Why Net Carbs Are So Important for the Keto Diet

updated Oct 16, 2020
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If you’re just starting to understand what the ketogenic diet is, you’re probably realizing that while there might be a lot of information to digest, the heart of the matter concerns the restriction of carbohydrates.

The most simple explanation is that a keto diet is a very low-carb diet in which you replace most of your usual carb intake with fat. Cutting your carb intake so drastically puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, which makes your body a lot more efficient at burning fat for energy. Yet, when we and others talk about this particular diet, carbs aren’t simply carbs — the most important thing to know is net carbs are what matter when it comes to keto.

What Are Net Carbs?

The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to understand the ketogenic diet is that it’s specifically net carbs that are counted when calculating your daily intake. Net carbs are the grams of total carbohydrates in a food minus its grams of total fiber. Fiber is a carbohydrate that your body can’t digest, so it doesn’t count toward the amount of carbs that can trigger an insulin response, which too much of can prevent your body from going into that ketosis state.

Total Carbs – Total Fiber = Net Carbs

Most keto diets have you shooting for between 20 to 50 grams of carbs a day, but keep in mind that they mean net carbs, even though they might not say it outright. You can easily take a look at the nutrition label of the food you’re eating or find the nutrition facts online to quickly calculate the amount of net carbs it contains.

Take cauliflower, for example: One cup of cooked florets contains 5 grams of total carbohydrates. It contains 2 grams of fiber, however, which can be subtracted from the total to achieve 3 grams of net carbs.

Keto for Newbies: Curious about the ketogenic diet? This high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb lifestyle puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis, where you burns fat instead of carbohydrates as the primary fuel source. Read more here about what keto is and see all of Kitchn’s coverage on keto here.