Net carbs, total carbs… are you confused about what is what? We totally get it.
We receive many questions from customers and followers scared that they are eating too many carbs. If you’re still learning about counting carbohydrates, there’s so much information out there that it can be a bit confusing.
But no worries! In this article, we will explain what are net carbs, why you should care about it, and how to calculate it correctly for both whole foods and packaged goods - including our keto chocolate bars.
Are you ready to start counting net carbs like a pro?
What are net carbs?
Net carbs are often referred to as digestible or impact carbs, which includes both simple and complex carbs. The concept of net carbs is based on the fact that not all carbohydrates affect your body in the same way. Carbohydrates like starch and sugars are fully absorbed by the body, causing a quick blood sugar spike after you eat them.
Why you should calculate net carbs on keto?
If you’re on a low-carb or keto diet or trying to minimize the impact on blood sugar, it's often recommended to check net carbs. The ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet. If you're counting your macros, the daily intake of net carbs on a keto diet is usually between 20-30 grams. Looking at a portion of broccoli can be quite scary. Like ‘OMG! I cannot even eat this broccoli cause it has 20g of carbs’. But broccoli has a lot of fiber, which does not count as a net carb.
However, the amount of daily net carb intake may vary from person to person, and depends on your medical conditions, or the reason why you’re embarking on your ketogenic journey. When in doubt, contact a physician or experienced dietitian for the right expert advice.
How do I calculate net carbs?
To count net carbs you need to check the food’s total carbohydrates, including starches, sugars, fiber, and sugar alcohols. You can find this at the Nutritional Facts on the product’s label. The net carb calculation can get a little bit confusing at first. That’s because it differs for whole foods and packaged foods. Also, for packaged goods, the labels’ regulation differs depending on the region the product is marketed. So, there is an extra little trick to calculate net carbs from packaged foods as well.
How do I calculate net carbs from whole foods?
To obtain the net carbs from whole foods (like vegetables or fruits), you need to subtract the fiber from the total carbs. Naturally occurring fibers move slowly through the digestive system and is not absorbed in your small intestine. Both soluble and insoluble fibers do not impact blood sugar. Which is why they are not an 'impact carb’.
For example, if a food contains 10 grams (g) of total carbs and 5 grams (g) of fiber, you need to subtract the fiber from the total carbs to get the total of net carbs.
(5g) Net carbs = (10g) Total carbs - (5g) Fiber
How do I calculate net carbs from packaged foods?
As packaged foods may contain sugar alcohols, such as erythritol or xylitol, these sweeteners need to be part of the net carb calculation as well.
Remember that net carbs are carbs that impact blood sugar?
In this case, sugar alcohols that do not have an impact on blood sugar need to be subtracted from total carbs as well. This is why it’s important to know your sugar alcohols very well.
Sugar alcohols (also known as polyols) are sugar substitutes used in many ‘diet’ food products to sweeten things up a little. Sugar alcohols are not artificial sweeteners. The only sugar alcohol that your body cannot digest into glucose and does not impact blood sugar whatsoever is erythritol.
Ok, now is where it gets a little tricky. Every region has its own regulations when it comes to food labeling. That’s why you need to be aware of the regulations in your own country or region.
If you’re buying a USA product (or imported from the USA), and this product contains 10 grams (g) of total carbs, 5 grams (g) of fiber and 2 grams (g) of erythritol, you need to subtract both the erythritol and the fibers from the total carbs to obtain the net carbs.
USA products: (3g) Net carbs = (10g) Total carbs - (5g) Fiber - (2g) Erythritol
However, if you’re buying a European product (or imported from Europe), the amount of total carbs listed in the nutritional label is already minus the fiber. This means that you don’t have to subtract the fibers anymore, only the erythritol.
For example, if a European product contains 10 grams (g) of total carbs, 5 grams (g) of fibers, and 2 grams (g) of erythritol, the calculation for the net carbs is:
European products: (7g) Net carbs = (10g) Total carbs - (2g) erythritol
This is true to our keto chocolate bars as well. For example:
One Funky Fat Foods' White chocolate bar (50g) has 15 grams (g) of total carbs and 15 grams (g) of erythritol (polyols). This means that it has less than 1g net carb per bar.
Not all carbs are equal. Starch, sugars, fibers, and sugar alcohols affect your body in different ways. If you're following a ketogenic diet or wanna minimize blood sugar impact, it's very important to pay attention to net carbs.
Now that you know the importance of calculating net carbs correctly, there are a few other important points you should be careful with when checking food labels:
- Pay attention to sugar alcohols: In food labels, sugar alcohols are often listed as polyols, and not as the sweetener itself. It’s important to double-check the ingredients list because it could be that the product has both erythritol and another sugar alcohol, such as Maltitol. Maltitol powder has a relatively low glycemic index (35) yet still impacts blood sugar. Maltitol syrup has an even higher glycemic index (52). To be safe, for products containing sugar alcohols such as xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol, and mannitol (except erythritol), you should subtract only half of the polyols. If you have diabetes or other health concerns, do some research, and consult your physician or another health professional before eating foods with sugar alcohols.
Remember to check the serving size: When checking the nutritional facts, make sure you are doing your calculations for the right serving size.
Do not only check the nutritional facts but also the ingredients list: Many packaged foods are made with ingredients that affect your blood sugar levels but that are not listed as carbs in the nutritional facts. Check out which ingredients you should avoid in packaged foods.
- When in doubt, do your research: As food labels vary between regions, if you’re not sure, do some research on the product you’re consuming. Perhaps, reach out to the brand and ask them to clarify that for you.