Why do carbs have such a bad rep?
Man, do carbs have a bad rap. If you’ve ever wondered why, the answer is simple… BECAUSE WE DON’T UNDERSTAND THEM… that’s it, I said it! So dive in with me and get to know what carbs do in your body, the different types you can find out there, and what the heck do terms like “net carbs” and “low-carb” mean.
CARBS: What are they?!
Carbohydrates (if we want to get technical) are the fuel that gets us going throughout the day. They are extremely important for fueling our brain and for powering up our working muscles. They work in harmony, as a team, with protein and fat to keep us healthy.
So what happens when you ghost carbs?That harmony breaks, leading to:
- Increased cravings and hunger (which eventually lead to weight gain);
- Fatigue (which makes you drink more coffee than you actually need);
- And THE WORST: Muscle waste (when your body starts eating your muscles for energy).
Scary, huh? So here’s the BIGGEST SECRET: The thing you have to really worry about is the TYPE OF CARB you consume, versus the calories those carbs provide. As simple as that.
But to put this big secret into action, you need to be able to ID the 4 main different types of carbs. So let’s get a bit science-y here:
Sugars are considered simple carbs. They are quickly digested and absorbed, providing instant energy to our body. To understand them better, I classify them into 2 groups: N SUGARS & P SUGARS.
“N SUGARS” stands for natural, and you can find them naturally in fruits and dairy.
Then we have “P SUGARS,” which stands for processed. This group includes table sugar, syrup, candy, processed food and pop, just to mention a few. This category, in particular, is the one you need to be careful with, because they are “empty calories”. This means that they have zero to barely any nutrients. So you are pretty much eating “nothing,” and that nothing is silently causing weight gain and inflammation… So stay away from those!
Starches give you sustained energy, released gradually throughout the day. They are complex, so they take longer to digest and to get absorbed. That is exactly what makes them so good for you.
By being slowly absorbed, starches keep you energized and full for longer periods of time. You can find starches in beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, potatoes and whole grains.
Fibre is also a complex carb. The difference is that it doesn’t get absorbed in our body, so it pretty much adds zero calories! However, it has tons of benefits, like keeping a healthy digestion and promoting a more efficient detoxification.
Fibre, like starches, also keeps you full, helping you prevent sugary cravings. You can find fibre in veggies, fruits (especially those you eat skin-on), beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.
Sugar alcohols are a combination of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules (just without ethanol - the compound that gets you drunk). Thanks to this unique structure, they look and taste similar to sugar. However, the cool part about sugar alcohols is that they are partially resistant to digestion, meaning that they won’t be fully absorbed, just like fiber. This means they provide sweetness, but with way less calories than simple sugars.
There are different types of sugar alcohols and they all differ in taste and absorbability. The most common are erythritol (the only one that doesn't absorb at all), xylitol, maltitol and sorbitol; and you can also naturally find them in fruits and veggies.
And those, my friends, are the different types of carbs. Which ones do you need to stay away from? It's a no brainer: P sugars!
Now, the BIG QUESTION is:
WHAT THE HECK ARE NET CARBS?
When you see “low-carb” in food packaging, it often means that it does contain carbohydrates but it will most likely be high in non-absorbable carbs, like fiber and sugar alcohols.
So when you buy a “low-carb” product, the easiest way to know exactly how many carbs your body is actually going to absorb is by calculating the NET CARBS (which is really just a catchy way of saying absorbable carbs). But to do that, we have to get a bit math-y…
When you read a label, you will see TOTAL CARBS, and under this main category you’ll find subcategories: fibre, sugar alcohols and sugar.
What you need to do is subtract the fibre and the sugar alcohols from the TOTAL CARBS, and that result will be the NET CARBS.
TOTAL CARBS - FIBRE - SUGAR ALCOHOLS = NET CARBS
Now, as I mentioned before, a little portion of sugar alcohols (other than erythritol) does get absorbed. So if you want to be extremely specific on how much your body will absorb, then you can use this formula:
TOTAL CARBS - FIBRE - (SUGAR ALCOHOLS ÷ 2) = NET CARBS
Now you know how to identify the sugars you need to stay away from and you have also become NET CARB savvy! Congrats!
Ready to put your newly found carb knowledge into action? Start with our brand-new FÄV Collagen Cookies: low net carb, high protein cookies with benefits, available in delicious flavours!