What is the Difference between Total Carbs and Net Carbs?

Following a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet has become a popular approach not only to manage weight but also in the management of various health conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy and more recently cancer. However, with information coming from both sides of the Atlantic, people often get confused when counting carbohydrates: do I use “net” carbs or should I just use “total” carbohydrates? In this blog we aim to demystify these approaches to help you get the most out of this way of eating.


Net Carbohydrates are based on the American Food labelling system where the fibre content is taken into account in the total carbohydrate content of a food item. In America, dietary fibre is (rightly) considered as part of the total carbohydrate content of the food item. The figure for Net Carbohydrates is used to differentiate between simple and complex carbohydrates, which have a direct impact on blood sugar levels, and dietary fibre whose effect on blood sugar levels is negligible.   

For example:

If an item, in America, contains 5g of Total Carbohydrates, out of which 2g consist of Dietary Fibre, then the Net Carbohydrate content of this product is 3g.

Here in the UK Net Carbohydrates are already calculated within nutritional labels as simple/complex carbohydrates are one entity (Carbohydrate) and dietary fibre is separately labelled as Fibre. Hence there is no need to calculate Net Carbohydrate content for a product that follows EU labelling rules.

For example:

If an item, from an EU country, is said to contain 3g of Carbohydrate and 2g of Fibre. Then the amount of carbohydrates that will affect blood sugar levels is 3g.

There is no need to calculate net carbs in the UK as this process is in-built in the labelling system.

Therefore, if you are based in the UK and following a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet, you do not need to count net carbs as this has already been done for you :)


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