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How To Calculate Net Carbohydrates

Low carb diets like Keto and Atkins have created an increased focus on carbohydrates. While carbohydrates are not inherently bad for you (kale contains carbohydrates, for example), these diets argue that too many of them can cause you to gain weight.

And that’s why many people who try these low-carb diets focus on reducing their carbohydrate intake. Some low-carb diets even require you to calculate your “net carbs”. You may even have seen these words on keto-friendly foods in the grocery store.

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The term “net carbohydrates” simply means the amount of carbohydrates in a food that your body can digest and use for energy. “It is essentially the amount of carbohydrates that affects blood sugar levels. Those digestible carbohydrates are sugars and starches, ”says Charlotte Martin, MS, RDN

Your body converts these net carbohydrates in two ways – as glycogen for energy or stored as fat. If your body needs energy right now – say, when you’re on a long haul and swallowing a gel pack – these carbohydrates replenish your glycogen stores.

If you’ve consumed too many net carbohydrates and are inactive, those carbohydrates will be directed to your fat stores, which can later be used for energy. Where the net carbs go after consumption depends on your general diet and activity level.

So what about the carbohydrates beyond the net carbs?

“The idea behind net carbohydrates is that not all carbohydrates are treated equally by the body,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The protein-rich breakfast club.

“Since fiber is (mostly) indigestible, subtracting the fiber grams from total carbohydrates gives the amount of ‘net carbohydrates’, or the digestible amount of carbohydrates in the diet,” says Harris-Pincus. You can also subtract grams of sugar alcohols, glycerin, and allulose as these aren’t high in calories, but are included in the total carbohydrate amount on the label.

These types act especially with sugar alcohols something like fiber and are incompletely absorbed and metabolized by the body, so they have little effect on blood sugar levels (though some do so more than others), adds Martin.

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So … how do you calculate the net carbohydrates?

First, subtract all grams of fiber from total grams of carbohydrates.

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If so, consider the sugar alcohols in the product.

The rates of absorption of sugar alcohols vary, and therefore some have a greater impact on blood sugar levels than others. “For example, the popular sugar alcohol erythritol has a negligible influence on blood sugar levels and is therefore not a net carbohydrate,” says Martin. So in that case you’d also subtract all grams of erythritol from the total carbohydrate count.

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“To calculate the net carbohydrates for a product that contains erythritol, just subtract the gram fiber and the erythritol from the number of total carbohydrates. For example, a food product with 20 grams of total carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of erythritol would have 13 grams of net carbohydrates, ”says Martin.

Noteworthy: some sugar alcohols to do count among the net carbohydrates. “Maltitol, sorbitol, isomalt and glycerin contribute around half a gram of carbohydrates per gram. So you would only subtract half of their amount from the sugar alcohol equation, ”says Martin. “For example, if there were 4 grams of maltitol in the equation above instead of erythritol, you’d only subtract 2,” she explains.

Most manufacturers of keto products are aware of this All of this is a lot of work and therefore only use erythritol in their products. The other sugar alcohols like maltitol can be found in sugar-free or low-sugar versions of candy, chocolates, and ice cream. Just check the labels.

Additionally, calorie-free sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia don’t contain carbohydrates, so they don’t affect blood sugar levels or contribute to net carbohydrates, Martin says.

Why is the calculation of net carbohydrates important?

Calculating and tracking net carbohydrates is important for those following the keto diet, as consuming too many digestible carbohydrates can prevent you from entering and / or knocking you out of ketosis.

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Your body’s preferred source of energy is glucose (from foods containing carbohydrates). When you drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake (like the keto diet), your body has to convert stored fat into ketones for fuel instead.

“The only other benefit I see from being aware of net carbs is that you are forced to be more aware of your fiber intake,” says Martin. To calculate net carbohydrates, you need to check the amount of fiber on the label. And fiber, as you know, is a fuel nutrient.

Simple ways to increase your fiber intake are adding seeds (like chia or flax) to your morning oats or smoothie, adding avocados to your meals, nibbling on raspberries, and swapping out some animal proteins for plant-based (plant-based) proteins such as legumes) often high in fiber).

Is Net Carbohydrate Tracking Healthy?

Tracking net carbohydrates is usually not required unless you’re following a keto diet.

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“It could be helpful in blood sugar management for those who need to control their blood sugar levels. But it’s only part of the blood sugar response puzzle, ”says Martin.

When calculating net carbohydrates, the effects of protein and fat on the blood sugar response are taken into account. For example, protein and fat help slow digestion and therefore can help lower the blood sugar response when they are part of or paired with a carbohydrate food.

So it’s up to you. And a calculator.

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