Food labels can be confusing and, when following a low carb lifestyle, you’re counting the carbohydrates you eat. But what about sugar? You’ve probably read, all over the media, about the dangers of sugar so do you just avoid sugar, or is it the total amount of carbs that matter on Atkins?

Food labels can be confusing and, when following a low carb lifestyle, you’re counting the carbohydrates you eat. But what about sugar? You’ve probably read, all over the media, about the dangers of sugar so do you just avoid sugar, or is it the total amount of carbs that matter on Atkins?

These questions arise all the time so I wanted to write a short blog explaining the different types of carbs. Before I even get to this though, remember to look at the serving size on labels. Located at the top of the table, the serving size may be different from what you consume so ensure you’re calculating according to how much you’re eating. A bottled drink, for instance, could contain 2-3 servings but it’s easy to drink the whole bottle in one go!

 Food label

Look at this example. The label shows the nutritional information per 100g and per serving. A serving is only 45g yet, depending on the type of food, you could easily eat more than the recommended serving and get more carbs than you bargained for.

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates comprise of three different nutrients – starches, sugar & dietary fibre. So, on Atkins, you’d count the whole amount of carbohydrates with no deductions if you’re in the UK/EU. For the example above, you’d count 33.2g carbs per 45g serving. Carbohydrates come from many sources, such as fizzy drinks – which are just sugary carbs – to white bread – which contain refined carbs to complex carbs from vegetables. However, all carbs; except fibre; impact blood sugar so all carbs should be counted.

Sugar

All sugars, whether added or naturally present in foods/drinks are shown in the sugar section of the nutritional panel. So will include lactose (milk sugar), sucrose, fructose etc. However, on the label, you’ll see ‘of which sugars’ and this is included within the carbohydrate total so don’t count it separately.

Carbohydrates – 3g

Of which sugars – 2.8g

For this example, you’d count 3g carbohydrates and the sugar amount of that total is 2.8g.

Sugar is found in many forms such as sweets, fizzy drinks and desserts. However sugar is also found in other foods like sauces, condiments, bread and other savoury foods.  Always check labels on foods that have them. Having high sugar foods causes a sugar ‘high’ as it spikes insulin levels and your body is more likely to store the carbs as bodyfat. Then you often experience a crash in energy and feel lethargic and craving more sugary foods. So try & keep sugar intake to a minimum and get the majority of your carbs from vegetables and other complex carbs.  

Fibre

This nutrient is what causes some confusion as much of the Atkins older books are American and so refer to ‘net carbs’ whereby you deduct fibre from the total carbs. However, as stated above, on UK/EU labels you don’t deduct fibre as it’s shown separately.

Don’t avoid fibre as it helps to promote healthy digestion, stabilise blood sugar levels and can lower blood cholesterol levels too. So has many health benefits and the recommendation is for 30g of fibre per day for adults. So keep your vegetable intake high and you can even add ground flaxseeds to your meals if you’re struggling to keep fibre intake to an optimal level.

Net Carbs

In the UK, this only applies to low carb foods such as Atkins products. The “net carb” reference is when you’ve deducted polyols from the carbohydrate total, as polyols are indigestible carbs.

I hope this short guide makes it clearer but do feel free to visit our  forum and ask any questions if you aren’t sure! 

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Posted by Linda O'Byrne
Atkins Nutritionist