How to Calculate Net Carbs (UK Vs USA)
Ever wondered how to calculate net carbs for your keto diet? How does it vary from the UK to USA? Let's explore in this guide
When counting carbs for a Keto diet, we generally look to nutrition labels and online forums. We want to find hints and tips from those in the know, and online communities can be extremely helpful.
However, when it comes to net carbs, not everything is as simple as it may first appear. It can be a bit of a minefield. One of the most common questions we get asked as a company catering to Keto enthusiasts is how to calculate net carbs — and how American nutrition labels differ from UK labels. We want to make your Keto journey as seamless and pleasant as possible, so let’s delve into this topic — what are net carbs? Why does it matter? And how do we calculate net carbs in the UK vs the USA?
What Are ‘Net Carbs’?
There are several types of carbohydrate and our bodies digest each type differently. Some carbs are not fully digestible. Net carbs are the total amount of digestible carbs in a given meal or product. For this reason, total carbs will be different from the amount of net carbs.
Knowing and tracking the number of net carbs will help you with your Keto goals.
Why Count Net Carbs?
You will want to count net carbs (also known as “effective carbs”) if you are following a low carb diet. This can either be a general low carb diet (less than 150 grams per day) or a Keto diet (generally fewer than 20 grams of carbs per day).
Counting net carbs might sound daunting at first, but it actually results in a great deal of freedom — by determining net carbs, you can free yourself up to enjoy a variety of foods rather than cutting them out completely. For example, you might do the maths and discover our salted caramel blondies fit within your plan!
How Do We Calculate Net Carbs at Deliciously Guilt Free?
Here at Deliciously Guilt Free, our labels follow UK nutrition guidelines, as laid out by the government. Our labels outline the carbohydrate count for each cake or brownie, as well as the carbohydrate count per 100 grams.
Below is our blueberry and lemon drizzle cake label as an example:
Related: How to eat out on keto
How to Calculate Net Carbs in the UK
So let’s delve into the maths — how do you calculate net carbs in the UK?
The first thing you need to know is that in the UK, we don’t have to subtract the fibre from the carb count. This is a really important difference between how UK and USA nutrition labels are set out. In the UK, fibre is listed separately from carbs. So the carbs listed in the UK are what our American friends would call "net carbs".
Another pertinent think about calculating net carbs is that the carb count in the UK also includes polyols. While Polyols are a carbohydrate, they are not a sugar. Generally, they are not absorbed by the body. When Polyols reach the small intestine, they are either not digested at all or partially digested — meaning if you are following a low carb or keto diet, you don’t need to include them in your carb count.
By law, however, we are required to count the polyols as part of the carbs on the label. So in the UK (and throughout the EU), all you need to do to calculate net carbs is to deduct the number of polyols from total carbs.
On all our labels we tell you exactly how many carbs there are from polyols, so you can take them away from the carbs to work out the actual amount of carbs your body can absorb.
Below is an example of how to calculate net carbs for our blueberry and lemon drizzle cake:
(total carbs - polyols = net carbs)
For the blueberry and lemon drizzle cake
8.7-6.7 = 2g net carbs
Are all polyols the same? Can they all be ignored?
The short answer to this question is no!
Polyols are a name for a group of sweeteners — but some of them have more of an impact on blood sugar levels than others. This can be confusing, as some sweeteners like maltitol (a type of polyol widely used in cakes and bars) are labelled as "keto-friendly", despite the fact that they impact blood sugar levels.
So, in addition to looking at the carbs and working out the net carbs, it is important to look at the ingredients. For more information on issues with maltitol and other sweeteners, see our sweetener blog post where we dive into this subject. At Deliciously Guilt Free, we use erythritol as our main polyol sweetener as it is generally accepted to be a good sweetener for keto and low carb. We never use maltitol in our bakes — it’s just not allowed in our kitchen!
A few of our products have a small amount of xylitol, but when we use xylitol we count the carbs from xylitol in our net carb labelling. We don't ignore them — this is because it isn't as low GI as erythritol.
There are also major issues with the labelling of certain polyols — including isomalt-based sweeteners. These still impact blood sugars as they are actually a slow-release carbohydrate and, therefore, should be used in moderation!
How to Calculate Net Carbs in the US
If you're in the US, the process for working out net carbs is similar and fairly simple.
All you need to do is subtract dietary fibre from the total carbs! That is the only substantial difference. After this, you subtract polyols as you would in the UK. The rest of the stuff on polyols is the same in both the UK and USA.
Here's an excellent resource for your US label questions and more info!
I hope this helps clarify some of the questions you might have about labelling. If you ever have any queries, please drop us a line through our website or email email@example.com. We know how hard you work to maintain your low carb or keto way of eating, so we want you to have full confidence in the macros when you eat our cakes.
Are you looking to spoil a friend with a deliciously guilt-free keto treat? Why not buy a gift card to show how much you care?