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Total Carbs or Net Carbs: What Really Counts?

Disclaimer: you should consult any dietary change with a professional, especially if you have a health condition such as diabetes or heart disease. There may need to be an adjustment to the medication you are taking.


Critical thinking is key to separating facts from personal opinions and unproven theories. With the ever increasing amount of misinformation, it's easy for people to get confused and fall for a diet or lifestyle dogma. My advice is to always do your own research and learn what works best for you - no diet plan fits all and you always need to make small adjustments to fit your needs.

Here's a couple of examples that are frequently discussed within the low-carb community:

  1. One of the myths is that if you follow a low-carb diet, you can eat an unlimited amount of calories, while losing weight and staying healthy. Although it's not common to overeat due to natural appetite control of low-carb diets, this belief results in overconsumption which is never beneficial no matter which diet you follow.

  2. A great example of a post questioning the effects of high cholesterol and saturated fat intake can be found at Low Carb Dietitian. About 25% of people following a low carb diet experience very high cholesterol levels. There is increasing evidence that cholesterol and saturated fat do not cause heart disease. Does this mean that very high cholesterol levels are completely safe and even desirable? Not necessarily - even if your C-reactive protein test shows that your inflammation is low, it doesn't mean that it's safe to have very high cholesterol levels. Keep in mind that low-carb diets are not just about eating foods rich in saturated fat found in butter or fatty meat. In addition to saturated fats, many experts, including doctor Jeff Volek, emphasise the importance of heart-healthy MUFA and omega-3 fatty acids.

Defining Total Carbs, Net Carbs, Soluble & Insoluble Fibre

Should total carbs be considered when following a low-carb, ketogenic diet? Does eating less carbs always lead to better weight loss & improved health? Although most people still count net carbs (total carbs without fibre), the new trend within the low-carb community seems to be towards counting total carbs. Typically, people that count total carbs follow a very low-carb diet consuming 20 grams of total carbs or less a day. So, what is the right way to count carbs?

The main reason for this post was that many of my readers are convinced that counting total carbs and following a very low-carb diet is the ONLY way to go. Finding relevant information wasn't easy, as the effects of fibre on blood sugar and metabolic health are still a subject of research.

In short, net carbs are total carbs without fibre. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. The reason why most people use net carbs (aka available carbohydrates) is because they believe that dietary fibre doesn't affect blood sugar and our body cannot derive any calories from it. However, this claim isn't entirely accurate because it only applies to insoluble fibre which cannot be absorbed and has no affect blood sugar and ketosis.

Dietary fiber is the indigestible portion of plant foods and has two main components: insoluble fiber (principally cellulose and lignin) and soluble fiber such as galacto-oligosaccharides and fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which are fermented by the gut microbiota into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) acetate, propionate, and butyrate. (Flint et al. 2012)

The Role of Soluble Fibre

According to FDA, our body can derive calories from soluble fibre. However, when it comes to the effects of soluble fibre on blood glucose, it's more complicated. Studies show that soluble fibre can be absorbed and used for intestinal gluconeogenesis (IGN) which was thought to increase blood sugar and therefore affect ketosis. This potential ability of soluble fibre to affect blood sugar and therefore ketosis is the main reason why some experts and bloggers recommend using total carbs rather than net carbs.

How does it work? Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) propionate and butyrate, which are produced by fermentation of soluble fibre in the colon, activate IGN. While butyrate plays a role in enhancing energy expenditure, propionate enhances hepatic gluconeogenesis (release of glucose from the liver).

However, a recent study shows that soluble fibre helps, in fact, lower blood glucose. According to this this study, propionate can be used by the body for IGN and the overall effect of SCFAs through IGN is a net decrease in blood sugar. Unlike hepatic gluconeogenesis, IGN helps lower serum concentrations of glucose and improves overall glucose disposal. Commonly, increased production of SCFA is assumed to be beneficial by reducing hepatic glucose output and improving lipid homeostasis. (Weickert et al. 2008)

Additionally, when soluble fibre is fermented in the large intestine, it produces gut hormones which play a role in inducing satiety (Lattimer et al. 2010). As most of you may know, natural appetite suppression is the main reason people successfully lose weight on a low-carb diet.

Bottom Line: Does soluble fibre raise blood sugar? Recent studies show that soluble fibre can, in fact, lower blood glucose levels. However, more studies are needed to understand the effects of dietary fibre on metabolic health.

Total Carbs vs Net Carbs. Ask Yourself: What Am I Trying to Achieve?

Should you count total or net carbs? It depends on what your goal is and how sensitive to carbs you are. Some people may be affected by the tiniest amount of carbs from berries while others can eat most foods without any issues.

I personally prefer using net carbs which is also reflected on my blog and in my apps. My main goal is to maintain my weight and manage my thyroid condition which I've been dealing with since 2011. You can read more about my diet here. When we created the KetoDiet iPad app, we focused on net carbs but also allow our users to check their total carbs count (see below).

KetoDiet iPad app, daily planner. This feature will be available on the iPhone soon - we have been working hard to create a universal app!

In general, if you follow a low-carb / ketogenic diet to lose weight and improve your health, counting net carbs is a convenient way. In fact, high level of ketones / low level of glucose are not the most important factors in weight loss. Research simply doesn't support the idea that more ketones in your blood always lead to a greater fat loss. The most important factor in successful weight loss on a low-carb diet remains its appetite-suppressing effect.

