To Your Good Health: Are net carbs a real thing?

DEAR DR. ROACH: Are net carbs really a thing? I understand low impact on blood sugar, but not measuring net carbs. – H.C.

ANSWER: The “net carbs” number is normally calculated by taking the grams of total carbohydrates and subtracting the grams of fiber and sugar alcohols. It’s an attempt to look at the effect on blood sugar, and it has modest informational benefit. It can be misleading, because some sugar alcohols (ending in “-ol,” like maltitol and xylitol) do increase blood sugar somewhat, though not as much as sugars (which end in “-ose,” like glucose and sucrose).

I don’t recommend using the term “net carbs.” I think it’s more important to look at ingredients. Avoid large amounts of added sugar and processed starches. Make sure the carbohydrates you take in come mostly from vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. These are the foundations of a healthy diet, and you don’t need to count numbers.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu or request an order form of available health newsletters at 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. Health newsletters may be ordered from www.rbmamall.com.