Understanding Net carbs, by Lisa Johnson, RD

A very popular aim of health food manufacturers is to lower the glycemic load of your food. This means they take a food that would normally have a higher carbohydrate count and they lower the impact of those carbs on your blood sugars by adding protein and fiber to the product. They also may use sugar alcohols to sweeten it instead of cane sugar since sugar alcohols raise your blood sugar only half as much. Sugar alcohols are sweeteners ending in (-ol) such as erythritol (used most often), maltitol, xylitol, or sorbitol.

Personally, I purchase these foods and enjoy them in a weight management plan. Some examples include:

  • Clean protein bars like the ONE bar
  • Low Carbohydrate Tortillas like Ole Extreme Wellness
  • Sukrin’s Fiber Syrup

I like them because they are all-natural foods without artificial sweeteners and the fiber added is often prebiotic which means it is good for your gut flora balance, or it promotes healthy elimination which can be impaired when carbohydrate foods are restricted on a weight loss plan. In addition, the foods are satisfying which support adherence with your lifestyle.

The cautions are that sugar alcohols can cause stomach discomfort for people with IBS, though erythritol usually does not. Likewise, chicory root fiber can cause bloating, or gas for some people. Or, the prebiotic fibers may be derived from corn to which some people are allergic. Be sure to read the ingredient list for chicory root or prebiotic vegetable fiber if these are problematic for you.

Here are labels of normally high carbohydrate foods modified to supply low impact on blood sugars due to the protein and/or fiber contents. Clearly this is important for managing diabetes, but also for weight loss because low blood sugars make it easier for your body to burn fat for fuel rather than store it.

I know this is confusing to people learning to read labels, so I hope this sheds some light on the science behind the net carb craze. For more help, ask your dietitian to help you choose the products most suitable for you.

Total carbs – fiber – sugar alcohols = net carbs (carbs impacting your blood sugar)

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