In fact, you don't necessarily need to be in ketosis to lose weight or improve your overall health - there are other important factors to consider when your weight is stalling. Many studies that show improvements in both weight and health were performed on people eating even more than 50 g of total carbs a day. This review shows that not all of the studies were strictly focused on very low-carb, ketogenic diets throughout the whole trial.

Here are the most common reasons people follow a low-carb diet:

  • weight loss (fat loss)
  • improve overall health
  • improve performance / increase lean mass
  • manage a disease such as cancer, Alzheimer's, epilepsy or PCOS

Weight loss & health effects

Following a low-carb diet leads to weight loss in most cases but more ketones don't seem to adequately enhance weight loss. Accordingly, you don't need to follow a very low-carb diet (VLC) if your aim is to improve your health. Many people experience great benefits following the paleo diet with low-moderate carbohydrates.

Exercise & performance

The effects of the ketogenic diet on performance are described in Volek & Phinney's book devoted to low-carbohydrate performance. It's also worth checking Dr Peter Attia's website, Eating Academy. Your carb requirements & timing of carbs depend on the type of exercise. The general consensus is that if you mostly do weight training and cardio exercise, you can fully function on ketones and don't need any extra carbs. If, however, you do a lot of HIIT or Cross Fit, you may benefit from carb backloading, as the standard ketogenic diet may not be best for you.

Cancer management

Some people may follow a more restricted type of the ketogenic diet for therapeutic purposes. Ideally, the ketone level should be high while the blood sugar level should be low. Using total carbs and following a VLC diet may be a better way of counting carbs. You can find out more about using the ketogenic diet for therapeutic purposes in this post and even more on Alix's blog.

What Do Experts Say?

There are differences of opinion even among experts not only whether to count total or net carbs but also regarding the "ideal" carb level. Dr Volek & Phinney suggest that ~ 50 g of total carbs a day is enough to induce nutritional ketosis. This is 20-35 grams of net carbs depending on the fibre content. Most people on a ketogenic diet successfully follow this approach.

This approach is different from Dr. Westman's approach who suggests that ~ 20 g of total carbs a day is what you should be aiming for. If you choose to follow a VLC diet, make sure you get sufficient micronutrients and include supplements, especially magnesium. You won't be able to eat avocados, some vegetables or psyllium husk powder unless you use very small amounts.

Should some healthy low-carb foods be avoided because they are high in total carbs? In fact, two thirds of the fibre in most foods is insoluble = have zero effect on blood sugar and zero calories. As I mentioned above, although more studies are needed to understand the effects of dietary fibre on metabolic health, it seems that soluble fibre can, in fact, lower blood glucose levels. (Lattimer et al. 2010)

Bottom Line: There is no "wrong" way, you can use either total carbs or net carbs. Choosing the "best" way for you depends on what you are trying to achieve by following the ketogenic diet.

Other Factors Which Play a Role in Weight Loss

Don't focus only on your carb intake. How about your protein or fat intake? It's a common misconception that you can eat unlimited amount of calories and still lose weight. In fact, you can put on weight even on a low-carb diet. To avoid this mistake, you will need to understand a few basic principles and avoid common mistakes. Make sure you eat enough protein, not just fat - protein is the most sating macronutrient and will keep hunger at bay.

Low-carb ketogenic diets are naturally sating and act as appetite suppressants. This is why you'll eat less and won't need to count calories which is one of the main effects of low-carb diets. In fact, to lose weight or/and stay in ketosis, you don't need to follow a VLC.

One of the common mistakes people make is that some people overeat dairy and nuts when they are trying to lose weight. You may experience weight stalling or even weight gain not because nuts and dairy will kick you out of ketosis but because these foods are calorie-dense and easy to overeat (100 grams of macadamia nuts has over 700 kcal and over 70 grams of fat!) There is no reason to avoid non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers or fruits like avocado or berries. These foods are very high in micronutrients, low in carbs and won't impair your weight loss efforts.

If for any reason your weight is stalling for more than 2-3 weeks, you may need to consider keeping an eye on your energy intake (calories). Reaching a weight loss plateau may be caused by several factors and you don't necessarily have to be eating too much, in fact, you may discover that you haven't been eating enough. In my experience, losing body fat becomes more and more difficult as you get close to your target weight.

To make it easy for you to calculate your ideal macronutrients on a ketogenic diet, we developed a free online keto calculator, KetoDiet Buddy - try it now!

Ideally, you may also want to talk to an expert with experience in low-carb diets. My good friend, Franziska Spritzler, who is a low-carb dietitian, has great experience helping people lose weight and manage diabetes.

What to Be Careful About

1. Labels

No mater which path you choose, make sure you know how carbs are calculated where you live. In countries like US or Canada, total carbs as labeled include fibre - to get net carbs, you have to deduct fibre. Contrary to the US and Canada, in countries like UK or Australia, total carbs labeled do NOT include fibre, which means they already represent what is known as net carbs in the US.

