Fibers and sugars and carbs - oh my! Understanding different types of carbohydrates can be pretty confusing - we get it! One of the most common responses the Swerve team gets about recipes is, "OMG - this is 36 grams of carbs!?" For someone learning to count carbohydrates it can be overwhelming. This is where you get to learn that all carbs are not created equally. It's important to understand how different types of carbohydrates affect your body. This guide to net carbs is meant to help you understand what different types of carbs exist, how they affect your blood sugar, and how to count net carbs. Are you ready for some carb counting excitement?! Let's get started!
The Ultimate Guide to Net Carbs
What are Carbohydrates?
Back to basics we go! Carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients in our diet, along with protein and fat, that provide energy to the body. Carbs include starches, sugars, fiber, and sugar alcohols. Some examples of food containing carbs are grains, flour, sugar sweetened foods and beverages, dairy, fruits, and some starchy vegetables.
What are Net Carbs?
Not all carbs are created equal! Since carbs are metabolized and digested differently, each will affect your blood sugar to a varying degree. When we calculate net carbs, that is specifically a way to measure the carbohydrates that actually affect (or impact) your blood sugar - for this reason, they are also called “impact carbohydrates” since they will raise your blood glucose, which is ultimately we’re trying to minimize.
How Do I Count Net Carbs?
Now for the fun part! To count net carbs, you will need to know the total carbohydrates in a serving of food. As previously mentioned, total carbohydrates include all types of carbohydrates: starches, sugars, fiber, and sugar alcohols.
Fiber naturally occurs in plant-based foods, and is not digested like other carbs - most of it leaves the body unchanged which means, unlike impact carbs, your body doesn't absorb fiber. Certain fibers have been shown to feed good gut bacteria, can help you feel fuller longer, suppress appetite, and even reduce blood sugar spikes after a meal. Basically, fiber rocks, and and we’re big time fiber fans!
Sugar alcohols (also known as polyols) are a group of carbohydrates used in some food products as sweetening or bulking agents, but have fewer calories and a lower glycemic impact than typical carbohydrates. This is because they are not readily metabolized by the body.
What does this mean? Because fiber and sugar alcohols, like erythritol, the main ingredient in Swerve, do not affect blood sugar in the same way that regular (impact) carbs do, you can subtract all or some of them from the total carb count in a serving of food.
You can calculate net carbs with just a little subtraction! Here’s the simple formula:
Total carbohydrates – fiber – erythritol = net carbs
Why Count Net Carbs?
Ugh, math...hear us out though. If you are on a low carb or keto diet, watching your blood sugar, or just living a carb conscious lifestyle, you might want to count your net carbs. Counting your net carbs can help you understand the types of carbs you are eating and how they affect your body. And we can all benefit from a better understanding of how certain foods affect our bodies! Counting net carbs can show you that you can actually eat more good carbs, especially from healthy sources like high-fiber vegetables.
What about Other Sugar Alcohols?
Now for the fine print. Erythritol, the sugar alcohol in Swerve, is zero calories and has no effect on blood sugar, so you can subtract 100% of carbs coming from erythritol or Swerve. However, other sugar alcohols like xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol, and mannitol do contain some calories and have some impact on blood sugar, so you should subtract 50% of carbs coming from these other sugar alcohols if the amount exceeds 5g per serving. This is just another reason erythritol stands out from other sugar alcohols!