Simple answer: YOU DON’T
You’ve probably walked through the grocery store and noticed a loaf of bread claim that is has 5 Net Carbs on the front label. You think to yourself “Wow only 5 carbs for a serving of bread!? Sign me up!”
FALSE this is simply a sales marketing ploy to get consumers to think they are eating less carbs than they think. Which obviously results in increased profit for the company while still legally advertising these claims. So what are net carbs and how do they work?
Net carbs became a “thing” when the Atkins low carb diet started to become popular around the 90’s. Unless you are diabetic you shouldn’t pay attention to the advertising of net carbs. Net carbs basically give an indicator of how the amount of fiber and sugar or sugar alcohols in that food will effect your blood sugar levels. Which, unless you are diabetic and you actually check your blood sugar levels, you will have zero idea of how certain types of carbohydrate effect your blood sugar levels. So how does fiber and sugar alcohols effect your blood sugar?
So, what does fiber and sugar alcohols have to do with net carbs? These two compounds effect your blood sugar in certain ways. There are two types of fiber: Insouble and soluble. Soluble dissolves in water, which produces a gel like substance making it harder for the small intestine to absorb the nutrients. So, eating soluble fiber wont spike or increase your blood sugar levels as much as a simple sugar would. Insoluble fiber adds water to stool making bowel movements more regulated and easier to pass. Fiber is found in whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, nuts, beans, etc.
Sugar alcohols are basically a zero or low calorie sweetener, like Splenda, Stevia, and Equal. Sugar alcohols are used to sweeten low calorie products to try and make them taste better. This will cause a spike or large increase in your blood sugar levels, which isn’t a huge deal unless you are diabetic……. or you eat a shit ton of Splenda packets for fun. The more grams of sugar alcohols that are in a product results in a greater increase in blood sugar levels. This can effect people differently, some individuals might experience an upset stomach or headache, and there might be no effect in other people.
How do they calculate Net Carbs?
Net carbs are calculated based off the amount of fiber and sugar alcohols per serving in a food product.
*NET CARBS= TOTAL CARBS- FIBER- SUGAR ALCOHOLS*
If you look at the nutrition label from our example of the Healthy Life Bread (Pictured Above and nutrition label is below).
NET CARBS= 16G (Total Carb)- 5g(Fiber) – 2g (Sugars) = 9g / 2(Serving)= 4.5G ~ 5g Net Carb (divide by 2 for per slice of bread b/c there are 2 slices in one serving)
And THAT is how Net carbs are calculated and marketed on food products. Like I stated earlier the average person REALLY does not have to worry about net carbs. To get accurate information just look at the ingredients list and total calories, which will tell you the correct amount of macronutrients and ingredients used to make the product!