2. Low-carb Sweeteners

The vast majority of low-carb sweeteners are often advertised as "sugar-free", "carbs-free" or "zero-carb". However, this is not always true. Some sweeteners like stevia, Erythritol or monk fruit extract contain very little carbs while others like Xylitol or Tagatose contain more carbs.

When using Swerve, Erythritol, Xylitol or sweeteners containing fructooligosaccharides (FOS), always remember to add carbs. What I noticed is that some people subtract all low-carb sweeteners and count them as "zero" - this is not right. I have explained my "safe" method of calculating carbs in sweeteners here.

3. Products Labeled "Low-carb"

Avoid most products labeled low-carb / zero-carb, etc. Atkins bars, Julian's Bakery bread and Dreamfields low-carb pasta are just some of the many products to avoid. They contain more effective carbs than the manufacturer claims and are often laden with unhealthy ingredients. I have written more about low-carb products in my post here.

Summary

Latest research shows that soluble fibre reduces blood sugar and improves overall glucose disposal. However, more studies on the effects of soluble fibre on blood sugar and metabolic health are needed.

Tracking net carbs is an effective way for weight loss and those who want to improve their overall health. After all, it' not just about the level of ketones in your blood stream. However, tracking total carbs may be a more suitable way for managing a disease (cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, etc.).

If you choose to track total carbs and follow a very low-carb diet, make sure you get enough micronutrients or supplement your diet. Very low-carb diets (20 grams of total carbs or less) are often deficient in several micronutrients (magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin E, A, C, iron, thiamin, folate and zinc).

There are other factors that play role in successful weight loss: protein and fat intake, stress levels, etc. You can read more about them here: Top Weight Loss Mistakes

Most foods contain both types of fibre, mostly insoluble. The fibre content in most foods is about two thirds insoluble and one third soluble. Avocados, psyllium husk powder and some vegetables are higher in soluble fibre, while foods like nuts and some types of vegetables are high in insoluble fibre. While soluble fibre contains calories, there are no calories in insoluble fibre.

To read more about carbohydrates on a low-carb diet, have a look at my two posts: All You Need to Know About Carbs and How Many Carbs per Day?

Overview of Fibre in a Few Common Keto-friendly Foods:

Foods (serving size) Total fibre per serving Soluble fibre (g) Insoluble fibre (g) Percentage of soluble fibre
Avocados, medium 10.1 4 6.1 40 %
Almonds, 1 cup 15.9 1.6 14.3 10 %
Beans, green, 1 cup 10.1 1.6 2.1 16 %
Beet greens, 1 cup 1.4 0.4 1 28 %
Blackberries, 1 cup 7.6 1.4 6.2 18 %
Broccoli, 1 cup 2.6 0.9 1.7 35 %
Brussels sprouts, 1 cup 6.4 3.9 2.5 60 %
Cabbage, green, 1 cup 2 0.7 1.3 35 %
Cauliflower, 1 cup 2.5 0.9 1.6 36 %
Celery, 1 cup 2 0.7 1.3 35 %
Chard, 1 cup 3.7 0.6 3.1 16 %
Collards, 1 cup 1.3 0.8 0.5 61 %
Dark chocolate, 1 oz 1.7 0.1 1.6 6 %
Flax seed, 1 cup 25.5 13.8 11.7 54 %
Jicama, 1 cup 6.4 3.3 3.1 52 %
Kohlrabi, 1 cup 4.9 3.4 1.5 70 %
Lettuce, 1 cup 0.9 0.3 0.6 33 %
Macadamia nuts, 1 cup 12.5 2.6 9.9 20 %
Pepper, green, 1 cup 2.7 1.1 1.6
Psyllium husk powder, 1 cup 46 14 32 30 %
Pumpkin, 1 cup 7.1 1 6.1 14 %
Radish, 1 cup 10.1 0.5 1.4 5 %
Raspberries, 1 cup 8.4 0.9 7.5 11 %
Rhubarb, 1 cup 4.8 1.2 3.6 25 %
Sauerkraut, 1 cup 5.9 2 3.9 33 %
Spinach, 1 cup 0.8 0.2 0.6 25 %
Summer squash (zucchini), 1 cup 1.4 0.6 0.8 42 %
Strawberries, 1 cup 3.3 0.9 2.4 27 %
Tomatoes, 1 cup 2 0.2 1.8 10 %
Turnip, 1 cup 3.1 1.1 2 35 %

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Please, note that I do not offer personalised advice. For personalised advice you can contact one of our experts.

Comments (68)

Great article! I clicked on it in my Google search for psyllium husk (I was searching for its nutritional benefits within the context of a ketogenic diet and wanted to know the ideal serving size). It says in your table that 1 cup is standard - is that true?! That's a lot!

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Yes, that is definitely too much. I think that the "serving" size is not representative of what people would eat but it's good as a comparison of soluble/insoluble fibre content. I'd say that a tablespoon is probably more of a serving size.

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You rock also great App!

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Thank you Christos!

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Hi,
I apologise for this question in advance.  I live in the UK.
I have been trying to follow the keto diet, I have been inputting all of my food on My fitness pal, my question is how do people eat low carb, Each day the indicator tells me I have gone over the 20g carbs. For example 1 day i ate 2 chick breast's  with 2 tblsp of cottage cheese, it said i had gone over the 20g limit?? Another day I had a green salad with tuna it said 26g of carbs, how does anyone eat veg and keep within the 20g limit and loose weight? I am totally confused, I would appreciate any advice please.  

