When you plan out your meal for the day, do you know what vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional values your food contains? Do you know how to read a nutrition label to help you with your weight loss goals?
Diets that are designed to limit carbohydrates suggest figuring out the net carbs in a meal by starting with the grams of carbs listed on the label, then subtracting the dietary fiber and any sugar alcohol that the food contains. This net carb calculation leaves you with the sugars that are in a food after the fiber and sugar alcohol contents have been factored in. Because some kinds of carbs have less of an effect on blood sugar than others, net carbs refer to only the carbs that affect your blood sugar.
Why are people concerned about net carbs?
"Net carbs” became a household term when people started to eat low carb diets in the early 2000s. When people were worried about carbohydrates causing weight gain, they felt like they could eat more carbs if they also ate the nutrients that counteracted them, making their net carb intake significantly lower.
Additionally, eating a low-carb diet allows dieters to eat more. The idea here is that you can eat as much fiber and sugar alcohol as you want because it helps to burn the fat-causing carbs.
Makes sense, right?
Net carbs are not regulated on food labels by the FDA, and the calculations for net carbs can vary by each manufacturer. Only carbohydrate information that can be broken down into sugar alcohols and dietary fiber is actually regulated by the FDA. These are the carbs that significantly impact one's blood sugar level.
Also, if you go on a low-carb diet, you are cutting out important food groups such as grains, certain vegetables, and fruit, which can cause you to miss out on some vital nutrients. Some nutrient-dense produce does not have a large impact on blood sugar and are not likely to decrease the amount of weight that one is able to lose.
Net Carbs vs. Total Carbs
Net carbs equal the total carbs in a food minus the fiber. When you want to limit your intake of net carbs, this is not equal to eating a low total carb diet because limiting carbs from fiber would not be productive because your body requires a lot of fiber carbs to stay healthy.
The problem with carbs is that they do not burn as well as fat does and they produce 30 to 40% more free radicals that damage important cellular structures like your cell membranes and mitochondrial DNA.
Limiting your net carbs can, in turn, help you replace them with healthy fats that will change your body into burning fat for fuel rather than carbs.
How to Track Your Nutrition and Health
You need to know a lot of information in order to learn what foods are best to eat for weight loss while still giving your body the nutrition that it needs for optimal results. If you want to burn fat for fuel, you can use an online nutrient tracker. This will take out all of the math involved in calculating your nutrition needs and take the mystery out of being healthy.
These can tell you how much fat, carbohydrates, and protein you have eaten, the statistics of your total calories, and ratios for omega-6 to omega-3, potassium-to-sodium, and zinc-to-copper.
Benefits of the Cronometer
The Cronometer is a web app that helps you count calories and track your diet. It allows you to preplan your meals and add in the information about the food before you eat it. This allows you to analyze your carb, protein, fiber and healthy fat intake. This app also has discussion forums that address a wide range of topics about your health journey.
Net Carbs, Fiber and Your Blood Sugar
The number of net carbs that are listed on a food label do not necessarily reflect the true number of carbs that your body absorbs. Also, everyone processes carbs differently.
Simple net carbs have just one or two sugar units and are in foods such as fruits, vegetables, sugar, milk, syrup, and honey. Alternatively, complex carbs have many sugar units that are linked together in foods such as grains and starchy vegetables. When you eat carbs, the enzymes in your small intestine break them down into individual sugar units, which is what your body absorbs.
There are two types of fiber, soluble or insoluble. Insoluble fiber helps to prevent constipation and has no impact on blood sugar, caloric intake, or insulin levels. However, soluble fiber dissolves in the gastrointestinal system and creates a gel-like substance that makes you feel full and helps food move through your system.
Sugar alcohols are sugar alternatives that include ethanol. They are a mix of sugar and alcohol molecules and can be found not only in chemically-concocted foods, but also in fruits and vegetables.
Some sugar alcohols, such as xylitol, erythritol, maltitol, and sorbitol are very controversial in the sense that they are known to cause significant digestive distress.
Eating a lot of sugar alcohols in a short period of time can lead to bloating, gas, and diarrhea. People who suffer from IBS or are sensitive to FODMAPs may want to avoid sugar alcohols altogether. The worst sugar alcohol for causing these symptoms are sorbitol and maltitol, while erythritol seems to be less offensive.
FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are difficult for some to digest. This is common for people who have IBS. Rather than using these sweeteners, it is best to use natural substances, such as stevia.
Increasing Healthy Fats and Limit Net Carbs
Not only is it important to limit your net carb intake to help improve your metabolic health, but it is also important to increase the number of healthy fats that you consume. The type of fuel that you give your body to burn makes a huge difference in your weight loss success.
While a typical diet reduces calories, it is still high in sugar and carbohydrates. This results in cycles between blood sugar spikes and drops. This makes it difficult to lose weight.
It is important to keep an accurate journal of your net carbs and determine and maintain your body’s balance to help it function at its best. Using a tracker such as Cronometer can help you to optimize your nutrition so you are able to feel good and look good without having the mystery about what you should be eating.
Good Health and Net Carbs
Almost all diseases, including obesity, begin with metabolic mitochondrial dysfunction. Improving your metabolic mitochondrial function with your diet means you have to radically reduce your net carb intake and replace it with high-quality fats.
It is important to limit your net carbs because foods that are high in sugar cause your blood sugar to rise. Glucose is a harmful fuel that creates free radicals in the body that fat does not. The core of the problem is that your cells have to be healthy to be able to use fat for fuel.
For example, cancer cells do not have as much metabolic flexibility. These cells primarily burn glucose. This means that eating a healthy high-fat diet is an effective cancer prevention strategy.
When your body starts to burn fat instead of glucose as its primary fuel, your healthy cells can be more easily be nourished while your cancer cells are starved. Your body then becomes increasingly efficient in burning fat. This helps prevent and treat diseases, which is the key to good health.