Starch, sugar, and fiber: Here's what the 3 main types of carbohydrates mean to your health, plus how to track them
- 4 Minutes Read
Not all carbs are equal. Learn about the three main types of carbohydrates and how MyNetDiary makes it easy to set custom targets and track what is important to you!
Carbohydrates, or "carbs," include starches, sugars, and fiber. Starches and sugars, whether found in grains, fruit, milk, yogurt, or sweets, wind up as blood sugar and are used as a source of energy.
Some people choose to limit carbohydrates to promote weight loss. In addition, studies associate a diet high in refined starches and added sugars with a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
The healthiest carbohydrate sources among the three main types include unprocessed whole grains (such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice), fruit, dried beans and peas, unsweetened milk or yogurt.
Most of our users are trying to lose weight or manage blood sugar. Therefore, MyNetDiary uses a default macronutrient distribution that encourages healthy proteins and fats while avoiding excess carbs. These goals are within the Institute of Medicine's Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range. These ranges support the intake of essential nutrients while reducing chronic disease risk.
|Macronutrient||DRI: Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges||MyNetDiary Goal|
|Fat||20-35% of total calories||35% of total calories|
|Carbohydrate||45-65% of total calories||45% of total calories|
|Protein||10-35% of total calories||20% of total calories|
If you want a different macronutrient distribution, you can customize your goals with a Premium Membership, as shown below:
Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate that humans cannot completely digest. The benefits of fiber include proper digestion, the growth of healthful gut bacteria, and feeling full. High-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains contain other valuable nutrients.
There are two types of fiber, insoluble and soluble. Most foods provide a mix of both fibers.
Insoluble fiber doesn't absorb water. This type of fiber adds bulk to the stool, helping prevent and manage constipation and supporting a healthy digestive tract. Good sources of insoluble fiber include bran from grains, skins, and seeds from fruits and vegetables.
Soluble fiber absorbs water to form a gel-like consistency.
Soluble fiber helps soften stools and lowers cholesterol. Rich sources of soluble fiber include oats, chia seeds, carrots, and legumes.
The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for total fiber intake for adults is 14 grams per 1000 calories and is MyNetDiary's default goal.
You may prefer to use these Adequate Intake (AI) goals for fiber to encourage plenty of fiber even on a lower calorie plan:
If you track sugars using MyNetDiary, the value refers to total sugars, whether naturally occurring sugars (like fruit and yogurt) or added sugars (like granulated sugar, honey, and corn syrup). MyNetDiary uses a default limit of 25% of total calories for sugars.
Excess added sugars can pose a risk for heart disease, supply extra calories, and reduce nutrient quality. Of the three types of carbohydrates, sugars can be the sneakiest to sabotage your weight-loss goals.
The US Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 10% of total calories from added sugars. For example, if you consume 2000 calories, your limit would be 200 calories (50 grams) from added sugars per day.
MyNetDiary uses this target of under 10% of calories from added sugars as a default limit.
Despite the name, sugar alcohols are neither sugar nor alcohol. Instead, they are a type of sweetener used in many reduced-sugar foods.
Sugar alcohols are lower in calories than sugar because we don't entirely digest them. As a result, some people experience unpleasant side effects (such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea) when consuming them in large amounts.
Net carbs refers to the fully digestible carbs found in foods.
Net Carbs = Total Carbohydrate (g) minus Dietary Fiber (g) minus Sugar Alcohol (g)
Example: For a food with 28 grams total carb, 10 grams fiber, and 12 grams of sugar alcohol, Net Carb is:
28g Total Carb
- 10g Dietary Fiber
- 12g Sugar Alcohol
= 6 g Net Carb
Note: If a product does not list sugar alcohols, MyNetDiary assumes this value is zero when calculating net carbs.
If you have diabetes, consider using Diabetes Carbs Count or "D-Carbs," for tracking. Net carbs underestimate the effect on blood sugar since a small amount of fiber and sugar alcohol turns into blood sugar. Diabetes Carbs Count is helpful if you precisely count your carbohydrate to calculate a mealtime insulin dose.
D-Carbs = Total Carb carb minus half the Total Fiber (if 5 grams or more) and half the Sugar Alcohol (if 5 grams or more).
A food has 28 grams total carb, 10 grams of fiber, and 12 grams of sugar alcohol. The calculated Diabetes Carb Count appears below:
28g Total Carb
- 5g (half of 10 g total Fiber)
- 6g (half of 12 g sugar alcohol)
= 17g Diabetes Carb
Tip: If you have diabetes, ask your health care provider or diabetes educator about the best method to count fiber and sugar alcohols.
MyNetDiary gives you the flexibility to set custom carb targets and track the three main types of carbohydrates and more!
You can track and customize your goal for any of the following:
Simply tap My Weight Plan on your Dashboard and select the "Nutrient Targets" tab at the top. When you choose specific nutrients, you may also select "Show on Dashboard" or "Show in Log" under Target and Settings to see the nutrients more conveniently.
Perhaps you're striving to lose weight or watching blood sugars for diabetes management. Either way, better understanding the three types of carbohydrates in your diet and applying these tracking tips will help you reach your healthier lifestyle.
Do you know how much added sugar you consume per day? Here's how to find out if you are eating too much
Want to master your blood sugars? Here's what you'll want to learn about diabetes
Why you should eat good food sources of fiber every day for optimal health
Reviewed and updated on Jan 25, 2022 by Sue Heikkinen MS, RDN, CDCES
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