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How to Calculate Net Carbohydrates

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

Low-carbohydrate diets help you lose weight by keeping blood sugar levels steady and controlling hunger. According to the Atkins diet, the term "net carbohydrates" refers to the grams of carbohydrates that actually affect blood sugar and excludes the fiber and sugar alcohol from the carb-containing food. The Food and Drug Administration has not established a food labeling rule for manufacturers to use to determine net carbs, which means how one food company determines net carbs may be different from another. When every carb counts, calculating net carbs yourself using a standard technique may help you better manage your carb intake for weight loss.

Select your carb-containing food that has fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts or beans.

Record the total grams of carbohydrates, total grams of fiber and total grams of sugar alcohol from the "Nutrition Facts" label onto a piece of paper.

Subtract the grams of dietary fiber from the grams of total carbohydrates to determine the net carbohydrates.

Subtract half the grams of sugar alcohol from your net carbohydrates if the number of sugar alcohols is at least 5 grams. Do not confuse the sugar on the label with the sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols, which include sorbitol and mannitol, have fewer calories than regular sugar and have only a minimal effect on blood sugar.

Tips

For foods without a nutrition label, such as fruits and vegetables, use an online food nutrient data bank, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, to obtain the nutrition information

Sugar alcohols are not on every food label. They are primarily found in processed foods labeled "sugar-free" or "no sugar added," such as candy, ice cream and cookies.

Warnings

If you're a diabetic, talk to your doctor before using net carbohydrates as part of your diet plan.

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