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Hi Jaci, you don't need to stay below 20 grams of carbs. That is just one of the approaches you can follow. If you follow the diet to maintain or lose weight, you don't need to keep your carbs so low. Have a look at this post for more info: ketodietapp.com/.../how-to-low-carb-15-common-weight-loss-mistakes

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I'm clearly missing something here. I lost 115 pounds about 4 years ago; I've not only kept it all off, I also lowered my cholesterol from 331 to 147 and lowered my blood sugar enough to no longer require any p.o. meds or occasional insulin. I did all that (and still do)by eating unlimited calories and fat: butter, bacon, eggs, cheese, hamburger, broccoli, cauliflower, avocado... and when  I say unlimited, I'm talking about a 1/2 pound to a full pound of butter a day...MINIMUM. In fact, I sometimes eat constantly, all day long(attention span of chimpanzee; must be doing 85 things at once, uncutI have a carb 'cheat day' every 21 days in which I allow myself to eat anything as long as I keep my carb intake under 75 (its a lot). I haven't had a blood sugar above 137 or an A1C above 4.8 since I started this and I'm 54 years old, so I am no spring chicken. My normal blood sugar hovers around 106 and it's always 120-130s the day after 'cheat day'.....
I guess my point is that when  I initially began LC, I did NOT hit the internet..I purposely stayed away from it and ate as much ─żow carb, high fat as I wanted.... once I ate 3 pounds of bacon in a single day (stress, rather binge eating....after my son suddenly... tragically passed away).
I stay under 35-45 NET carbs a day and do just fine.
Apparently we all really are different!

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Yes, we are all different. I'm glad you found what works best for you!

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Thanks for your detailed explanation on net carbs vs carbs. I can always count on you to give a most thorough answer backed with research to a Keto question.

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Thank you Karen!

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Regarding the famous statement of Volek and Phinney that most people can achieve ketosis from limiting total carbohydrates to 50 grams per day, I still wonder if they are referring to net carbs. I ask this because I came across in a sentence in their book stating that 50 g of total carbs equals 200 calories. And this is the point, only net carbs have calories. Thus, if you go to a nutritional label, the total calories will equal the calories from fat, protein and net carbs. in any case, I purchased the blood ketone meter so I'll be able to figure out my own personal tolerances better. Still, I would be curious to know what people think about this. I don't know why Volek and Finney would be so ambiguous about it.

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Hi Joseph, I'm sure that the 50 grams refer to "total carbs". I think that the 200 kcal is an estimate where they counted all carbs as "net" carbs (4 calories per gram). Technically, it should be less than that because there is always fibre. We can derive calories only from soluble fibre and it's less than the 4 calories per gram.

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I put ground flax seed in my eggs. Does cooking the flaxseed release free radicals like cooking flaxseed oil does?

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I commonly use flaxseeds in baked goods. It's similar with any nut and seed flours - some contain oils that are less stable and you should use them in moderation.

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Thanks so much for this post! I'm so tired of the 'you HAVE to count total carbs & be ultra low carb' trend. I tried it but it didn't work. I really believe that what works for one may not work for another. I avoid nuts but only because I can easily eat too many and then end up eating 500 calories more without even knowing. Nuts may be high in total carbs but most of it is insoluble fibre which has NO effect on ketosis. I don't have issues with psyllium either... and that's soluble fibre where it's not clear. Anyway, I know what works for me and would encourage everyone to try and find their 'own' way too Smile

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Thank you for your insights Kim. I don't think that soluble fibre has a negative effect on ketosis but we still need more studies that look into this. From what I've seen, claims that support that are only anecdotal. My personal experience with soluble fibre is that it has no effect on my blood sugar or ketosis. I think it aways comes down to what works for you. Some people prefer a very low carb approach but I don't think it's necessary - or can even be counterproductive - for the vast majority of people.

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I just started the keto diet and am feeling better.  I have a question
I have not been able to find the answer to.  I have read that if you have a high level of Ketones in your system you can test positive on an Alcohol Breathalyzer Test.  Is this true?  I am a Trucker and have to take random DOT Physicals which include a Breathalyzer Test. This would ruin my career.  Please if anyone know about this please respond. I am very concerned.

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Hi Ricky, yes it's possible because you will have acetone in your breath and that's what the Ketonic breathalyzer measures (the one made for measuring ketones). Although the "regular" alcohol testers measure ethanol and other alcohols (not acetone), there are certain circumstances in which you might show a false positive result: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16894360

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Question: how many net carbs do my unsweetened flake coconut have? It says Total carb 2g, Dietary fiber 5g And sugars 2g. Shouldn't the total carb number be bigger than the fiber so that I can subtract it? Thanks!!

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Hi Quinn, it looks like this labelling is either UK or Australian. So in this case "total carbs" represent "net carbs" because this labelling doesn't include fibre in the total carbs count. In general, sugar (just like lactose etc) is only a part of net carbs - in this case sugar makes up all net carbs and it's 2 grams (= net carbs). Then we add fibre and get to "total carbs" which are 7 (5+2). Hope this helps!

