How Can a Food Have Carbs but No Calories?

How Can a Food Have Carbs but No Calories?

Video | Short Answer | Fiber Example | Sugar Alcohol Example

How can a food have no calories but still contain carbohydrates? After all, carbs have four calories per gram, so what happened to those calories? Well, they didn’t disappear, but your body might not have seen them. This blog post explains how a food can have carbs but no calories. 

Short Answer: Carbs but No Calories

The secret lies in the fact that, from your body’s perspective, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Some carbs, like fiber and sugar alcohols, avoid digestion in your small intestine. Without digestion, there’s no absorption into your bloodstream. So they are not seen and therefore don’t count. 

not all carbohydrates are created equal

How Can a Food Have Carbs but No Calories? [Video]

In this video, you’ll learn…

  • How Shirataki Noodles can have carbs but no calories.
  • The ingredients in Swerve that cause it to have no calories.
  • Information on recipes and low-carb foods you can eat for weight loss success!

Shirataki Noodles [Example]

Shirataki noodles are white, somewhat translucent noodles made from a type of fiber called glucomannan. They gained the nickname “miracle noodles” because they contain zero calories. If you’re curious about how to prepare them, see my blog post about Shirataki noodles here.

However, the point of this blog post is that despite having no calories, each serving contains 5 grams of carbohydrates. This food can be advertised as a 0-calorie food because of how the gut bacteria act on the glucomannan fiber in the noodles.

Remember that fiber is not easily digested, so it doesn’t break down in your small intestine and send its energy to your bloodstream like other carbohydrates. Instead, it makes its way down to your large intestine, where the gut bacteria ferment it and turn it into short-chain fatty acids.

Those fatty acids provide you with many health benefits and act as an energy source. However, their energy is a fraction of what we get from easily digestible carbohydrates. Since a serving of shirataki noodles is mainly from fiber, it is more or less calorie-free.

Shirataki Noodles

Sugar Alcohols & Non-digestible Carbs [Example]

Swerve is another example of this carb-calorie discrepancy. Swerve is a sugar replacement popular with low carb and keto dieters. It contains two non-digestible carbohydrates: erythritol and oligosaccharides.

Erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol, can be added to foods to make them sweeter and improve their crave factor and texture. Oligosaccharides are a sweet-tasting type of fiber. Both of these ingredients resist digestion.

Therefore, they have less impact on your blood sugar than the sugar they are replacing. Since there is so little impact, the carbs they contain do not have to be counted toward the total calories of the food. 

Sugar Alcohols & Non-digestible Carbs

Takeaway

So there you go. Some foods can contain carbohydrates but be advertised as a no-calorie food because of the non-digestible fiber and sugar alcohols they contain. However, don’t get into the mindset that these foods give you a free pass to eat with abandon. Sugar substitutes may technically be calorie-free, but they are sweet. That sweetness can stimulate your appetite, making it easy to overeat. 

Don’t get into the mindset that these foods give you a free pass to eat with abandon.

Many things can make you scratch your head when you start a low carb diet. Chief among them is, “What can you eat?” I put together a list of 100 low carb foods that you can download for free.

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!

About the Author

Becky Gillaspy, DC, is the author of The Intermittent Fasting Guide and Cookbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991. 

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