by Ava Currey
The discussion around carbs is often a debate. Many people today have become more conscious of their diets, counting numbers meticulously. The concept of net carbs is of particular interest as it is fairly new to the discussion. Some nutritionists, the American Diabetes Association, and the FDA actually do not recognize ‘net carbs’ as an actual term, with claims that this could propagate false information. Each person metabolizes and digests food differently, and additional factors involved in the computation of net carbs could make the resulting numbers more nebulous.
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Distinguishing net carbs
This has not stopped people from willfully computing for net carbs, especially if they are on an Atkins Diet or Keto Diet. People who have diabetes may also calculate their net carb intake to watch their blood sugar levels. Since there are different kinds of carbohydrates, net carb computations may differ. Complex carbs go through a longer process to break down and depending on a food’s contents, you will have to keep different things in mind.
Net carbs can be distinguished as the total amount of digestible carbohydrates of a meal or a specific food that you can fully metabolize into glucose. When computing for net carbs, you will need to subtract the amount of fiber from the total carbs listed, as these are not absorbed.
Computing for net carbs: does sugar alcohol cancel out carbs?
Note that foods containing sugar alcohol are partially digested, so computing for net carbs, in this case, entails subtracting only half of the amount of sugar alcohol indicated from the total amount of carbs. Only foods containing erythritol, a kind of sugar alcohol which is indigestible into glucose should be subtracted in its full amount. If you find that the food you are eating contains both fiber and sugar alcohol, you must add these two amounts together – with the same guideline of using only half of the amount of sugar alcohol unless it is erythritol – from the total carbohydrate amount. You may need to alter your computation depending on the serving size indicated on the nutritional label.
Food labels are not required to display the full total of sugar alcohol as it is not counted as a “sugar.” Sugar alcohols do not cancel out net carbs. To find out if sugar alcohols cancels out net carbs, pay close attention to the type of sugar alcohol that is listed on the package. Sweeteners such as allulose or monk fruit are safe as they are not sugar alcohols.
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Staying on track
Net carbs are lower in foods that are less-refined. However, sometimes you still need that extra bit of fuel to stay satisfied and energetic. Meal prep is a great way to stay on track, especially if you are noting specific numbers. Whole grains are essentially better, more nutritious options to get that boost of fiber. Short-grain white rice usually has 52.4g of net carbs, but it can easily be swapped out for substitutes like wild rice, couscous, millet, bulgur, quinoa, barley, brown rice, or other whole grains which have net carbs of 49g and below. Preparing these can be simple as long as you have the right tools, such as rice cookers, which make meal prep a breeze. These appliances will also allow you to be more precise in your measurements and calculations, and make portion control much simpler.
When you know how much you need to put in when making these in big batches, you will have a standard figure of net carbs that you can easily divide per meal. Supplementing these with protein and other complex carbs like vegetables will ensure a well-balanced meal. Cooking up a big batch of meals or meal components at the start of the week and portioning them out will also let you measure the nutritional intake consumed per day, or even more specifically – per meal.
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Counting net carbs could help encourage a healthier lifestyle and urge you to consume more dietary fiber like that in Real Food Bars to keep you tied over while also regulating your blood sugar levels. Also, it’s important to remember that the numbers you get may be mere estimations depending on your body’s metabolism. Listen to your body and consult experts if you have specific health concerns. At the end of the day, it all boils down to moderation.
Article specially written for realfoodbar.com by Ava Currey