Keto 101: What are Net Carbs?

If you’ve been doing some research on keto foods, you’re going to notice that some people talk about things called “total carbs” and “net carbs”.

When it comes to the keto diet, you’re only concerned about net carbs.

Total carbs are the carbohydrates contained within the food - all the carbohydrates. The sugars, the starches, the soluble and insoluble fiber are all calculated as carbohydrates.

Net carbs are the carbohydrates that are left over after digestion - the carbs that actually “count”. Since some of the carbohydrates are in the form of insoluble fiber, some of the carbohydrates get consumed by bacteria in your gut, and some that just don’t get processed by the body, you end up with less carbohydrates that your body can use compared to the total carbohydrates.

There are two main sources of carbohydrates that don’t count towards your net total - fiber and sugar alcohols


You’ve probably heard plenty about insoluble fiber.

As it’s name would suggest, insoluble fiber is just that - insoluble to the human body. It’s not digested by the body, doesn’t count towards your net carbohydrates, and ah, passes through the digestive tract.

Insoluble fiber isn’t just a filler - it is very important for gut health and keeping the body healthy.

Fiber is technically a carbohydrate - when scientists blow up an apple, they don’t just count the sweet sugary parts - they also count the skin and the core and the other fibrous parts of the apple as total carbohydrates.

However, for the purposes of the keto diet, fiber doesn’t count against your daily allowance of carbohydrates.

This is one of the reasons why it’s best to eat a lot of leafy vegetables on keto - they’re full of fiber that doesn’t count towards your net carbs

Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols are the other major carbohydrates that aren’t factored into net carbs - but what are sugar alcohols exactly and how do they operate as far as the body goes?

Sugar alcohols - sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and erythritol, usually used as artificial sweeteners - are generally not counted as net carbs.

The reasoning for this is that people have surmised that sugar alcohols aren’t metabolized like other carbs, in that they don’t cause the body to have a spike in the blood sugar known as a glycemic response.

The problem is that sugar alcohols aren’t well understood. Some people still have a glycemic response to sugar alcohols - despite it not actually being a true carbohydrate - and it’s not understood how sugar alcohols play into staying in ketosis.

While I am not totally against consuming sugar alcohols in moderation, don’t go chowing down on sugar alcohols just because they allegedly don’t count. Long term consumption of large amounts of sugar alcohols aren’t well understood, and they may also cause diarrhea if consumed in large amounts, so go easy on them.

I hope this helps you in understanding net carbs! It’s not so hard once you know the basic concept of it. You’ll be better able to keep your carbohydrates under 20g with ease and navigate the world of keto food much better. Let me know if you have any additional questions about net carbs.