Understanding Net Carbs Ketogenic Diet

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

Learn more about the relationship between net carbs and the keto diet to take control of your low-carb meal plan.

RELATED: Dr. Berg’s Healthy Keto Basics Step 2 WHAT TO EAT 

In this article: 

  1. What Are Net Carbs?

  2. What Is the Difference Between Total and Net Carbs?

  3. Why Is Fiber Removed When Calculating Net Carbs?

  4. Why Does Calculating Net Carbs Matter on the Keto Diet? 

  5. Sugar Alcohols and Net Carbs

  6. Tips for a Successful Keto Diet

  7. Foods to Avoid or Limit in Keto Diet

What You Should Know About Net Carbs and the Keto Diet 


What Are Net Carbs?

Simply put, net carbs are the product of total carbs minus the fiber content. They are considered digestible carbs in which the body absorbs complex and simple carbs.

Simple carbs are one or two sugar units linked together and are commonly present in syrup, honey, milk, veggies, and fruits. Complex carbs are multiple sugar units linked together and typically present in starchy veggies and grains.


What Is the Difference Between Total and Net Carbs?

Low Carb Diet | Understanding Net Carbs Ketogenic Diet

Total carbs and net carbs are two different things. Total carbs refer to all the grams of carbohydrates in a serving (dietary fiber and sugar). As mentioned above, net carbs result from the deduction of fiber content from the total amount of carbohydrates. Keep this formula in mind when counting carbs:

Net Carbs = Sugar - Fiber

Celery, for example, is a low-carb veggie. One cup of it contains 3 g of total carbs and 1.6 g of fiber, which gives you a net carb of 1.4 g. You still have, at max, 18.6 g to fill to achieve the recommended daily carbohydrate intake for the keto diet. 


Why Is Fiber Removed When Calculating Net Carbs?

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is not digested by the body. It does not respond to or affect Fat Storing Hormone (unlike other simple and complex carbohydrates).

Countries like the U.S. and Canada, though, present total carbs in food labels or writings as net carbs. Europe and Australia do otherwise – showing net carbs as they actually are. If you’re residing in the U.S. and are following a ketogenic diet, this formula comes handy in meal preparation. 


Why Does Calculating Net Carbs Matter on the Keto Diet? 

Close up image of dietitian in white gown | Understanding Net Carbs Ketogenic Diet

Carbohydrates, in general, are okay in moderate amounts. But if you consume too much of it, especially refined carbs such as sugars and starches, it can contribute to obesity, mess with gut bacteria, interfere with hormones, trigger food cravings, cause inflammation, and raise blood sugar levels.

So, you might not want too many grams of carbs a day in your system. This is where the ketogenic diet comes in because the meal plan requires keeping your carb count low and eating more fat.

Still, you need to get fat from good sources like avocados and wild-caught fish.

One great benefit of keeping keto net carbs low or counting net carbs is you'll enter the state of ketosis where you burn fat instead of blood glucose for energy. Limiting net carbs can also maximize fat burning so weight loss or fat loss is more effective. 

RELATED: How To Burn Fat On Fox And Friends


Sugar Alcohols and Net Carbs

Sugar alcohols are organic compounds found in many fruits and veggies and have about half of the calories of regular sugar. These compounds can also affect people on a low-carb diet or keto diet because they are difficult to digest and are still a form of carbs. 

Consuming excessive amounts of sugar alcohols can lead to several digestive issues, such as diarrhea, gas, and cramping. You may also include sugar alcohols in your calculation of net carbs if you strictly want to follow a low-carb diet.

The formula now becomes total carb intake minus fiber minus sugar alcohols. 

For dieters, you can still consume a small amount of sugar alcohols if you want to take advantage of its health benefits, such as improving dental health. These compounds can help protect your teeth against tooth decay by inhibiting bacterial growth in the mouth.


In this case, the net carb formula becomes total carbs minus fiber minus ½ sugar alcohols. 


Tips for a Successful Keto Diet

Food in containers on a dark background | Understanding Net Carbs Ketogenic Diet

Here are a few tips to be successful with your keto diet and lose weight effectively:

1. Determine Which Foods Are Low in Carbs

The first thing you need to do is determine the foods that are low in carbs or are keto-friendly. Here are some of the examples (net carbs are presented in grams):

  • Plain Greek yogurt (6 oz; 5 g)

  • Tomato (1 cup; 4.8 g)

  • Eggs (1 cup; 0.6 g)

  • Fish (salmon and tuna; 0 g)

  • Broccoli (100 g; 4.04 g)

  • Artichoke hearts (100 g; 3.88 g)

  • Pecans (1 oz; 1.2 g)

  • Chia seeds (1 oz; 1.7 g)

  • Chicken breast (100 g; 0.2 g)

2. Create a Meal Plan

Creating your own meal plan makes things easier for you. You can try a weekly meal map, so you can buy groceries ahead of time and plan what you will eat in a week.

Planning ahead primarily allows people to stick to their diet. It can also prevent you from opting for unhealthy foods because you do not know what to eat during lunch or dinner. 

3. Prep Your Meals

Planning is one thing, but prepping meals is another story. Meal prep can aid you in saving money and time during busy days and in avoiding unhealthy food choices, too.

Meal prepping also allows you to conveniently bring the food anywhere you go while letting you stick to your diet.

4. Carry Low-Carb Foods or Snacks

Your snacks are also a priority on top of your primary meals, and it’s not an exemption to cheat snacks and go for unhealthy foods because it can break your diet.

You can include healthy snacks when you meal prep.

Some of the low-carb snacks are as follows:

  • Cheese

  • Handful of nuts

  • Baby or regular carrots

  • Unsweetened yogurt

  • Hard-boiled eggs


Foods to Avoid or Limit in a Keto Diet

Aside from simply knowing which foods are suitable for a low-carb diet or are keto-friendly, it is also essential to know what to avoid or limit. These foods are high in carb count, and some of these are as follows:

  • Bread and grains

  • Beer

  • Some fruits (banana, raisin, date, mango, and pear)

  • Starchy veggies (corn, potato, sweet potato or yam, and beet)

  • Cereal

  • Sweetened yogurt

  • Juice

  • Beans and legumes (lentils, peas, black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans)

  • Chips and crackers

  • Milk

  • Pasta

Adhere to a low net carb diet plan for your ketogenic diet. Opt for nutrient-dense vegetables. Know what you should and should not eat. For tips, guidelines, and other ketogenic diet resources, check out my website!

What are your thoughts on net carbs and calculating them for your keto diet? Tell us in the comments section below. 

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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