Whether you’re following the Atkins® Diet, the Ketogenic Diet, Paleo or just trying to limit your net carbs, it’s important to track and limit how many carbs you’re eating. We all know not all carbs are created equally, and therefore, will be used by your body differently.
Tracking net carbs is a helpful way to reach your goals. Carbohydrates are the sugar, fiber, and starches found in foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy that you eat. Carbs are your body’s go-to source for energy. Any time you eat carbs, your body will try to break those carbs down into simple sugars (glucose) for energy. All carbs fall into two categories—simple and complex—based on how easy they are for your body to digest.
Fiber is different from other carbohydrates because it can’t be broken down by the enzymes in your small intestine where most carbs are digested.
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber passes into the large intestine where it is eliminated through the stool. Soluble fiber is fermented by the colon into short chain fatty acids. These short chain fatty acids are important because they play a key role in keeping the gut healthy 1. No matter what type of fiber you consume (soluble or insoluble), studies indicate that blood sugar levels should not be significantly increased 2 3. When calculating net carbs, you can subtract the total amount of dietary fiber from the total carbs per serving.
Sugar alcohols are used to add sweetness to many low carb foods. Your body processes sugar alcohols fairly similarly to how it processes fiber, but not all sugar alcohols are created equal either.
Do you subtract erythritol when calculating net carbs?
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is naturally found in fruit and some fermented foods like pear. Xylitol is also sugar alcohol found in Birch trees. Based on current research, erythritol and xylitol have the lowest glycemic index (GI) of all sugar alcohols on the market. This means it should have little to no impact on your blood sugar level. Research also suggests erythritol isn’t fully digested by your body. One study found that 90% of erythritol leaves your body through your urine. Because of this, you can subtract the total value of erythritol when calculating net carbs. The same applies to Xylitol.
However, other sugar alcohols like malitol, sorbitol, isomalt, and glycerin do affect your blood sugar and are partially digested by your body. Because of this, most experts recommend dividing their total number of grams per serving in half and then subtracting that number from the total carbohydrates. We do not use these sugar alcohols because they have a harmful effect on the body. To identify what sugar alcohols, if any, are present in the food or drink you're enjoying, simply check out the nutrition facts panel. Sugar alcohols will be listed under the Total Carbohydrate section.