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The Net Carb Conundrum In Five Parts

September 28, 2012

As I approach my goal weight and more importantly managed to keep my blood sugar under control I’ve started planning my post-diet life where I basically maintain more of a low carb than no carb diet but far more balanced than what I’m doing now. During this process I’ve repeatedly heard the term “Net Carb” over and over and over. Today I decided to do some googling to try to figure out what it really means because, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m trying to remain educated on my food choices. Here’s what I’ve learned in five parts:

1) Net Carbs were made up by food companies (my favorite people), basically so they could get on board the low-carb bandwagon a few years ago (this is pretty common on the Atkins packaging, the food will have 22 carbs yet allegedly only 2 net carbs). The idea is that you can subtract fiber and sugar alcohols that don’t impact blood sugar or aren’t absorbed by the body.

2) Are net carbs lies? It is apparently really tricky because it is true that you can subtract certain kinds of sugar alcohols and fibers from the total carbs, it is pretty impossible for the casual observer to know exactly how much of each ingredient is in the whole product. It is confusing on purpose I think because my hunch is it is a scam at worst and at best a gimmick.

3) Avoid products that even say net carbs. My informal survey of my local grocery store shows that by and large they are full of chemicals and other hideous things and horribly break my somewhat strict (though not totally) five ingredient rule.

4) If you don’t have a somewhat strict five ingredient rule then by all means, experiment, eat some of this stuff and see how it affects your blood sugar but be safe about it, some of this stuff has A LOT of carbs net or not in them and if you’re on insulin that can be disastrous if the food companies’ math is wrong and as history has shown their math is almost always wrong or at least misleading.

5) Science is hard and it doesn’t always come out the way food companies would like…so they fix that by basically lying about the  science. There is no real science behind net carbs it is guessing how a given ingredient will affect you, they can’t really know that but they make it sound so good. If you’re diabetic and someone says “no it’s cool, you can eat this chocolate covered granola, peanut butter and caramel bar without any impact on your blood sugar!” They are LYING to you! Flat out. Sure, it might not spike your reading by as much as say a Hershey’s bar but a Hershey’s bar might actually be better for you overall, let’s compare:

You can see on the label that they break out the various carbs they’re subtracting out so magically all that chocolate, peanuts, caramel and whatever nougat is only adds up to 3, yes THREE net carbs. See how this is dangerous? See all those bigger stars? That references the fact that those claims have not been evaluated by the FDA, know what? That’s right, because they’re lies. Look at that ingredient list, it is a mile long. Wanna know what’s in a Hershey’s bar?

INGREDIENTS: MILK CHOCOLATE (SUGAR; MILK; CHOCOLATE; COCOA BUTTER; LACTOSE; MILK FAT;SOY LECITHIN;PGPR, EMULSIFIER; VANILLIN, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR)

Yep that’s it. now when we look at the calories and everything else nutrition-wise a Hershey’s bar is pretty much a no-no all around:

Serving Size: 43.00 g
Amount per Serving: 1
Total Calories 210
Calories from Fat 110
Amount Per Serving %DV *
Total Fat 13 g 20%
   Saturated Fat 8 g 40%
   Trans Fat g
Cholesterol 10 mg 3%
Sodium 35 mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 26 g 9%
   Dietary Fiber 1 g 4%
   Sugars 24 g
Protein 3 g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 8%
Iron 2%

It is very nearly 10% of your daily carb intake so really maybe okay for a meal replacement or heavy snack in a healthy person but probably not with all that fat, it is over 50% fat. So really neither choice is very good for you but at least the Hershey’s Bar isn’t lying to you about it and is up front about its intentions.

The moral of the story is, be careful what you eat and if you’re hungry eat an Apple or Banana, they don’t have nutrition labels, know why? They don’t need them, they’re pretty good for you all around.

** This post is a little hypocritical because I do occasionally have an Atkins protein shake for breakfast if I’m in a hurry but I don’t make a habit out of it, they have little actual carbs and, well, I’m not perfect. I do intend to phase them out completely for more natural low carb smoothies once I’m at my goal but yeah their bars are out of the question, after doing this research I’m throwing the ones I do have out.

References:

Atkins Meal Replacement Bar

Hershey’s Bar

Required WebMD Link

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