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How Do You Calculate Net Carbs?

Published September 01, 2019 (Revised: June 16, 2020) Read Time: 4 minutes
Caitlin Beale

Written By: Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN

Caitlin is a registered dietitian with 9 years of experience. She holds a Master’s of Science in Nutrition as well as a Bachelor of Arts in English. She is also an ACE certified health coach.

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<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2020/06/calculating-net-carbs-thumbnail.jpg" } }, "headline":"How Do You Calculate Net Carbs?", "datePublished":"2019-09-01", "dateModified": "2020-06-16", "description":"Wondering how to calculate net carbs? It’s actually pretty simple, learn what all about net carbs here.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2020/06/calculating-net-carbs-thumbnail.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What is the difference between net carbs and carbs?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Carbs are one of the three macronutrients found in food (protein and fat being the other two). Net carbs are the total amount of carbs in a food that the body digests and absorbs. As a result, these carbs will cause your blood sugar to rise. This is why calculating net carbs is important, because some foods have a much higher net carb count than others." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "How do you calculate net carbs on a keto diet?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "To find net carbs, you subtract the total grams of fiber and/or sugar alcohols from the total listed grams of carbs. Net carbs = grams total carbs () grams total fiber () grams sugar alcohols. For example, if a food has 40 grams of total carbs, 15 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar alcohols the net carbs would be 20 grams." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Is The Difference Between Net Carbs And Carbs?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">How Do You Calculate Net Carbs On A Keto Diet?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">The Takeaway</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Limiting carbohydrates (or carbs) is necessary when following a keto diet. But if you're worried that following a keto diet means you can never enjoy carbs again, keep reading.</p> <p>There are several types of carbs, but only certain kinds are actually digested and used by the body. The other types move through the GI tract undigested and don’t raise your blood sugar, which makes them a good option for a keto diet.</p> <p>Let’s dig into the difference between carbs and net carbs, where they are found, and how you can easily calculate them.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>What is the difference between net carbs and carbs?</h2> <p><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/best-time-to-eat-carbs/" rel="noreferrer">Carbs</a> are one of the three macronutrients found in food (protein and fat being the other two). Net carbs are the <i>total</i> amount of carbs in a food that the body digests and absorbs. As a result, these carbs will cause your blood sugar to rise. This is why calculating net carbs is important, because some foods have a much higher net carb count than others.</p> <p>Foods with higher amounts of carbohydrates include fruits, certain vegetables, starches, grains, and sweets.</p> <p>While "net carbs" are a key concept in the low carb and keto community, you will find differing opinions on the subject between nutrition professionals. They aren’t actually a regulated term, so you won’t find them listed on food labels. However, it’s simple to calculate them yourself (as you will see below). </p> <p>Calculating net carbs is helpful when following a keto diet because it gives you more flexibility and options with your food choices.</p> <p>Diving even deeper into carbohydrates, there are different types which hage it’s important to also know the body responds differently depending on the type of carbs we eat.</p> <h3>Types of carbs</h3> <p>There are two main categories of carbs: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars found in sweeteners, fruits, and starches that our body quickly digests and absorbs. This causes a rapid rise in our blood sugar.</p> <p>The other type, complex carbohydrates, are sugars found in fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains and take longer to digest and absorb. Some types of complex carbohydrates move through the body completely undigested because our body doesn’t make the enzymes needed to break them down. Since they aren’t absorbed, they don’t cause blood sugar spikes. Foods high in fiber do this, as you will learn more about later in the article.</p> Once you understand the different types of carbs, you can start to calculate net carbs.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/net-carbs-infographic.jpg" alt="net carbs infographic"> <h2 id="section2">How do you calculate net carbs on a keto diet?</h2> <p>The word “net” means what is remaining after deducting or subtracting something. In this case, it’s the amount of carbs remaining after we deduct the types that don’t impact our blood sugar: fiber and sugar alcohols.</p> <p>Let’s examine the two types of carbs we subtract to find net carbs:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Fiber</strong>: As mentioned, fiber is a complex carbohydrate that moves down to the large intestine undigested, where it is processed and fermented by our gut bacteria into short-chain-fatty-acids (SCFA). SCFA have several important health benefits, including reducing inflammation, strengthening the lining of our intestines, and protecting our bodies against colon cancer.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6244749/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup> <p>Since it isn’t digested, fiber can be subtracted from the total carbs in a food to figure out its net carbs (more on this in a moment).</p></li> <li><strong>Sugar alcohols</strong>: Sugar alcohols are used in low carb or low sugar foods to provide <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-sweeteners/" rel="noreferrer">sweetness</a>. Most sugar alcohols are incompletely absorbed so the impact on blood sugar is minimal<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474826/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup>. Popular sugar alcohols include erythritol, sorbitol, and xylitol. <p>While sugar alcohols can be a way to have a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-desserts-to-satisfy/" rel="noreferrer">sweet treat</a> while following a keto or low carb diet, they can really be hard on the gut. Like fiber, they are fermented by the gut bacteria and can cause gas, bloating, or cramping<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5093271/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup>. Because of this, like any other sweet treat or processed food, they should be eaten in moderation.</p></li> </ul> <p>Once you know how many total carbs, fiber, and sugar alcohols a food has, you can easily calculate the net carbs. All of this information is listed on the nutrition facts label. </p> <p>To find net carbs, you subtract the total grams of fiber and/or sugar alcohols from the total listed grams of carbs.</p> <p>Net carbs = grams total carbs (-) grams total fiber (-) grams sugar alcohols.</p> <p>For example, if a food has 40 grams of total carbs, 15 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar alcohols the net carbs would be 20 grams.</p> <p>40 grams total carbs (-) 15 grams of fiber (-) 5 grams sugar alcohols = 20 net carbs.</p> <p>You can find the amount of total carbs, fiber, and sugar alcohols on the nutrition facts label.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>The takeaway</h2> <p>While the keto diet limits carbs, understanding how the body responds to different types can help increase the variety of foods you can eat.</p> <p>Nutrient-rich carbs can and should be enjoyed in healthy, limited amounts on a keto diet. Using this technique you can include more high-fiber foods that otherwise may be considered too high in carbohydrates, including <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-fruit/" rel="noreferrer">berries</a>, vegetables, and nuts. And while sugar alcohols can be subtracted from total carbs, they should be eaten in moderation due to GI side effects.</p> <p>If you’ve been unsure about how to add more healthy carbs to your keto diet, this may be your solution. Calculating net carbs is a simple, but helpful tool to help you successfully stay on track and reach your goals.</p> </section> </article>

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