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
of Dr Atkins Diet
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