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However, counting net carbs can work for people with diabetes who use a meal-planning technique known as carbohydrate counting to help balance their blood sugar levels—when done correctly.
Here's how a person with diabetes can count net carbs safely and effectively:
The food in question must contain at least 5 grams of dietary fiber in the serving size you are planning to eat.
Read the Nutrition Facts label or look up the nutrition facts of the food to find both the total carbohydrates and total fiber for the serving size you plan to eat.
Subtract HALF the total grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrates to calculate the net carbs in your food serving.
Always perform this calculation yourself and do not rely on "net carb" totals listed on any food label.
Take the following example (see food label, left):
This product has 5 grams of dietary fiber, which means you can subtract half that amount (2.5 grams) from the total carbohydrate (23 grams) to calculate net carbs, which equals 20.5 grams per serving.
The whole point of counting net carbs versus total carbs is to allow someone to eat more of a carbohydrate-containing food without adversely affecting their blood sugar levels. If you find the issue of net carbs confusing, don't worry about it. There is no reason to use this technique if counting total carbohydrates works well for you. Both options can work as long as you are doing them correctly and reading "net carb" labels with a discerning eye.
For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association's National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.
Amy L. Poetker
Amy Poetker is a licensed and registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's degree in dietetics. Amy, who has spent most of her career working in diabetes education, is dedicated to the treatment of that disease and the prevention of related complications. See all of Amy's articles.
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