So what is the difference and what should be looking for?
CARBS, CARBS, CARBS but its great to know what each means.
Nutrition labels will reveal the amount of total carbohydrate, fiber and sugar in a serving of food, but it is essential to understand what each term means before you are able to make informed dietary decisions.
Individual sugar molecules connect to form carbohydrates. When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into individual sugar molecules and converts them into glucose, which your cells use for energy. Simple carbohydrates, or sugars, contain one or two sugar molecules, while complex carbohydrates contain three or more sugar molecules.
The total carbohydrate in a food refers to the combined amount of all three types of carbohydrate -- starch, sugar and fiber. Specifically, food manufacturers determine the total carbohydrate amount by subtracting the weight of total fat, crude protein, moisture and ash from the total weight of the food. The percent daily value on a nutrition label shows the amount of a specific nutrient in each serving of food relative to the daily recommendations for a 2,000-calorie diet.
Several types of sugar exist, such as sucrose, fructose and lactose, which are the scientific names for table, fruit and milk sugar, respectively. Sugar is the simplest type of carbohydrate and, unlike fiber, your body easily breaks it down during digestion and converts it to glucose for energy. In food, sugar can either be natural or added, but the nutrition label does not make a distinction between the two.
Fiber is a complex carbohydrate found in plant foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. Fiber helps maintain bowel regularity and may decrease your risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar, obesity, high cholesterol and colorectal cancer, according to MayoClinic.com. Fiber is the only type of carbohydrate that your body cannot digest, so it does not provide energy or increase blood sugar levels..
Manufacturers commonly use sugar alcohols -- chemically-altered plant carbohydrates -- as sweeteners and sugar substitutes because they affect blood sugar to a lesser extent than starch and sugar. When a food contains sugar alcohols, the total carbohydrate amount includes the sugar alcohols in addition to starch, fiber and sugar. Common sugar alcohols include sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol. Foods can be sugar-free without being carbohydrate-free, so if you carbohydrate count, remember to count sugar alcohols along with other carbohydrates.