Net carbs are the amount of carbohydrates a food contains after subtracting the fiber.
Although it’s generally accepted that the fiber in whole foods isn’t digested and absorbed, not all experts on carb-restricted diets agree on this point. Additionally, in people with type 1 diabetes, fiber may distend the stomach and trigger the release of hormones that raise blood sugar. Therefore, you can either subtract the fiber carbs in whole food to get the ‘net carbs’ or count total carbs, depending on your personal preference and tolerance.
Here is an example of how to calculate net carbs: 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cauliflower contains 5 grams of total carbs, 2 of which come from fiber.
5 grams of total carbs minus 2 grams of fiber = 3 grams of net carbs.
On the other hand, many processed low-carb foods display labels indicating their “net carbs,” which reflect their total carbs minus added fiber and sweeteners known as sugar alcohols. Studies have shown that some of these additives can be partially absorbed and raise your blood sugar.
The best carbs to eat on a keto or low-carb diet
By choosing your carbs wisely you should still be able to keep your blood sugar within healthy limits, while nourishing your body with important vitamins and minerals. Adding some carbs to your diet may also make your low-carb lifestyle more sustainable, fun, colorful and varied.
Here are some of the best sources of carbs on a keto or low-carb diet:
- Leafy greens
- Macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
How many carbs should I eat per day?
Not everyone needs the same carb restriction for optimal health. Healthy, physically active and normal weight individuals may not necessarily have to restrict carbs at all, as long as they choose higher-quality, non-processed carbohydrates.
However, for people with a range of health issues or weight problems it’s often beneficial to keep the carb consumption relatively low. The lower, the more effective, for weight loss and for metabolic health problems like type 2 diabetes.
At Diet Doctor, we define three different levels of carb restriction as follows:
- Ketogenic: less than 20 grams of net carbs per day
- Moderate low carb: 20-50 grams of net carbs per day
- Liberal low carb: 50-100 grams of net carbs per day