Difference Between Carbs & Net Carbs

Fact Checked

iOksanaKiian/iStock/Getty Images

The distinction between carbohydrates and net carbohydrates can affect your weight-loss efforts. To compute your net carbs, subtract the total grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrates. Many low carbohydrate diets use the net carbohydrate calculator for their nutritional specifications instead of simply counting the total number of carbohydrates.

Reasons for Counting Net Carbs Instead of Total Carbs

Fiber, listed on nutrition labels under "Total Carbohydrate," plays an important role in your health, but it has no nutritional value, zero calories and does not affect your blood sugar. Fiber travels through your digestive tract undigested. According to the Atkins website, net carbs measure the number of carbohydrates that significantly affect your blood sugar levels. Use nutrition labels to determine the number of net carbs in grains, fruit, vegetables and dairy products by subtracting fiber grams from total carbohydrate grams. Meat, poultry, fish and fats do not contain carbs. Refined carbohydrates in baked products, sugary foods and desserts, typically have higher amounts of net carbs with little or no fiber; they can lead to diabetes, heart disease, weight gain and obesity. Fruit and vegetables have fewer net carbs, do not have an impact on your blood sugar levels and do not interfere with weight loss.

Importance of Carbohydrates in the Diet

Even though the low-carb diet fad has influenced the way people think about carbohydrates, carbs still play an important role in your body's health. Carbohydrates provide the body with the energy needed to get through the day and perform physical activities. They support organ function, brain function and nervous system activity. In addition, many foods with carbohydrates contain numerous vitamins and nutrients that support and maintain good health.

Good Carbs and Bad Carbs

According to the Harvard School of Public Health’s nutrition source, you should consume "good" carbs that deliver vitamins, minerals and fiber to your body, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans. Avoid easily digested "bad" carbs found in refined flour products such as white bread, soda and pastries. In addition, replace potatoes with brown rice, wheat berries or whole-wheat pasta for dinner.

Measuring Your Carb Intake

According to “The New York Times” health guide, a healthy diet for the average person contains 40 to 60 percent carbohydrates. Consuming too many carbohydrates causes an increase in calories and can lead to obesity. Conversely, consuming too few carbohydrates can lead to malnutrition and excess fat storage in the body. Calculate the number of net carbs in your diet by reading nutrition labels or use the carb counter found on the official Atkins Diet website for foods that do not have available nutrition facts.