Total Carbs Vs. Net Carbs: What you need to know…

Total Carbohydrates vs Net Carbohydrates???

Do carbohydrates include fiber? The answer is YES… and NO!

It depends on where you live.

The U.S. Food labeling laws, under the guidance of the FDA, along with our neighbors Canada, calculate Total Carbohydrates on nutritional labeling, to include all types of fiber- soluble and insoluble.

Most all other countries around the world, including the EU and Mexico, calculate Total Carbohydrates on their nutritional labeling, as the sugars and starches in a food and fiber- soluble and insoluble, are listed separately as fiber. 

So we need to understand Total Carb reporting vs Net carb reporting…

In the United States, carbohydrate is defined as “carbohydrate by subtraction”. This means that when a food is chemically analyzed in a lab, the grams of protein, fat, alcohol, water, and ash are subtracted from the total gram weight of the food sample, and the amount left over is considered the total carbohydrate value. Using this method, the carbohydrate value contains sugars, starch, AND fiber, and may also contain small amounts of other compounds that do not fit specifically in one of the other categories. This defines Total Carbohydrates in the food composition for nutrition labeling in the U.S. and Canada.

For nutrition labeling most other places in the world, including the EU and Mexico, Total Carbohydrates are defined as “available carbohydrates,” which does not include soluble or insoluble fiber. This value is determined by adding up the sugars and starches in the food only and not including any fiber. The fiber is listed separately on the label, and is not part of the carbohydrates listed.

Calories of all carbohydrates in the U.S. are calculated at 4 calories per gram, while fat is calculated at 9 calories per gram. This makes it advantageous to eat low fat foods, if you want low calories. Eating a low carb diet and following calorie counting are at odds with each other because of these facts.

Calorie calculations other places in the world are different as follows: Sugars & Starches are calculated at 4 calories per gram, while fiber is calculated at 2 calories per gram. Most countries agree on 9 calories per gram of fat as the standard.

Basically speaking, the rest of the world is on a NET or Effective carb labeling system. While the U.S. and Canada are left to have consumers do math calculations on the label and subtract fiber from the Total Carbohydrate label line on U.S. labeling, in order to match the other world labeling system, which is basically NET carbs or effective carbs.

Also in this category of largely indigestible carbohydrates, are sugar alcohols – such as mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and other polyols, which are modified alcohol molecules that resemble sugar.

In calculating net carbs, most manufacturers take the total number of carbohydrates a product contains and subtract the fiber and sugar alcohols as the rest of the world does, because they are not digesting as sugars and starches in your body causing blood sugar level rises. These types of fiber and sugar alcohol carbohydrates are thought to have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels.

So, now we understand that….Net carbs are the total amount of digestible carbohydrates in the food we are consuming. These are the carbs you’ll want to track while following a low carb diet, as these are the actual total carbs your body will absorb. These include – starch and sugars.

While fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate, meaning fiber – both soluble and insoluble,  isn’t broken down and absorbed as it travels through the digestive tract.

LC-Foods has gathered this information from numerous online sources of authority.

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