Net carbs vs total carbs

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In recent years, keto and other low-carb diets have become popular with many people trying to shed extra pounds. The diet has been touted by some celebrities, including Kourtney Kardashian, Halle Berry, and Vanessa Hudgens. In 2014, basketball superstar LeBron James revealed that a low-carb diet had helped him lose weight and posted photos on social media showing his slimmer figure.

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Whether you’re a celebrity or not, whether you’re on the keto diet or some other low-carb diet, the only carbs that matter are net carbs, says Colette Heimowitz, VP of Nutrition Communication and Education. for Simply Good Foods. Society. The company is the parent company of Quest Nutrition and Atkins. She is also the author of “The Atkins 100 Eating Solution: Easy, Low-Carb Living for Everyday Wellness”.

What are net carbs and why are they important?

Net carbs refers to the total number of carbs in food, minus the carbs your body won’t absorb, says Natalia Groat, a registered dietitian by UW Medicine at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The center is operated by UW Medicine, the official brand of the University of Washington Healthcare System. The categories you subtract because your body won’t absorb them are fiber and sugar alcohols (although the latter are partially absorbed by the body), says Groat.

Joining the keto diet or other low-carb diet requires strictly limiting your net carbs intake to around 20 net carbs per day or less, depending on the diet.

In addition to keto, other well-known low-carb diets include:

If you’re new to the keto diet or other low-carb diet, a quick summary of why proponents say these diets are good for weight loss may help.

Keto diet advocates say that by reducing your carb intake and consuming more fat, your body can safely enter a state of nutritional ketosis. This is when the body breaks down dietary and stored body fat into substances called ketones. At this point, your body’s fat burning system primarily uses fat – rather than sugar – for energy.

It’s good to keep in mind that a low carb / keto diet is incompatible with federal dietary guidelines. The 2020-2025 Diet Guidelines for Americans recommends that consumers get 45-65% of total calories from carbohydrates. With a low carbohydrate diet, the percentage of calories from carbohydrates is lower than what is normally advised for individuals. Usually, on a low-carb diet, about 25% of their calorie intake comes from carbohydrates, Heimowitz says.

How to calculate net carbs

Figuring out your net carb intake takes a bit of math, says Groat. A food label can tell you the total number of carbs in a packet of nuts or a serving of broccoli, two foods you can eat on a keto or low-carb diet. But the labels won’t tell you the net carb count. This is because net carbs are the total grams in a particular food minus its grams of fiber and sugar alcohols.

Therefore, to calculate net carbs, you need to subtract the grams of fiber and sugar alcohols, as they are not digested by the body, Heimowitz explains.

You can calculate your net carbohydrate intake by:

1. Read food labels and measure. It’s the easiest way to count carbohydrates, says Groat. For example, suppose a product has 11 grams of carbohydrate per 1/3 cup and 4 grams of fiber. Subtract the 4 grams of fiber and you get 7 grams of total or net carbs.

2. Use of applications. There are a number of free apps that you can download to your smartphone that will help you determine carbs per serving of foods that may not have labels. For example, the CalorieKing app provides this information. (Many food applications count sugar alcohols as carbohydrates).

3. Using the USDA website. The Department of Agriculture is a great resource, says Groat. It includes helpful tips on how to read food labels, which can be confusing. The USDA FoodData Central website can also be a good resource for providing data that helps you count net carbs.

Follow a low-carb diet

Research suggests that sticking to a keto diet can help you lose weight. For example, a study published in the journal Canadian Family Physician in 2018 concluded that “Ketogenic diets can help patients lose about 2 kg (kilograms, about 4.4 pounds) more than low-fat diets at one year. , but better quality studies show no difference. ”Whether or not it is different, the study suggests that following a keto diet is effective for weight loss.

Different low carbohydrate diets require varying levels of low carbohydrate intake. The keto diet, ranked # 37 in US News’ Best Diet, calls for extreme carb restrictions – around 20 net carbs per day or less, depending on the version.

Foods you can eat on the keto diet include:

  • Lawyers.
  • Cocoa butter.
  • Instead of skinless poultry and lean cuts of meat, protein sources include rib eye steak, skinned chicken thighs, roast pork, and snacks like bacon.
  • Whole dairy products are encouraged.
  • You counter sugar cravings with desserts like dark chocolate and nut butter.
  • For a salad, green vegetables like spinach, kale, and lettuce, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, and cucumbers, are okay, but starchy vegetables – like corn and sweet potatoes – are too rich. in carbohydrates.
  • The dressing can consist of oils like avocado, olive, canola, flax and palm seeds, or even mayonnaise.
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews).
  • Salmon, tuna, mahi mahi.
  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax seeds, chia seeds).
  • Olives.
  • Nut butters (peanuts, cashews, almond butters).
  • Oils (avocado, olive, MCT, sea, flax, fish and coconut oils).
  • Tahini.

Since there are different low carb diets, there are also different versions of the keto diet, including:

  • Dirty keto. You have a little more leeway to eat whatever you want on the Dirty Keto Diet, as long as you keep your overall carb intake low. You may occasionally consume foods like chocolate, chips, and processed protein.
  • Keto modified. Compared to the regular keto diet, you can get a slightly lower percentage of your calories from fat and more from protein and carbs.
  • Several commercial diets that incorporate keto-friendly products.

Benefits versus risks of a low-carb diet

Some studies suggest that sticking to a low-carb diet may be helpful for people with certain conditions.

A study published in September 2021 in Nutrients indicates that there is a vast scientific literature that suggests that people with obesity, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are “very sensitive” to a low-carbohydrate diet.

On the flip side, some research suggests that some low-carb diets may be associated with health risks. For example, research published in July 2021 in Frontiers in Nutrition suggests that very low-carb diets (which could be considered keto diets) are associated with a myriad of health risks.

  • Pregnant women who follow such diets are more likely to have a child with a neural tube defect, even when taking a folic acid supplement.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Higher risk of cancer.

Other potential risks of the keto diet include:

It’s helpful to keep in mind that you don’t have to be a math whiz to count net carbs, Heimowitz says. “The only calculation you need to do on your own is for whole foods by just subtracting the grams of fiber from the total carbs to get the net carbs,” she says. “Low-carb products usually do the math for you on the packaging.


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