The ketogenic diet has boomed in popularity in recent years. This diet is well-known for being low in carbs and high in fat with a moderate protein intake. This combination of macronutrients makes it possible for the body to enter a state of ketosis, where fat is used for energy rather than glucose.
This makes it especially important to track your carbs while you’re on keto. There is a specific way to count your carbs while on keto, and this is where net carbs come in. Here, we’ll talk about what net carbs are, how they affect ketosis, and how to calculate them for your diet.
Understanding Net Carbs: What Are They?
So, what are net carbs? These are the carbohydrates that you are left with after you subtract the fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbs in each serving.
The idea of net carbs is based on our body’s digestive processes. Certain carbohydrates such as sugar alcohols and fiber are not fully digested by the body. They also do not cause significant changes in blood sugar levels. Therefore, they do not count towards your total carbohydrate intake.
When you know the net carbs of a certain food, it becomes easier to track carbohydrates and achieve weight loss and better health. The body digests various carbohydrates differently, so this should be taken into account when tracking carb intake. Doing so may mean the difference between staying in ketosis or not.
The Science Behind Net Carbs: How They Affect Blood Sugar and Ketosis
When we digest food, the starches and sugars that come from those foods are processed mechanically and chemically, such as through chewing and the use of enzymes. Food is broken down into simple sugars glucose, fructose, and galactose. These are absorbed into the bloodstream and used for energy throughout the body.
The carbohydrates you eat and digest do not affect the body in exactly the same manner. Some carbs, such as simple or refined starches and sugars, have a high glycemic index, which means they cause blood sugar levels to rise after eating. This is important to take note of because carbs from starches and sugars can elevate your blood sugar, and ultimately, kick you out of ketosis.
Calculating Net Carbs: Step-by-Step Guide
Calculating net carbs is simpler than most people think. Net carbs is simply equal to total carbs minus fiber and sugar alcohols:
Net carbs (g) = total carbs – fiber – sugar alcohols
Packaged foods are helpful in calculating net carbs because they come with a Nutrition Facts label. You can use this to find out how many grams of fiber and sugar alcohols are in a food product and subtract it from the total carbohydrates.
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Locate the Nutrition Facts label on your food package.
- Note down the number of total carbohydrates in grams for one serving.
- Look for dietary fiber and note down how many grams are in one serving.
- Find the added sugars (sugar alcohols) and note down how many grams are present in a single serving.
- Add dietary fiber and added sugars together.
- Subtract this from the amount of total carbohydrates.
- Note down your net carbs.
Common Sources of Net Carbs: A Comprehensive List
In order to track your carbohydrate intake properly, it is helpful to know how many net carbs are in common food items. Here’s a comprehensive list:
|Food||Serving size||Net Carbs|
|Sweet potato||1 large piece||39 grams|
|Potato||1 medium piece||33 grams|
|Corn||1 cup||32 grams|
|Watermelon||1 cup||11 grams|
|Strawberries||1 cup||8 grams|
|Avocado||1 whole fruit||4 grams|
|Broccoli||1 cup florets||4 grams|
|Zucchini||1 cup||3 grams|
|Cauliflower||1 cup florets||3 grams|
|Almonds||28 grams||3 grams|
|Cashews||28 grams||8 grams|
|Walnuts||28 grams||2 grams|
|Chia seeds||28 grams||2 grams|
|Flaxseeds||28 grams||0 grams|
|Asparagus||91 grams||6 grams|
|Cabbage||89 grams||5 grams|
|Kale||67 grams||7 grams|
|Romain lettuce||50 grams||2 grams|
|Spinach||180 grams||1 gram|
Since the keto diet is low in carbohydrates, knowing which foods have higher carbs can make it easier to limit one’s intake of them:
- Honey, syrup, or sugar
- Baked goods (including gluten-free baked goods)
- High-sugar fruits
- Starchy vegetables
- Chips and crackers
Tools and Resources for Tracking Net Carbs
There are several tools and resources you can use to track net carbs. You can use this online calculator. Some other apps you can use include the following:
- Carb Manager: Keto Diet Tracker
- Atkins Carb & Meal Tracker
- Atkins® Carb & Meal Tracker
- Stupid Simple Keto Diet App
- Keto Cycle: Keto Diet App
It also helps to keep a food journal. A food journal is a simple way of tracking what you are eating along with other health-related metrics. You can choose to track your food however you want to, whether you use a simple notebook or an app.
Tracking can be as detailed or simple as you’d like. Here are the following steps you can take to start your food journal:
- Record what you eat right before or immediately after eating.
- Record other metrics that are relevant to you, such as water intake, exercise, and supplements
- Repeat daily.
- Review periodically to track any changes.
Overcoming Challenges in Net Carb Tracking
Tracking your net carbs can sometimes be challenging, but there are ways to overcome them.
Hidden carbs are those that are often underestimated in foods. When calculating for net carbs, it’s important to account for all carbohydrates that aren’t sugar alcohols or fiber. These can include seasonings, sauces, protein bars, supplements, and even added sugars.
Misleading food labels
Food labels can be tricky and misleading. It is best to look carefully at the Nutrition Facts label on the back or sides of the packaging instead of relying on the information on the front. Reading the ingredient list is also a good habit to form when monitoring carbohydrate intake. The ingredients at the top of the list make up most of what you are eating; if the first ingredients have refined grains, then it’s safe to assume that it has plenty of carbohydrates. Also, be sure to note the serving sizes used.
Overcoming the challenges in net carb tracking may take a little bit of practice, but they can help you in the long run. Try meal planning and prepping so you know just how much carbs are in your meals. Having a support system in the form of online communities and keto resources are also beneficial. Lastly, make sure to celebrate any small wins in your overall health improvement.
And there you have it. Net carbs are the carbohydrates consumed that can be digested by your body, which is computed by taking the total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber and sugar alcohols. Knowing how many net carbs you’re consuming is an important part of maintaining a state of ketosis, which is what gives the keto diet its fat-burning benefits. Remember to start simple, perhaps by keeping a food journal and a list of low-carb foods to try. Before you know it, you’ll be counting net carbs and achieving your health goals like a pro!
- About the Keto Diet for Weight Loss
- What are Carbohydrates?
- Curbing those Carbohydrate Cravings!
- Carbohydrates and weight loss