Surprising Hidden Carbs That Slow Ketosis

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 03/29/2024

Hidden carbs in foods can be detrimental to those on the ketogenic diet. Having a strong understanding of food content is essential for anyone who is attempting adopt a low-carb diet.

Learn about the hidden carbohydrates found in many foods and what you should avoid to find success on the ketogenic diet.

Unmasking Hidden Carbs in Foods: A Guide for Keto Dieters

Unearth the truth about hidden carbs in foods disrupting your keto diet. Learn to identify these sneaky sources and stay in ketosis.

The Deceptive Carb Content of Beef Liver

You might think beef liver is an ideal protein source on keto, given its rich nutrient profile. However, there's more than meets the eye here as this organ meat contains glycogen - stored glucose contributing to its overall carbohydrate content.

A three-ounce serving size provides about 3.2 grams of carbohydrates, according to. These seemingly small amounts could add up throughout the day and potentially disrupt ketosis if you're not careful enough with tracking your net carbs intake.

Hidden Sugars in Sausage, Deli Meats, and Bacon

Sausages and processed meats like deli cuts or bacon often appear low-carb friendly. But don't let these fool you.

Food manufacturers sometimes include sugar-based ingredients such as dextrose or cane sugar during processing, contributing to their total carbohydrate count.

An average three-ounce serving portion from these types of meats could pack around 8 grams of hidden sugars, as per USDA FoodData Central data, making them less-than-perfect choices for those trying to adhere strictly to their daily carb limits while following a rigorous ketogenic lifestyle.

Seafood's Secret Carbs

Despite its reputation as a high-protein food group, seafood can contain surprising carbohydrates.

Oysters: A Carb-Loaded Delight?

Famed for their unique flavor and texture, oysters are beloved by many. However, these mollusks harbor more carbs than you might expect. Six medium-sized raw oysters pack around 10 grams of carbohydrates.

This is due to glycogen, a form of stored glucose found within the tissues of these sea creatures.

While it may seem inconsequential initially, such hidden carbs could disrupt your keto diet if not accounted for correctly when calculating your daily carb limit.

Imitation Crab Meat: An Unexpected Source Of Hidden Carbs

If sushi or California rolls frequently grace your plate, then imitation crab meat or surimi is likely no stranger to you. It's a processed product made from white fish like pollock that has been flavored and colored to mimic real crab meat.

This seemingly harmless ingredient hides some sneaky carbs, though. During preparation, fillers, including wheat starch or potato starch, along with sugars, are added, which enhance its taste but increase its carbohydrate profile significantly, too.

Just three ounces (85g) serving size contains about 7 net grams of carbs, which can quickly add up if consumed liberally, increasing total carb intake beyond desired levels on a ketogenic diet.

Sweeteners That Aren't So Sweet for Keto Dieters

Embracing a ketogenic diet often involves seeking out sugar substitutes to satisfy cravings while maintaining low-carb intake. However, not all sweeteners are as innocent as they appear and may be quietly undermining your keto efforts.

The Hidden Carbs in Stevia and Monk Fruit

Stevia is frequently promoted as a zero-calorie natural sweetener that doesn't impact blood glucose levels. But it's crucial to remember that not every stevia product adheres to this claim.

Some mix the pure extract with dextrose or maltodextrin, which can lead to unexpected spikes in blood sugar levels, disrupting ketosis.

Likewise, monk fruit might seem like an ideal choice due to its reputation of having zero net carbs, but don't let appearances deceive you.

Food manufacturers sometimes blend it with high-carb fillers such as molasses or fructose, resulting in hidden carbs absent from nutrition labels.

Navigating Artificial Sweeteners on a Low-Carb Diet

Avoiding these pitfalls requires scrutiny of ingredient lists before purchasing any 'keto-friendly' products. Choose erythritol or xylitol for low-carb sweeteners, as their effects on blood glucose are minimal compared to other options.

Be wary of artificial sweeteners like sucralose and saccharin, as they may induce insulin spikes. There's evidence suggesting they could cause insulin spikes.

While research continues into how much these substances truly affect weight loss success among keto dieters, adopting minimal consumption until more conclusive findings emerge is advisable.

