How to Count Net Carbs

carb counting for weight loss
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Many dieters count carbs to lose weight. But counting carbohydrates can be complicated. Some weight loss programs recommend that you reduce the total number of carbohydrates that you consume. Then others recommend that you count only net carbs to lose weight. But that can be confusing if you don't know what net carbs are or how to count them.

What are Net Carbs?

There is no official definition of "net carbs," so you won't see net carbohydrates listed on the Nutrition Facts label of the foods you buy.

  In general, however, net carbs refers to the total number of carbohydrates minus the grams of fiber, and sugar alcohols.

Sugar alcohols (like maltitol, lactitol, sorbitol, or sucralose) and fiber are not converted to glucose in your body like other carbohydrates. So they have less of an impact on your blood sugar.  When you count net carbs, you are counting only the carbohydrates that have a more significant effect on your blood sugar. Net carbs are sometimes also called "net effective carbs" or "impact carbs."

How To Count Net Carbs

The problem with counting net carbs is that they can be tricky to calculate. If you have all of the required information, you can count net carbohydrates by taking the total grams of carbohydrate and subtracting the grams of fiber and the grams of sugar alcohol. 

The problem is that find those numbers can be a challenge .The Nutrition Facts label provides a total number of carbohydrates for each serving of food that you eat.

You'll also see grams of sugar and grams of fiber listed. But you won't always find a listing for grams of sugar alcohol. 

In addition, you won't find a Nutrition Facts label on every food that you buy. Fresh fruits and vegetables, for example, don't come with a Nutrition Facts label attached.  

For many dieters, the easiest way to count net carbs is to use an online calculator, like the Carb Calculator or mobile app provided by Atkins.

  The downloadable net carb list and handy phone app are free for anyone to use whether or not you are on the Atkins diet.

Should I Count Net Carbs?

If you are following the Atkins diet plan, you need to count net carbs in order for the program to be successful. Both the classic Atkins 20 Program and the newer Atkins 40 Program require that dieters restrict net carbs and monitor portion size.  Atkins dieters do not, however, count calories.

But not all diet experts agree that net carbs are important for weight loss or for overall health. Some say that counting net carbs is too complicated and others say that dieters should focus on total calories, not net carbs or even total carbs to lose weight successfully. In the end, consistency matters most. So choose a diet that you can stick to for the long term.

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