Total Carbs vs. Net Carbs: What is the difference?
Net Carbs is a fairly new concept that has been gaining popularity over the years. Most people know that some carbs are better for us than others. High glycemic carbs (like refined starches, processed foods, and sugary foods) are digested rapidly, which causes an insulin spike after eating and are thus higher on the glycemic Index. Low glycemic carbs (like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) are broken down at a much slower rate, contain more fiber, and have a lower effect on our blood sugar levels, and so they are lower on the glycemic Index.
This brings is to a vital question: what is a net carb? The concept of net carbs is based on the principle that not all carbohydrates affect the body in the same manner. The key difference between the two types of carbs that I will focus on is their fiber content.
Fiber is indigestible by the body and passes through unused; consequently, fiber doesnít affect our blood sugar levels and can be considered a ďnon-impact carb.Ē When determining the net carb amount in a food, we are essentially subtracting the amount of non-impact carbs and finding how many carbs are going to directly affect our blood sugar levels.
Net Carbs = Grams of Total Carbohydrates Ė Grams of Fiber
For example, if a food contains 20 grams of total carbs and 10 grams of those carbs are fiber, the food contains 10 grams of net carbs. Only 10 of those carbs are going to affect our blood sugar levels. 20 total carbs-10 fiber = 10 net carbs.
Now we know what a net carb is, but it can still be confusing knowing when to use it. Diabetics are often strongly recommended to always count net carbs in their diet to plan for insulin release. But for the overall population, itís more beneficial to think of it as a tool to use when trying to find the best option between foods. For example, when comparing two options of whole grain bread, you can quickly calculate which one is going to have the least amount of net carbs affecting blood sugar levels. It also helps us be more mindful of our fiber intake. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends that women aim for over 25 grams of fiber a day, while men should have 38 grams. Most Americans donít reach this amount, so counting net carbs can help to bring more of a focus to our fiber intake and finding foods that contain more fiber and therefore lower net carbs.
Itís important to understand the difference between total carbs and net carbs because net carbs revolve around our blood sugars levels and make sure we keep our blood sugar levels regulated throughout the day. If you want to learn more about why we donít want to have foods high on the glycemic index that spike our blood sugar levels, click here.
This article was written by Coach Kristina.