Dodging Sneaky Carbs: The Key Takeaway

Maintaining strict adherence to the daily carb limit plays an essential role if you're aiming to keep your body in fat-burning mode.

The Hidden Carbs in Asian Cuisine

Asian cuisine, renowned for its rich flavors and diversity, can be a trap of hidden carbs. A notable offender is teriyaki sauce.

Teriyaki Sauce

A popular condiment often employed to boost the flavors of many meals, teriyaki sauce might not be as harmless as it appears if you're trying to follow a low-carb lifestyle. The sweet-savory balance comes at the price of high sugar content.

In just one tablespoon serving size of commonly purchased teriyaki sauces, there can be up to 9 grams of carbohydrates - primarily from added sugars like brown rice syrup or high fructose corn syrup.

Carbs in Other Regular Ingredients

Beyond sauces, other common ingredients found in Asian cuisine also possess surprising carb counts that could potentially disrupt your daily carb limit if not monitored closely.

Rice noodles are frequently incorporated into soups and stir-fries but carry an average of 44 grams per cup when cooked.

Similarly, sushi rolls wrapped with white rice can contain 30-40 grams per roll due to the starchiness combined with any sugary seasoning mixed during preparation.

Mindful Choices for Low-Carb Dieters

If you have a passion for Asian food but need strict control over carbohydrate intake because of keto or another low-carb diet plan, don't lose hope. Plenty of options are available that allow enjoyment without going beyond your allowed net carbs.

You might consider choosing sashimi instead of sushi rolls at Japanese restaurants or asking for lettuce wraps to replace noodle-based dishes at Vietnamese places.

When ordering Chinese takeout, opt for protein-heavy dishes like Moo Shu Pork, which typically have fewer carbs than their noodle-heavy counterparts.

Desserts and Products Marketed as Keto-Friendly

The temptation of sweet indulgences can be challenging to ignore, particularly when they're advertised as low-carb or suitable for keto dieters. But hidden carbs often make these foods unsuitable for keto.

Maltitol: A Hidden Carb Source in Disguise

Maltitol, a sugar alcohol often found in 'sugar-free' items, may seem attractive for low-carb diets due to its lower calorie count than regular sugar; however, it should not be mistaken as having zero net carbs. But don't let this mislead you.

Despite being classified by some food manufacturers as a zero-net carbs product, maltitol has nearly half the glycemic index value of standard table sugar (35 versus 60-70). This means your blood glucose levels may still significantly increase after consumption.


It would be best to exercise caution with Sorbitol, which is another popular substitute in numerous diet foods and beverages.

While it offers fewer calories than traditional sugars, research indicates negative impacts on insulin response and blood glucose levels from Sorbitol intake.

This could potentially disrupt ketosis if consumed excessively. Constantly scrutinize nutrition facts before treating yourself, even when something claims itself keto-friendly or low-carb compliant.

Low-Carb Sweet Options

Regarding low-carb sweet options, it's essential to navigate wisely. Just because a product claims to be keto-friendly or low-carb compliant doesn't mean it's truly suitable for your ketogenic diet.

Always read the nutrition facts and ingredient list carefully. Look out for hidden sources of carbs like maltitol and sorbitol, which can still impact your blood glucose levels and potentially disrupt ketosis.

Remain watchful and pick carefully to guarantee you keep up with your keto diet—even if a confection is marked sugar-free or low-carb, that doesn't mean it's carb-free. Stay vigilant and make informed choices to ensure you stay on track with your keto diet.

Medications - An Unexpected Source of Carbs

When considering your daily carb limit, you might not think about medications, but they can be a sneaky source of hidden carbs. Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs contain sugars or starches as fillers or flavor enhancers.

Cough Syrups and Throat Lozenges: Hidden Sugars

The sweetness in cough syrups often comes from high fructose corn syrup. A single tablespoon could add up to 13 grams to your carb count for the day. Similarly, throat lozenges frequently use sugar for taste and texture purposes.

Though each serving size may only have small amounts of these added sugars, it's easy to see how quickly those carbs can accumulate if you're using them throughout the day while sick.

