If you’re new to counting carbs, then there’s probably a lot of terms that you hear, but not fully understand. Phrases like “simple carbs”, “complex carbs”, “good carbs”, “bad carbs”, “total carbs”, and “net carbs” are thrown around quite frequently. For now, let’s focus on just two of these phrases. Those two phrases are “total carbs” and “net carbs”. In particular, what are net carbs and how do you calculate them.
The first thing you must remember is to never trust what a manufacturer labels as “net carb” on their product. Instead, you must learn what exactly net carbs are and then do the calculations yourself. This is because there is no legal requirement or regulation regarding the definition of a net carb. A product manufacturer could use this to their advantage to label net carbs incorrectly. Instead, rely on your own definition of a net carb and the information listed on the nutrition panel of the product.
How To Calculate Net Carbs.
Calculating net carbs is much easier than you might imagine. To begin with, take the total carbohydrates in a serving of food. This number is the “total carbs” that was mentioned previously. Now subtract the grams of fiber in a serving of that food from the total carbs. Second, you subtract any grams of sugar alcohols that may be in the product, though these aren’t usually present. The final number that you reach is the net carb value of a single serving.
Why is this number important? Is it more important than the overall total carbohydrate count? For starters, this number is important because it relates back to blood sugar and insulin levels. Fiber is a carb that does cause blood sugar levels to rise. Your body cannot digest fiber, which means it does not result in blood sugar rising or the production of insulin.
Fiber has other benefits in the body as well. While it is present in the digestive track it will slow down the body’s absorption rate of the other carbs. This slowed absorption rate can prevent blood sugar spikes and sudden insulin releases. For the most part, you are free to exclude fiber carbs from your carbohydrate restrictions.
Let’s look at an example of net carb calculation using one of the best sources of fiber: broccoli. A single cup of broccoli that has been cooked will have a total carb value of 11.2 grams. That might sound like quite a bit for the self-conscious carb counter. However, a total of 5.1 grams of that is pure fiber. That means the net carb value of a single cup of cooked broccoli is only 6.1 grams.
How Does This Impact Weight Loss?
When you limit insulin releases in the body it helps burn fat more easily. The needed supply of glucose isn’t available for the body, which means it must burn through its existing stores of energy that are hidden within fat cells. Thus, diets that limit insulin production tend to have the best results.
Insulin is produced by the pancreas when blood sugar rises. Nearly all carbohydrates result in an increase in blood sugar. This is why many high-profile diets focus on counting carbs and regulating blood sugar level. Unfortunately, this can leave some people feeling as though their diet options and portion sizes are very limited.
That’s why it’s good to know that net carbs are more important than total carbs. Consuming fiber does not result in increased insulin and thus does not deter the efforts of your low carb diet. This opens up a lot of new menu options without raising your carb count at every meal.
Should I follow net carbs or total carbs?
Each low-carb diet way of eating will have a different approach regarding whether you should count total carbs or net carbs. Pick on plan and stick with that plan. The Atkins plan, for example, counts net carbs. If you do not see results then, perhaps you could switch and see if there is a difference.