Net Carbs Explained

Understanding net carbs is important when you’re looking at nutrition facts and trying to figure out if a product will impact your blood sugar or not. This post clarifies in detail what net carbs are and why you should care.

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What Keto is and why we care about net carbs

Keto is a way of eating where you limit carbohydrate to the point where your body uses an alternative fuel source: ketones. Your liver (in the absence of carbs) creates ketone bodies which in turn help to manage energy demand. When you’re on a keto diet you’re consuming limited carbs, moderate to high protein, and high fat (for energy demand).

The Keto Diet is the nutritional management of macronutrients (Fat, Protein, Carbs)

Net Carbs: Important for Some

Net carbs are important to people on a ketogenic or low-carb diet, those trying to reverse metabolic disease, attempting to reverse a diabetes diagnosis, pre-diabetes diagnosis, and those managing type 1 diabetes.

What are net carbs?

Net carbs are carbohydrates that are metabolized in the small intestines. Net carbs are the carbs that turn to sugar in your blood and in turn, raise blood sugar. Net carbs stimulate insulin and are metabolized and used on a cellular level.

What’s not a net carb?

Most dietary fiber won’t metabolize in your small intestine as sugar, several variations of fiber are not considered a net carb. Sugar alcohols, Allulose, Stevia, and Monk Fruit are examples of sweeteners, are carbohydrates (in consideration of the nutrition facts on a label), but do not metabolize in your small intestine and are not a “calculated carb”in relation to net carbs. These alternative sweeteners are not calculated as a carb because they DO NOT turn in to blood sugar nor do they raise blood sugar.

How do you calculate net carbs?

On a nutrition label, you subtract fiber, sugar alcohols, and Allulose to get a net carb total.

Total Carbs (minus) Dietary Fiber (minus) Sugar Alcohols (minus) Allulose (equals) Net Carbs

For example:

Total Carbs: 16g
– Dietary Fiber: 3g
– Sugar Alcohol: 1g
– Allulose: 10g

Calculation: 16-3-1-10 = 2

Net Carbs = 2g

Net Carbs Review

  • If you’re counting carbs for a specific diet or goal, net carbs do not need to be included in total daily carb count.
  • Net carbs generally do NOT metabolize as sugar in the small intestine.
  • Most dietary fibers do NOT raise blood sugar.
  • Sugar alcohols, Allulose, and Stevia (among others) do NOT raise blood sugar.
  • Counting net carbs is useful on the Ketogenic Diet because the fibers and alternative sweeteners deducted will not typically raise blood sugar or take a person out of Ketosis.
  • The downside: Ingredients that are high in carb count but are not counted as net carbs (fibers, alternative sweeteners as mentioned) may cause bloating, gut irritation, and gas.

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2 comments
    1. Great question but it comes with a dumb answer: it depends on your goals.

      If you’re trying to go at this as simple as possible, pick a number between 20-30 net carbs and go from there. If you’re attempting a therapeutic ketogenic diet, maybe stick to no more than 10 (or less) to start . There are keto calculators online that can help you determine what’s best.

      If you start with the 20-30g net carbs per day, you’ll know what’s working well for you after 6 weeks (time varies for everyone). Adjust as needed to help reach your goal. Less carbs consumed may improve outcomes, your body will tell you by how you feel and how you’re doing at hitting whatever goals you have.

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