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I totally agree. I count net, before I did total and was very low carb. I used to follow a diet with below 20 grams total and I actually PUT ON weight. No nuts, no dairy, just leafy vegetables, the right amount of protein and healthy fats. Got all my tests (thyroid, adrenals,...) and all was good. I was also strength training. Had to take so many supplements that made my stomach sick. And there I was, 6 pounds heavier (fat!!!) because I my only goal was to boost ketones. Best of all  some people count total carbs and on the other hand they subtract all sugar alcohols or FOSs. Then they eat crazy amounts of sweeteners and are wondering why the scales aren't moving.... this was me before. So glad someone wrote something about this zerocarb high ketones craze!

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Thank you Kim, glad it works for you now!

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"You won't be able to eat avocados"  of course you will. it has a net carb of 2, plus it has tons of fiber and helps stabilize blood sugar spikes.  It has medium chain triglycerides that actually help you feel satiated and not hungry all the time.  That's what fat does.
On another note, the guide here to losing weight might serve as a reference, but there are tons of things that can prevent you from losing weight.  Whether your not drinking enough water, not eating enough calories or fat, too many carbs, too much protein, taking insulin, not enough sleep, too much sleep, unable to trigger your metabolic rate, not enough ketones in urine, and the list goes on and on.

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I agree, there are several other and more important factors that play role in weight loss. I have a post including most of them here: ketodietapp.com/.../Not-Losing-Weight-on-Low-Carb-Ketogenic-Diet-Dont-Give-Up-and-Read-Further
Avocados are perfect for a low-carb diet. My point was that for those who count total carbs and/ or limit carbs to very low levels, avocados wouldn't be an option.

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So I'm doing a keto diet to lose weight. So under the carbs, where it includes dietary fiber, do I subtract that from total carbs? For example, it says total carbs are being 7g, and dietary fiber as being 3g, so would the carbs actually be 3g?

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Hi Sarah, it depends where you live. In the US "Total Carbs" include fiber and you will need to subtract fiber from it to get "Net Carbs". In countries like UK or Australia, "Total Carbs" already exclude fiber.

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LOVED this article!

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Thanks Sara!

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Hi Martina I just started Keto yesterday, I want to loose 30 lbs so Im giving myself 30 carbs a day, 75 fat and 109protein. yesterday I ate for breakfast, 2 eggs, with spinach, Colby cheese and bacon on the side 0carbs, then for lunch ceasar salad with salmon which gave me 3 carbs, then dinner a lean small hamburger with half avocado which total all day I only had 6 carbs, 92 protein and 64 fat I am missing carbs and don't know how to add them to my diet. Thanks I love this nutrition and I feel full, I do miss a glass of wine?

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Hi Patty, I think your fat may be a bit on the lower side, your protein may be too high but I'd try this just to be sure: http://ketodietapp.com/Blog/page/KetoDiet-Buddy Keep in mind that you don't need to opt for a large calorie deficit. In my opinion, you shouldn't go below 1400 kcal and try to aim for 1400-1600 kcal. I would personally avoid alcohol for weight loss and only have an occasional glass of wine when in weight maintenance. If you need to add carbs, add more vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, zucchini, eggplant, etc.) and try some berries.

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Finally I'm glad I found an article that makes sense of what to count. I've tried both, counting total and staying below 20 grams and now I'm counting net and never felt better... oh and I have been tracking my food (using your app!!) so I know what happened exactly. Here is what I realised when counting total carbs & staying very low - you have to:
1) add supplements because there is no way you can get all your magnesium and other micronutrients
2) add probiotics to avoid constipation
3) People do lose weight when counting total carbs only because there is not much you can eat and you become bored & prefer to skip meals (just like I did). So you can eat meat, eggs, oils and fats, some or no cheese, no nuts, no coconut. You will unlikely eat too much of any of the allowed foods so you won't get too many calories in. So yes, it works but only in the short term because it's not possible to stick with in the long term - I gained all my weight back after a while.
The best weight loss approach for me was to eat simple food: meat, avocados (not allowed when counting total carbs!!), plenty of leafy vegetables, eggs, little or no dairy and nuts (easy to overeat), some berries, a small amount of low-carb sweets (may cause cravings),...
So what I realised is that counting total carbs is not needed and makes people avoid vegetables - how crazy? Thanks again for all your hard work and keeping the diet sensible! Smile

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Thanks Liz! I think that's why most people lose weight on a very low-carb diet. It's very difficult to overeat anything if you stick with less than 20 g total carbs. It can be done but it is way too restrictive for most people and they often need additional supplements. It's just easier to avoid low-carb treats, "breads", too much cheese and nuts. You get the same or even better results without having to restrict yourself too much in vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, ... and fruits such as berries, coconut and avocados. The main reason people lose weight on a keto diet is not deep ketosis readings but natural appetite suppressing effects of low-carb eating. Also, you can maintain ketosis at a much higher carb limit, usually up to 50 g total / 25-35 net carbs.

