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Low-Carb Food Labels - Useable or Net Carbs in Foods vs. Total Carbohydrates
Low Carb Diets Information

Low-Carb Food Labels - 'Useable', 'Net' Carbs

Diet Reviews and Information

Low-Carb Food Labels Need Careful Reading

Low-carb food products are now widely available. But before you adopt "low-carb" eating habits, doublecheck the food labels to understand how these low-carb foods actually achieve their low carbohydrate levels.

Net or Useable Carbs

One way they attain lower carbs is through their method of carb-counting. Many of the labels list "total carbohydrates", then subtract certain items from the total to arrive at "net," "effective" or "useable" carbs - the number often flagged on the front of the food pack.

No Definition of 'Low Carb'

Typically there's wording somewhere on the package explaining why the "total carbohydrate" and "net carbohydrate" amounts differ. But some nutrition experts disagree with this calculating system. And since there's no legal definition of "low-carb" or any official way of figuring it, consumers are left without advice.

Net Carb Content

The "net" carb content often results from subtracting grams of fiber and sugar alcohols, such as the sugar substitutes maltitol and mannitol, from the total carbohydrates. Manufacturers reason that fiber, while technically a carbohydrate, is not absorbed by the body, so shouldn't be counted as a carb.

As for sugar alcohols, manufacturers say that while these also are technically carbohydrates and a source of calories (though fewer than sugar), they have a negligible effect on blood sugar, so also shouldn't count as carbs.

Some dietary experts prefer to include sugar alcohols as carbohydrates, since they are absorbed, but would subtract fiber, which is not absorbed.

Since labels usually list both total carbohydrates and carbs from fiber and sugar alcohols, you can do your own calculations, based on which line of thinking makes the most sense to you.

Carb-Intake and Diet Nutrition

Carbohydrates are essential to the body, and severely restricting carb-intake for more than a brief period poses a risk to kidney function as well as possible nausea and fatigue.

A 20-gram daily limit for only a brief period - as in the first two weeks of the Atkins diet - probably does not pose a serious health threat but (according to some experts) still merits medical advice.

Related Low Carb Diet Links

Review of Dr Atkins Diet
Atkins Diet: Health Questions
Atkins Diet: Heart Health Warning
Atkins Diet: Long-Term Weight Loss
Atkins Diet: Kidneys & Osteoporosis
Review of South Beach Diet
Review of Zone Diet
No Carb or Very Low Carb Diets
High Protein Low Carb Diets May Not Be For You
Review of High Protein Low Carb Diets
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Ketosis Explained
Ketogenic Diet Study
Carbs and Fat in Diet: Do Carbs Cause Obesity
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Low-Carbohydrate Diets: Weight Loss and Calories
Calorie-Counting Versus Carb-Counting
Low-Carb Food Labels: 'Net' Carbs
Daily Carb-Intake Debate
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What Affects Glycemic Index Values of Carbs
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Eat Low Glycemic Index Carbs for Breakfast

For the Best Low Carb Diet
See our Recommendations for Best Weight Loss Program

 

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