Sugar Substitutes in Medication

Besides the sugar content, some medicines also employ artificial sweeteners like dextrose. This is alarming because dextrose has a higher glycemic index than table sugar.

It spikes blood glucose levels rapidly upon consumption, making it an unwelcome ingredient for low-carb dieters aiming to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

To avoid this pitfall on your path towards consuming fewer carbs every day, always read medication labels carefully before purchasing them.

Prescription Drugs: Hidden Carb Sources?

In addition to OTC remedies, even certain prescribed medications may contain hidden carbohydrates due to their formulation process, which includes binders.

Suppose you are diligently following a ketogenic diet plan or trying hard to limit carbohydrate sources drastically while regularly taking such prescriptions.

In that case, it becomes essential to discuss with your healthcare provider. They might suggest suitable alternatives where available. This way, we ensure that non-food sources don't inadvertently sabotage our weight-loss efforts.

IMOs (Isomalto-Oligosaccharides) - A Misleading Fiber Source

The world of low-carb dieting often highlights IMOs, or isomalto-oligosaccharides, as a beneficial source of fiber. However, it's essential to remember that different fibers affect our bodies differently.

Despite being marketed as an advantageous fiber for those monitoring their carb intake, IMOs can be deceptive due to their impact on blood glucose levels.

The Unexpected Impact of IMOs on Blood Sugar Levels

Belying popular belief are studies indicating that IMOs may elevate blood sugar levels. This occurs because they partially digest into smaller sugars before reaching the large intestine.

The result? An unexpected spike in your blood glucose level could interrupt ketosis if you're following a ketogenic diet.

This surprising information about IMOs is a vital reminder: Not all fibers deliver equal results when managing carb counts and maintaining stable blood sugar levels.

Consider incorporating the following strategies if you want to consume fewer carbohydrates and maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Decoding Nutrition Labels with Precision

The secret language of nutrition labels is critical to understanding the accurate carb content. Be cautious when considering "net carbs," as the FDA does not recognize it, and this can cause confusion for those following a low-carb diet.

Words like "maltodextrin", "dextrose", or any suffixes ending in "-ose" signal sugars that contribute to your total carbohydrate count.

Saying No to Processed Foods

Foods processed for convenience often contain added sugars or starches, making them sneaky sources of high carbohydrate counts.

The golden rule? Choose whole foods over processed ones whenever possible - they typically contain fewer carbs.

Picking Natural Sweeteners Smartly

Natural sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit extract might seem like perfect allies for keto dieters due to their zero-calorie label; however, don't be fooled.

Some brands mix these natural sweeteners with high-carb fillers like dextrose or maltodextrin, which could spike blood glucose levels unexpectedly.

Maintaining Portion Control Diligently

Your portion sizes are crucial in managing your overall carb intake on a ketogenic diet, even if you're consuming low-carb food items. Remember: moderation is key when maintaining ketosis.

Pink grapefruit

Hidden Carbs in Grapefruit

The issue of hidden carbs becomes significant when it comes to grapefruit and its compatibility with a ketogenic diet. Whether grapefruit is keto-friendly arises due to its carbohydrate content, which can be higher than expected.

While some may consider grapefruit for its potential health benefits, it's crucial to be mindful of its carb count, as these hidden carbs can impact ketosis.

It's essential to carefully consider the carbohydrate counts of the foods you eat to maintain ketosis effectively. Grapefruit should not be consumed on keto due to its high carbohydrate content.


Navigating the hidden carbohydrates lurking in various foods is essential for success on the ketogenic diet.

Understanding the deceptive carb content in items like beef liver, processed meats, seafood, sweeteners, Asian cuisine, desserts, medications, and even natural fibers like IMOs is crucial for maintaining ketosis and achieving your low-carb goals.

By decoding nutrition labels, opting for whole foods, choosing natural sweeteners wisely, and practicing portion control, individuals can effectively manage their carb intake and stay on track with their ketogenic lifestyle.

Being vigilant and informed about hidden carbs ensures that you can make smart choices and enjoy the benefits of a low-carb diet without unknowingly sabotaging your efforts.

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