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Do You Subtract Sugar Alcohol Sweeteners for Net Carbs on Keto

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/30/2024

Sugar alcohols are the sneaky little molecules that make you go, "Wait, what?" when you're trying to count your carbs. They're like the chameleons of the food world, blending in with the sugars and the alcohols, but not quite fitting in with either crowd.

So, should you deduct these little troublemakers from your net carb count? Let's find out.

I've been there, staring at a nutrition label, trying to figure out if I should subtract the sugar alcohols or not. It's like trying to solve a math problem after a few glasses of wine - not impossible, but definitely more challenging than it should be.

Understanding Net Carbs and Sugar Alcohols

If you're following a low-carb or keto diet, you've likely heard the term "net carbs" thrown around quite a bit. But what exactly are net carbs, and how do they differ from total carbs? More importantly, how do sugar alcohols fit into the equation?

As someone who has lived a low-carb lifestyle for years, I know firsthand how crucial it is to understand these concepts. So, let's explore the basics of net carbs, the role of sugar alcohols, and why it all matters for those watching their carb intake.

What Are Net Carbs?

In simple terms, net carbs are the carbohydrates your body can digest and use for energy. To calculate net carbs, you take the total carbs in a food item and subtract the amount of fiber and sugar alcohols. The remaining number is the net carb count.

Why subtract fiber and sugar alcohols? Well, fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body can't digest, so it passes through your system without impacting blood sugar levels. Sugar alcohols, on the other hand, are a bit more complex.

The Role of Sugar Alcohols in Net Carb Calculation

Sugar alcohols are a type of low-calorie sweetener often found in sugar-free and low-carb products. They have a chemical structure similar to sugar and alcohol, but they don't contain ethanol like alcoholic beverages.

The critical thing to note about sugar alcohols is that they are partially resistant to digestion, meaning they have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels compared to regular sugar. They are often subtracted from total carbs when calculating net carbs.

Key Stat: Sugar alcohols are often subtracted from total carbs to calculate net carbs, as they have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels compared to regular sugar.

The Debate on Subtracting Sugar Alcohols

While subtracting sugar alcohols from total carbs is a common practice among low-carb and keto dieters, it's not without controversy. Some experts argue that not all sugar alcohols are created equal and that certain types should not be subtracted from total carbs.

The main reason for this debate is that different sugar alcohols have varying effects on blood sugar levels. Some, like erythritol, have virtually no impact, while others, such as maltitol, can significantly raise blood sugar levels.

Why Some Experts Recommend Excluding Certain Sugar Alcohols

Due to the varying effects of sugar alcohols on blood sugar levels, some nutrition experts suggest that not all sugar alcohols should be treated equally when calculating net carbs.

They argue that sugar alcohols like maltitol, xylitol, and sorbitol should not be fully subtracted from total carbs because they can still impact blood glucose levels, albeit to a lesser extent than regular sugar.

On the other hand, erythritol is often considered an exception due to its unique properties.

Erythritol's Unique Position

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that stands out from the rest. It is the only sugar alcohol with a glycemic index of zero, meaning it has virtually no impact on blood sugar levels.

This is why many low-carb and keto experts agree that erythritol can be fully subtracted from total carbs when calculating net carbs.

Key Stat: Erythritol is the only sugar alcohol with a glycemic index of zero. Other sugar alcohols like xylitol, maltitol, and sorbitol have a lower impact on blood sugar compared to regular sugar, but they still have some effect on the glycemic index.

Practical Advice for Counting Net Carbs

Now that we've covered the basics of net carbs and sugar alcohols, let's talk about how to put this knowledge into practice. Whether you're following a keto diet or managing diabetes, accurately counting net carbs is essential for staying on track and maintaining stable blood sugar levels.

Here are some actionable tips to help you navigate the world of net carbs and sugar alcohols:

Reading Nutrition Labels Correctly

The first step in accurately counting net carbs is learning how to read nutrition labels correctly. When looking at a food label, find the total carbohydrates per serving. Below that, you'll usually see a breakdown of dietary fiber and sugar alcohols (if present).

To calculate net carbs, subtract the fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbs.

Keep in mind that some food labels may already list net carbs, making your job a bit easier. However, it's always a good idea to double-check the math yourself.

Natural sweetener on wooden spoon

Choosing the Right Sugar Alcohols

When selecting food products containing sugar alcohols, aim for those that use erythritol or other low-impact sugar alcohols like xylitol. These sugar alcohols have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels and can be safely subtracted from total carbs.

Be cautious of products that contain maltitol, as it has a higher glycemic index and may impact blood sugar more significantly. If a product contains maltitol, you may want to count half of the sugar alcohols as net carbs to be on the safe side.

Monitoring Your Body's Response

Everyone's body responds differently to sugar alcohols, so it's crucial to pay attention to how your body reacts when consuming them.

Some people may experience digestive discomfort or bloating when consuming large amounts of sugar alcohols, while others may have no issues at all.

If you notice any adverse reactions after consuming sugar alcohols, consider reducing your intake or avoiding them altogether. Listen to your body and adjust your diet accordingly.

Natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit do not need to be factored into carb calculations, as they have minimal calories and do not impact blood sugar levels.

By understanding the role of sugar alcohols in net carb calculations and following these practical tips, you'll be well on your way to accurately tracking your carb intake and reaching your health goals.

Net Carbs Unveiled

Take a closer look at the debate surrounding deducting sugar alcohols from net carbs and address concerns about their potential adverse health effects.

For individuals following low-carb diets like keto, understanding how to calculate net carbs accurately is crucial for maintaining dietary goals. However, questions arise: is sugar alcohol bad for you?

While some may worry about digestive issues or other health implications, research suggests that sugar alcohols are generally well-tolerated and can be part of a proper diet when consumed in moderation for most people.

This exploration aims to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their dietary choices and confidently navigate the realm of sugar alcohol by unraveling these misconceptions and providing evidence-based insights.


So, should you deduct sugar alcohols from your net carbs? The answer is, it depends. Some sugar alcohols, like erythritol, have minimal impact on blood sugar and can be subtracted.

Others, like maltitol, can still affect blood glucose and should be counted.

The key is to read labels carefully, choose products with low-impact sugar alcohols, and listen to your body. And remember, just because a product is low in net carbs doesn't mean it's a free-for-all. Moderation is still key.

Armed with this knowledge, you can navigate the world of sugar alcohols and net carbs with confidence. No more staring at nutrition labels in confusion - you've got this!

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