Understanding Net Carbs: Definition, Calculation, and Benefits


The term “net carbs” is often used in the context of low-carb or keto diets. It’s essential to understand what net carbs are, how to calculate them, and their importance in maintaining a healthy diet. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. What are Net Carbs?

Net carbs refer to the carbohydrates that impact blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates include sugars, fiber, and sugar alcohols, and it’s crucial to know which types you should limit in your diet. Excess carbohydrates, especially refined sugars, can have negative impacts on your health, such as spiking blood sugar levels, causing food cravings, messing with hormones, and leading to diseases like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disorders.

  1. Calculating Net Carbs

To calculate net carbs, subtract fiber and sugar alcohols from a food’s total carbohydrates:

Net Carbs = Total carbohydrates – Fiber – Sugar alcohols

It’s important to consider which sugar alcohols should be ignored and which should be partially included in the net carb calculation. Sugar alcohols that can be ignored are erythritol, xylitol, mannitol, and lactitol. On the other hand, sugar alcohols like maltitol, sorbitol, isomalt, and glycerin should be partially added to net carbs.

When calculating net carbs, some monosaccharide sugars such as allulose can also be ignored. Although allulose is absorbed by the body, it is excreted unused and does not elevate blood sugar levels. It provides only 1/10 of the calories provided by table sugar. Research has shown that allulose can help lower visceral fat, which is linked to heart problems.

  1. Advantages of Considering Net Carbs

Taking net carbs into account can offer several benefits:

  • Increases fiber intake: By focusing on net carbs, you’re more likely to consume foods high in fiber, which promotes digestive health and satiety.
  • Offers less restrictive food choices: Calculating net carbs allows for a more extensive range of food options without compromising your low-carb or keto diet goals.
  • Prevents hypoglycemia for insulin users: Considering net carbs when administering insulin can help prevent low blood sugar levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia.

By understanding net carbs and their importance in a healthy diet, you can make more informed decisions about the foods you consume, particularly when following a low-carb or keto diet.