Maybe you noticed nets carbs are popping up on food labels. Initially, you may have ignored it, thinking it’s another trendy diet phrase and will likely fade off into the abyss of fad diets of the past, but when your favorite vegan and low sugar chocolate company (hey, that’s us!) includes nets carbs on its packaging, you know it’s here to stay.

Whether you are looking to switch to a low-carb diet or are tired of not knowing what people are talking about when they say “net carbs,” you came to the right place! Keep reading to understand what they are. 

Go ahead, grab a Wow-In-Your-Mouth Peanut Butter Cup (only 3 grams of net carbs, and you’ll know all about that in a few minutes). We can wait. 

 

What Are Carbs?

Before we can understand net carbs, let’s get a real understanding of carbohydrates as a whole. Usually, what comes to mind when we think of carbs are bread, pasta, cakes, donuts, cookies, a decadent chocolate vegan cheesecake, vegan lemon cupcakes… sorry, we get lost sometimes when we start thinking about treats. Let’s get back to business. What we do not think of are things like fruits, veggies, and legumes. 

Carbs are made up of fiber, starch, and sugar. The ratio of these three components can change depending on the food. There are actually two types of carbs: simple carbs and complex carbs. Understanding what each of these types does to the body and why they are important can help you make healthier choices. 

 

Simple Carbs

Simple carbs are high in sugars and lower in fiber and starch. Simple carbs break down quickly and are used as energy in the body. Some foods naturally have simple carbs, like fruit, but simple carbs are mostly foods with processed, refined sugar. Think things like pasta, bread, soda, highly processed foods, traditional candies, and fruit juice from concentrate. 

 

Complex Carbs

Complex carbs, on the other hand, contain more fiber and starch and less sugar. Fiber leaves you feeling full longer and helps with digestion. 

When starch breaks down in the body, it provides energy. Starch also helps feed the healthy bacteria in our guts. Whole food starches gradually release sugar into the blood, unlike refined sugars that can cause your blood sugar to spike. Foods like beans, whole grains, bananas, squash, and peas are all good places to find complex carbs. 

 

What Are Net Carbs?

Everyone is talking about net carbs these days, so this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Unlike carbs, which include fiber, starch, and sugar, net carbs are the carbs that your body digests quickly and that impact your blood sugar. Simple carbs and complex carbs are not created equal, and they are digested and used in your body in very different ways. 

With net carbs, we are really looking at the components in the carbs that will raise blood sugar. 

 

How Do You Calculate Net Carbs?

Some companies have started to include net carbs on their packaging. However, a net carb rating is not a mainstream nutritional standard at this point, so you may have to do a little math when calculating your net carbs. Don’t worry; we’ve added it to our packaging, so you don’t have to worry about math when you just want to enjoy your treat—you can just get to snacking on your delicious white chocolate bar

In the most basic sense, net carbs are carbs minus fiber. Grab your calculator, because it’s time to do some math. 

Net Carbs = Carbs – Fiber

Let’s have a real-world example of calculating net carbs. You’re counting your net carbs and want to enjoy some berries. In your fridge, you have strawberries and blackberries. By doing some simple math, you can find out which one has the lowest net carbs. Side note: we are going to round the numbers to keep the math simple for this net carb calculation. 

One cup of whole strawberries has 11 grams of carbs and three grams of fiber. This would give you eight grams of net carbs.

8 grams Net Carbs = 11 grams – 3 grams

Now, let’s look at the blackberries. One cup of whole blackberries has 14 grams of carbs and eight grams of fiber. There are six grams of net carbs in a cup of blackberries.

 6 grams Net Carbs = 14 grams – 8 grams

In this example, based solely on net carbs, blackberries would be the better option for you. A cup of blackberries with a side of our devilishly delicious white chocolate bar with crispy almond pieces sounds like a perfect afternoon pick-me-up! Bonus: our white chocolate bar only has three grams of net carbs, so it’s the perfect pairing after all that math! 

 

What About Sugar Alcohols and Net Carbs?

When it comes to whole foods, the above equation is where you want to stay. However, some foods also have sugar alcohols on the ingredients list. You will usually find these in sugar-free or no sugar added products, so be sure to check the nutrition facts labels. 

Sugar alcohols include erythritol, sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, isomalt, maltitol, lactitol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, among others. These sugar alcohols do not digest as easily as normal sugars, so they affect blood sugar levels less than regular sugar would.

When sugar alcohols are in the picture, we need to calculate net carbs a little differently. Since sugar alcohols are digested differently, we can divide the number of sugar alcohol in half and take that number and the total fiber away from the total carbohydrates to get your net carbs. 

Net Carbs = Carbs – Fiber – Sugar Alcohol

If you had a sugar-free protein bar with 20 total carbs, seven grams of fiber, and four grams of sugar alcohol, the net carbs would be 11.

11 grams Net Carbs = 20 grams – 7 grams – 4 grams

To note, this formula works for sugar alcohols like erythritol. However, when  you have maltitol, sorbitol, or isomalt, you’ll actually divide the number of sugar alcohol in half first, so the formula will look like this. 

Net Carbs = Carbs – Fiber – Sugar Alcohol/2

Why Is It Important to Understand Net Carbs?

Instead of removing all of the “good” carbs, which are high in fiber, you can look at the total net carb count. Our bodies need carbs for energy and fiber. If you remove all foods because they are high in carbs, you are removing things like fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. In doing so, you are removing the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they have to offer. Instead, you can keep track of your net carb intake, to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients that you need. 

By understanding net carbs, you can make a more educated decision about what kinds of carbs you should be eating. For example, when you eat vegan and low-carb chocolate like MiiRO or use our baking chips, you can feel good about enjoying scrumptious treats that are low in net carbs. 

 

Net Carbs Are Worth Knowing About

When you look at net carbs, you are looking at the easily digestible portions in carbs that can cause spikes in your blood sugar, without considering fiber. It’s worth considering, especially if you plan to follow a low-carb diet. 

Whether you’ve decided to go on a low carb diet or something like the keto diet, or if you want to make healthier and more educated decisions, you should be all set now. 

At MiiRO, bringing you low sugar, vegan treats is our passion, which is why we consider exactly how many net carbs will be in any of our chocolates. Vegan treats do not need to be high in sugars to be delicious, and we are here to prove it.

 

Sources:

Ask the Expert: Legumes and Resistant Starch | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan 

School of Public Health

Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet | Mayo Clinic

Counting Sugar Alcohols: Diabetes Education Online | (ucsf.edu)