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Forgive me...I may be abysmally stupid but there are so many comments that use abbreviations for things...foods and nutrients or types of diets..that I am unable to follow the meaning of what is being written.  Not everybody knows what the writer is referring to although the writer knows.  Can you possibly give me or us a deciphering of these abbreviations. What do all of these letters stand for?? Some are apparent yet many are obscure...like JLS or MUFA or IGN or BG. This is a confusing topic to begin with.  What is wrong with writing out "low calorie sweetener" instead of abbreviating it. There are times when the few first letters are a good idea such as for long complex molecular structures yet by and large it detracts from the writers meaning and attempt to communicate.  It is not cool. Without being rude, and I have no desire to offend, yet when writers do that it seems to be simply laziness and disregard for the reader. At least that is my opinion.  Forgive me (FM...!!) I appreciate your informing the reader..me..of what the letters mean in several of the instances where you use them yet there are far too many instances of the use of capital letter abbreviations for non-labored real comprehension (NLRC...!!) Being new here I am quite grateful for the seminal information you offer. It is priceless to those of us who are facing severe health concerns.  Another thing though...as a thought.  You mention the difficulty with loosing the last five, ten or fifteen pounds.  That doesn't make too much sense.  If the individual doesn't want to worry about loosing the "last" few pounds all they need to do is set their goal weight lower and whoa-la..they now no longer have to loose the last five or ten pounds.  They still have a long way to go so it reverts back to being easy. Now does that make any sense at all?  It's silly. I can think of instances where the idea of the last few pounds does make sense...such as biological resistance approaching an optimum weight...yet that seems specious. Thanks a bunch for all your efforts which are nearly completely superb. With Best Regards,  Barry

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Hi Barry, of course - sorry about that! I mostly provide both (full and abbreviation) but may have omitted the full name in some cases.
MUFA = monounsaturated fatty acids
IGN = intestinal gluconeogenesis (the full name is included when mentioned for the first time in this post, then abbreviated)
BL = blood glucose
Please, have a look at this post - it includes all the basic information and links to the most important posts and tools: http://ketodietapp.com/Blog/page/Start-Here
I think the issue is that most people don't want to move their goals - they aim to lose more weight. Weight loss is gradual and your goal may change over time. Some people may lose weight and get to their first milestone ready to set a new one. I think that this is often the difference between a healthy / normal weight and "ideal" weight which is often desired to be slightly lower.

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This article actually calmed me down a bit, i have been so stressed lately because i'm following a mainly vegetarian keto diet with some fish thrown in as well and i was constantly worried about the amount of vegetables i'm eating. My main concerns were for example that indulging in too much fresh sauerkraut or eating a tomato or two will instantly kick me out of ketosis. Vegetables are just wonderful and i'm not in the least overweight, so apparently i was just ridiculously controlling..

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I think it also depends on how carb sensitive you are. I would personally be careful with tomatoes but sauerkraut, and non-starchy vegetables can be eaten freely. After all it's not just about the carb count but also the nutrient density Smile

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I love that you offer a wealth of information, without saying "this is the only way, do it my way, and buy my expensive product!"  Thanks for all you offer to the low carb community!  I've been tossing this idea around in my head for a couple of weeks and this helped me refocus on what I know works best for MY body.

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Thank you Lucrecia, I really appreciate that!

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After backsliding unwillingly, I'm convinced that I was foolish to allow net carbs to be chosen over total carbs. I experimented with Quest Nutrition bars during a week of overtime, only to be disappointed with my results. Not only that, I witnesses 20-40 point spike in fasting blood sugar over a four-day period. Even two days later, I still have elevated numbers...so I'm going to try to water fast for today and see what results I wind up with in the morning.

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Hi Tom, I think it depends. Quest Bars contain sweeteners and they have a different effect on the body than, say, avocados which are very high in fibre and low in net carbs. Some LC sweeteners may still spike blood sugar:  ketodietapp.com/.../Top-10-Natural-Low-carb-Sweeteners
I personally use Erythritol & stevia which seem to be well tolerated. However, Quest Bars also contain Isomalto-Oligosaccharides and are now a matter of dispute - here is more about it: www.reddit.com/.../

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Martina,
Thank you for your very detailed site.  I have been using The KetoDiet app for about a week.  I love it.  I can't imagine designing something so complex.
I would like to ask you some tough questions:  I'm 55, 5'4" 143 lbs.  I have been trying to get a little weight off, so have tried the Ketogenic diet the past couple months.  I lost about 7 lbs right away then stalled.  I've been trying to delve deeper into a more restricted diet of 1200-1600 calories with 20-25 total carbs to get the weight loss moving again.  I'm still waiting to see if the scale moves, but the problem is I am experiencing less energy, more brain fog and generally feel "wonkey" despite salt, magnesium and potassium supplements.  Any insights?  

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Thank you so much Kristin! How about your protein intake? Do you eat probiotics / foods high in probiotics (sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, etc)? This is an interesting post about brain fog, protein intake and the gut microbiome: caloriesproper.com/.../

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Great post.  Definitely agree.  The big risk of people taking the total carb approach is that they will avoid vegetables and miss out on all that good nutrition. Targetting high fibre, non-starchy veggies is the key to success with LCHF / keto (unless you want to live on organ meats). The most recent food insulin index data definitely confirms that fibre does not require insulin.  Hence maximising fibrous foods is a big win for nutrients, gut health and insulin. See optimisingnutrition.wordpress.com/.../ for more details.

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Thank you for your insights, Marty! Great post!

