Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things to Know About Sugars and Total Carbs Fiber

The Nutrition Facts label found on food packaging is designed to help you make healthy food choices, but some of the information on the label can be confusing if you don't know what it means. Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient you need to maintain good health. Understanding the difference between total carbs, fiber and sugar on a food label can make it easier for you to make healthy food choices.

Total Carbs

Total carbs on a food label includes the total amount of carbs coming from fiber, sugar and other carbs, such as starch, which basically is complex sugars. You might see the term "net carbs" used. This refers to total carbs minus fiber carbs. Carbs are your body's primary source of energy, and should make up 45 to 65 percent of your daily calorie intake. On a 2,000-calorie diet, that means about 225 to 325 grams of carbs a day. Carbs are found in a variety of different types of foods such as grains, bread, crackers, fruits, vegetables, sweets and salty snack foods.


Fiber is a type of carb that your body cannot digest. Fiber in food does not provide your body with calories, but helps promote bowel regularity and meal satiety. Eating foods with more fiber might also help lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Adult women need 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, and adult men 30 to 38 grams.


Sugars are simple carbs, which means they require minimal digestion and act as a quick source of energy. Sugars are naturally found in fruits and milk products, and in foods with added sugar such as sweets and candy. Whether the sugar comes from fruit or sweets, your body uses it the same way. However, sugars found in fruit and milk come with other essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, while the sugars found in sweets and desserts offer very little nutritional value. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends you limit your intake of foods with added sugar to 5 to 15 percent of total calories, or about 100 to 300 calories a day on a 2,000-calorie diet.


When reading food labels to help you make healthy food selections, it is important to take the whole food into consideration. For example, skim milk is not a good source of fiber, and 11 of the 12 grams of its total carbs come from sugar. But skim milk is a good source of protein, calcium and vitamin D. When looking for good carbs in your diet, include more whole, fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains.

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