Wellness Pathway #216 Net Calories, Not Net Carbs

Perhaps you’ve seen the latest marketing gimmick to hit the food-store shelves. “Net carbs” are all the rage as people continue to search for the elusive promise of eating more and weighing less. But guess what? “Net carbs” don’t add up when it comes maintaining optimum weight.

The theory behind “net carbs” is derived from the glycemic index, which I discussed briefly in Wellness Pathway #142. Coined decades ago by University of Toronto researcher David Jenkins, the glycemic index is a helpful measure of how rapidly a food is converted to glucose in your blood stream. High-glycemic foods — such as white flour, white sugar, white rice, white bread, and white potatoes — provoke a glucose (or sugar) flash that contributes to a wide variety of problems including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

It’s best to avoid or minimize high-glycemic foods and, when you choose to eat them anyway, to mitigate their glycemic effect by eating small quantities along with high-fiber complements.

Enter the “net carb” marketers. Because some carbohydrates (fiber, in particular) tend to offset the glycemic effect, and because other carbohydrates (such as sugar alcohols and glycerin) are allegedly glycemic-neutral, the food industry has started to subtract those carbohydrates from the total carbohydrates in order to post a low “net carb” figure on the package, in keeping with many high-protein diets.

The danger here is multifaceted. Many people may think that a low “net carb” figure equals a low calorie figure. Not true! Just as you can get fat from eating too many low-fat foods, so can you get fat from eating too many low-net-carb foods. And that message is clearly not printed on the labels. In addition, not everyone reacts to carbohydrates in the same way. Although calories are calories, and Weight Watcher points are points, carbs are not necessarily carbs when it comes to the glycemic index. An OK low-net carb food for one person may cause another person problems when it comes to their sugar levels.

So what’s a person to do? I like to stay focused on eating a low-calorie, heart-healthy diet. Watching calories or points is important when food abounds, since we are all made to be on a see-food diet (when we see food, we eat it). I also like to avoid high-glycemic foods. Eating slowly and eating raw or lightly cooked foods also contribute to a more even glycemic profile. Avoiding packaged foods altogether, whether low “net carb” or not, is the best wellness strategy I know. 

Coaching Inquiries: Are you tempted by the “low net carb” marketing? Do you tend to eat packaged foods? What changes could you make and sustain that would support a low-calorie, heart-healthy diet?

To reply to this Pathway, use our Feedback Form. To learn more about our Wellness Coaching programs and to arrange for a complimentary wellness coaching session, use our Contact Form or Email Bob.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
2010-2011 President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org

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