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HELP WITH NET CARBS IN THE UK AND USING MFP I am in the UK so all packed and labelled produce is already at net carbs values in the uk. I also use MFP. So If I am tracking an avocado on MFP and it says carbs 17g and fibre 12g then net carbs for that is 5g ?? Even if it's listed in MFP as an example ..... "Asda's" medium avocado ? Because it's generic produce and not a uk labelled product I need to take the fibre away from the carb to find my net carbs ?

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Hi Lou, yes, this is a common issue many apps and on several websites which focus mostly on the size of the database and less on the accuracy. The database they have been using is generated by their users and there are no easy ways for them to make sure that it's accurate (users may not enter all the macros or enter inaccurate info). Secondly, when it comes to carbs, not everyone is aware of the different systems (in the UK "total carbs" are what is known as "net carbs" in the US) - this creates even more confusion. A large avocado (200 g / 7.1 oz) has 3.7 g net carbs, 13.5 g fiber and 17.2 g total carbs. This number is highly accurate (using the USDA database and our database in the KetoDiet app).
Here is more about it (in question number 7): ketodietapp.com/.../KetoDiet-App-FAQ

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Wow- did you say roasted chicory root has 37 g carbs????
Been using it as a coffee substitute and frontier claims it has NO nutritional value. Nuts.com also has roasted chicory root and say it has lots of carbs. Do you know what the correct values are for this?
I have a tbs every morn and hope I have not been sabotaging myself for four mos. If it has carbs it may be the reason I am not adapting.
thanks
Michelle

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Hi Michelle, I think that small amounts like a teaspoon are fine and won't affect ketosis. In fact, studies show that small amounts of inulin have a beneficial effect on blood sugar.  
The method I used for calculating net carbs in inulin-based sweeteners is similar to what I used in case or Erythritol / Xylitol (see the post about sweeteners for more details). Chicory inulin does not increase blood sugar but your body can derive calories from it. Some manufacturers use the method I did (that's why they show more carbs) while others don't count inulin in the overall carb values. I simply use my "safe" method for all sweeteners to avoid their overconsumption.
Be careful about products containing other sweeteners claiming to be zero-carb. The manufacturers may use sweeteners that actually affect blood sugar (maltitol, sorbitol, maltodextrin, etc.). This is a different case compared to inulin-based sweeteners.

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Very well researched article that explains what I've been asking for the last couple of months. I'll be counting net carbs from now on. Thanks!

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Thank you Jan!!

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I love love love the post - it's incredibly relevant to the kind of thing I research all the time, so I was super excited to see someone else having done such a thorough discussion of it! I would love a continued series of posts like this, if you ever had a reason to continue it. Especially any information on how soluble fiber may affect blood sugar - I've read it's excellent for blood sugar, but then also that it might affect blood sugar? Like, what about shirataki noodles for example - I love their convenience and use them as a sub for pasta freely - but with all the soluble fiber, are they any better?
Question, though - how is it possible that something like erythritol could have around 5 net carbs per cup, but not affect blood sugar? I thought net carbs were defined as carbs that WOULD affect blood sugar?
Thanks so much!

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Hi Sara, thank you so much for your kind words! It's a bit complicated. The effects of soluble fibre, sugar alcohols and FOS are still something to be discussed and we need more research. Recent research on soluble fibre shows that it may actually lower blood sugar, not increase as we used to think. However, some people seem to have sugar spikes with foods like psyllium and shirataki noodles, basically foods high in soluble fibre. I haven't personally experienced any sugar spikes, at least not with the amounts of soluble fibre I've been eating.
When it comes to Erythritol, studies show that it has no effect on blood sugar and is very low in calories. The reason I count with 5 g net carbs per 100 grams (based on the calorie content) is just to be "safe" and avoid overconsumption on sugar alcohols or any sweeteners. I just edited my post about sweeteners and added this note because I think it wasn't clear. Sweeteners may cause cravings = make us eat more, especially more carbs. This doesn't happen with soluble fibre and that's why I don't apply the same "safety" rule to soluble fibre and count "net carbs". But that's my personal choice.

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Really interesting about soluble fiber affecting some and not others. I figure for now I'll continue to enjoy the products with higher counts of it in them, since it doesn't seem to be bad for you, at any rate.
And that does help explain a bit about erythritol. So even those 5g net carbs wouldn't necessarily affect blood sugar? I try to estimate things conservatively as well, so I can see your logic.
Chicory inulin is something else you discussed on your super thorough/informative sweeteners page. I just purchased some Just Like Sugar Brown, and am a little confused on how to figure the net carbs on that too. According to them, 100g of JLS contains 97g total carbs - 96g of which are fiber. So this would technically be 1g net carb per 100g, but I see you estimated around 37.5g. That's a big difference! Would these 37.5g also theoretically affect blood sugar, too?
And finally (I swear I'll stop barraging you with questions, haha!) I've been a little iffy on monk fruit as a sweetener - I've read a few things linking it to fructose, similar to agave, which had everyone fooled for awhile. Have you read/seen anything about this?
Again, thank you!

