What Are Net Carbs

net carbs

Net carbs are the total amount of digestible carbohydrates in a food or meal. Knowing this number is useful for people who are tracking their carbohydrate intake to lose weight or stay healthy.

What are Net Carbs?

The FDA does not have a standard definition of what constitutes net carbs, so some people may have a different view of it. But in short, net carbs are what is left after subtracting the grams of fiber (and sugar alcohols) from the total carbohydrates in each serving.

The concept behind net carbs can be attributed to our body’s digestive process. Because certain carbohydrates such as fiber and sugar alcohols are not fully digested by the body and do not cause significant changes in blood sugar, many people say they do not count toward your total carbohydrate intake.

Who Counts Net Carbs?

“Most people subtract fiber and sugar alcohols from total carbohydrates to estimate the amount of carbohydrate that affects blood glucose,” explains Jill Weisenberger, M.S., RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, Virginia-based author of Prediabetes: A Complete Guide. But people who track their blood sugar regularly – people with diabetes – don’t necessarily count net carbohydrates.” According to the American Diabetes Association, it’s not necessary to subtract dietary fiber or sugar alcohols from total carbohydrates when counting carbohydrates,” Weisenberger says.” Most diabetes educators work one-on-one with people taking insulin to determine if fiber and sugar alcohols need to be subtracted to maintain target blood sugar levels.”

So, who exactly is counting net carbs? Low-carb dieters – Atkins, keto, etc. Since keto diets are low in carbs, counting net carbs gives you more wiggle room in your day. This can be important, especially if you allow for healthy foods like vegetables in your diet.

How to Calculate Net Carbs

One thing that can be a little confusing when it comes to carbohydrate counting is the “net” carbohydrate situation. Don’t worry, because it’s not as difficult as it sounds.

The formula for net carbs is: total carbs – (fiber + sugar alcohols).

If you are a beginner at calculating net carbs, the easiest thing to do is to start with whole foods. Whole foods are very simple because they consist of natural sugars and fiber without having to deal with sugar alcohols.

Take avocado, for example. It is one of the most important whole foods in the keto diet, not only because of its dense nutrient content, but also because it contains high amounts of healthy fats (such as omega-3 and omega-6).

A medium-sized avocado contains:

  • 21 g fat
  • 2.7 g protein
  • 12 g carbs of which 9.2 g is fiber
  • 12g carbs – 9.2g fiber = 2.8 grams of net carbs

Calculating sugar alcohols can be a bit difficult because of the different calorie content of sugar alcohols. Generally, you can split the grams of sugar alcohols in half and subtract them from your total carbohydrates.

Reading food labels will be the easiest way to find out what carbohydrates are in your diet, but apps and online tools are also helpful.

The USDA has a tool with all the nutritional information for thousands of whole foods and more to help you on your keto journey.

Pros and Cons of Counting Net Carbs

There are pros and cons to counting net carbs, rather than total carbs.


  • Less restrictive: Counting net carbs may increase food choices. For example, although blackberries, avocados and seeds are primarily fiber, they may be minimized in a ketogenic diet limited to 20 grams of total carbohydrates per day.
  • May promote higher fiber intake: Fiber-rich foods have been shown to promote satiety, lower blood sugar and reduce calorie absorption. In some cases, limiting them may be counterproductive.
  • Reduced risk of hypoglycemia in people who use insulin: Taking insulin to cover all carbohydrates without adjusting for foods high in fiber and containing erythritol has the potential to cause hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.


  • Not 100% accurate: Currently, it is not possible to calculate net carbs with complete accuracy because of the different effects of processing on fiber, the different combinations of sugar alcohols used in the product and individual reactions.
  • May not work as well for some with type 1 diabetes: While subtracting fiber carbohydrates may help prevent hypoglycemia in some people with type 1 diabetes, others report that counting all carbohydrates makes blood sugar more manageable.
  • May lead to high intake of sugar-free treats: Overindulging in bars sold as “low net carb” may hinder weight loss, increase blood sugar and trigger other health problems.

Ultimately, the decision about whether to count total or net carbs should be based on what works best for you.


Net carbohydrate is the total amount of fully digestible carbohydrate contained in a product or meal.

One can calculate net carbs by subtracting the full amount of fiber and half of the sugar alcohols from the total carbohydrate count on the product’s nutrition label. There are some exceptions to this rule, so it is important to read the ingredients list of any product first.

Also, it is important for people with diabetes to consult with their doctor before starting a low-carb diet.

Recommended Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *