
Theoretically, the protected carbohydrates in Dreamfields Pasta actually contribute about 2 calories each versus 4, since they behave like a soluble fiber. This reduces the calories that are actually absorbed in a serving to about 130.
The problem is the way the Food and Drug Administration requires foods to be tested. For one thing, the way carbohydrates have to be calculated in this country is “by difference.” After scientists determine the amount of protein, fat, ash, and moisture in a food, they subtract them from the total weight of the food and the remainder, the “difference,” is what they call carbohydrate.
Although scientists recognize that this approach has a lot of problems, that’s what they have used for about 100 years. Dreamfields Pasta then presents an even bigger problem.
“In order to make this claim on the nutrition facts panel,” Mike Crowley says, “significant testing must be completed and then petitioned to the FDA. It’s a long process that we have not yet ventured down.”
Many customers think even think that Dreamfields has the numbers wrong. “We still have many people contacting us to say we’ve made an error and we should be subtracting the 5 grams of fiber from the total 42 grams of carbs to get 37 ‘net’ carbs. It’s a coincidence that both the fiber and digestible carbs are both 5 per serving. We are working on updating the packaging now and are looking at better ways to explain this.”