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You can ask anything, I don't mind! Thanks for the tip on monk fruit powder. No, I haven't read anything like that and I can't imagine how this sweetener could be linked to fructose. One thing that may cause this is its use in commercially available products - same case as with stevia. If monk fruit powder is mixed with another sweetener / sweeteners, the final product may actually contain fructose. I'll have a look at this!
Just Like Sugar - In general, I would be cautions with their labelling. Just Like Sugar is inulin-based and additionally contains vitamin C, calcium and orange peel. The nutritional values of chicory inulin are about 150 kcal and 37.5g net carbs per 100g / 3.5 oz - again, I used my "safe" method of calculating net carbs from the calorie values.

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When you say closer to your goal weight, how much closer does that usually work out to be for you? I was only 153 to begin with, and am 137 now, working towards 117 or so. I'm short (5'2") so weight really shows on me! I was wondering if maybe the last 20 lbs is hardest, or do you mean like the last 5 or 10? Thanks Smile

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Hi Kelly, my own experience is that the last 5-10 pounds are hard to lose but I never had to lose more than 12 pounds so I'm not quite sure how it works for others. I'd say that even last 20 pounds can be tricky to lose. I'm also short and I know what you mean, every few pounds show. What worked for me was IF and keeping an eye on my calorie intake (not to go over 1600-1700 when losing). Your "ideal" level may be different because I'm quite active and do sports regularly. Hope this helps!

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I live in the UK and just realised that carbs are already removed from total carb count :-( I knew there was something wrong when I ended up with negative values but I thought it was just wrong labelling. I've been using MFP which is absolutely terrible when it comes to accuracy and there are loads of negative values (net carbs of foods). I have an iPad and was wondering how accurate your database is? Thanks!

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Hi PB, our database is very accurate and there are no negative values. It uses the USDA nutrition database and we also keep adding more keto-friendly foods and we always cross-reference their nutrition facts.

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Thanks so much for this article Martina! I've been always counting total carbs only because I don't want to bother about deducting fiber. My daily limit is 50 grams of total carbs which is what Dr Volek and Phiney suggest. I'm type 2 diabetic and it has been working great for me so far - I've lost over 40 pounds since July and have 20 more to go!

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That's great Kelly! Glad you found what works best for you!

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Hi I'm Sherry,need to lose 100 lbs.im very sick an have type 2 di.i can't do exercise anymore an I can't walk.one time I lost 72 lbs an my sisters son got killed so I just couldn't do it anymore .i need to learn more about net carbs.please help me.

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Hi Sherry, have a look at this post, I think it might help: ketodietapp.com/.../how-to-low-carb-15-common-weight-loss-mistakes

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I can attest to the fiber/carbs thing--I've been using psyllium husk powder on my husband for months now, trying to get his BG numbers down, and it only seemed to make things worse.  Then I saw a table on fiber counts similar to yours above, and about FLIPPED OUT when I saw the psyllium numbers.
Since then, I've either switched to glucomannan, lowered the amount of psyllium I use to tablespoons rather than 1/2 cups (or more), or bring out the good old standby:  dark leafy green salads.
Another thing that helps:  Jimmy Moore's shopping tip about buying meats with higher fat grams in them than protein grams (according to the nutrition label).
If I combine all three tricks in one meal, I get spectacular results, but they didn't last more than a day.  A meal might consist of a high-fat sausage patty on a glucomannan bagel (also containing fat), with a green side salad.  Another meal might be a large salad with high-fat chorizo meatballs in it (limited meat--gluconeogenesis), and a glucomannan dinner roll and Kerrygold butter.  
Something I picked up on Jimmy's forum:  a reader posted that he was getting stellar results by taking vitamin K and milk thistle supplements (to clean out the liver, and boost leafy green effect).  Hubby's doing both, and we have since uncovered a K-1 deficiency--ever since I raised his K-1 levels to 500 mcg., blood sugar control is much easier, and I don't have to use glucomannan or psyllium so much--maybe once a week now.  Apparently the salads were on the right track, but he wasn't eating enough greens to deal with the deficiency.
I'd literally have to feed him huge salads 3X/day (with limited meats and veggies), and it wasn't enough.  It was, however, enough to allow me to cut his chromium dose in half.
Now, he's overcoming the heavy insulin resistance, losing weight, and health parameters improving by leaps and bounds (after two years of keto eating).  I'm looking forward to cutting the remaining chromium dose in half again, then eventually eliminating it completely.  I thought we'd never get here!

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Thank you for your insights and useful tips Wenchypoo! I've heard that some type 2 diabetics have issues with soluble fibre. For this reason, it may be better to count total carbs (psyllium is very high in fibre, including soluble).

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I am cutting back on carbs but I must confess, I like my half teaspoon of sugar in my coffee in the morning.  Is that ok? I mean if a small amount of dark chocolate is ok it seemed to me to be reasonable.  After all, dark chocolate does have a bit of sweetness.  What do you say?

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That's true. On the other hand, have you considered some of these healthy low-carb substitutes? ketodietapp.com/.../Top-10-Natural-Low-carb-Sweeteners

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Excellent post! Now I know I'm doing the right thing. I've been on a VLC for 3 months and haven't lost a pound. I switched to counting net carbs and sticking with 30 grams a day and I'm losing again! This is the way I want to eat for the rest of my life, loving it Smile

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Thank you Tiffany. That's great, keto on! Smile

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