Nutritional Label Distortion- "Net Carbs" do they really matter?

Low carb, high fiber, sugar free, high protein are the words you see on majority of manufacturing boxes, wrappers and packaging labels but yet “net carbs” is the real number that consumers are focusing on, that are listed boldly and marketed on the front. So you may ask the question does “net carbs” really matter?

How can carbs listed on back of nutrition label read 22g carbs but yet manufacturer claim and market as only 2g net carbs. Now, you may want to know how carbs can disappear magically and does it mean you can consume more and still achieve your goal?

Let’s first address that the FDA has not formally defined and yet does not regulate claims as “Low-Carb,” “Non-Impact Carbs” and “Net Carbs” as it has done with terms relating to protein and fat content. The phrase “Net Carbs” was coined by the food industry when low carb diets became popular and have not only stayed but capitalized on misinforming consumers.

Net carbs usually subtract fiber, sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, and glycerin from the total carbohydrates. This can be very misleading as sugar alcohols are thought to cause less of a spike in blood sugar, however, remember sugar alcohols are not “free” they do contain calories. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body does process, if it’s a soluble fiber, which still contains calories and is not “free”. The only fiber that the body can’t process is insoluble fiber which is just the bulk and goes right through you, with no impact. Most products do not list the fiber breakdown and in any case if it was listed, it doesn’t impact your total calorie intake to make a difference when calculating.

So the “magic of net carbs” does matter more than you are lead to believe and many foods that are not particularly “low-carb” do get away with labeling themselves low-carb since FDA does not require regulation. Reading the nutrition label on the package, noting serving sizes and accounting the total values listed will ensure you are on track with your goals.

If you want to lose weight the basics boils down to budgeting the overall calorie expenditure vs a calorie intake, regardless of what food source you consume. A surplus of calories will result in weight gain and thus a total caloric intake still matters on low-carb diets and practically on any diet. So be a smart consumer and don’t fall prey to the gimmicks and magic of marketing schemes. Using real, whole foods as the bulk of your calories will provide the vitamins and minerals needed and will fuel your body.

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