How To Read Carbs For Keto & What Are Carbohydrates?
How many carbohydrates does this food have? And this supermarket product is keto? How much of this can I eat? And if it has a little sugar, will I be able to eat it? Fibre the rest, right? The erythritol that I have bought has 99 carbs, how is that possible, it was not keto? Will this get me out of ketosis?
Today I am going to answer all your questions and I am going to teach you how to read labels to make it easier for you to organise your days and your carbohydrate count on the keto or low carb diet.
Let's make this clear a few basic principles before we start
What is the Keto Diet? . It is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carbohydrate eating style.
What does it mean to be in ketosis? . It means your body is creating ketones, burning fat for fuel instead of using glucose.
What are Macros?
Macronutrients (macros) are groups of foods that our bodies need to function: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. In keto they are usually divided into percentages so that our body can have enough energy and not get out of ketosis. The percentages that we must respect are: 75% of the calories in the form of fats, 20% of the daily calories in the form of protein and 5% of the daily calories in the form of carbohydrates.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibres found in almost everything we eat (flour, sugar, rice, honey, legumes...). Its main function is to provide energy. The body has a preference for carbohydrates as it is very easy to convert them into energy. However, it is a very fleeting and limited energy since when the body uses all the carbohydrates that you have consumed, it stays in "fuel reserve" mode. That is why when we consume them in large quantities we feel a spike in energy followed by a hit of fatigue, lethargy and tiredness.
What is a net carbohydrate?
It is a way of counting that the ketogenic diet has to differentiate the carbohydrates that are going to cause a spike in glucose and therefore possibly get us out of ketosis and those that are going to pass through our body without affecting it in any way. As we have said before, carbohydrates can be sugars, starches and fibres. Fibre is a carbohydrate that does not cause any kind of impact on blood sugar levels, so we should not count it. The same thing happens with a type of carbohydrate called polyalcohol, which are "keto sugars" that do not raise glucose levels either. Therefore, to calculate a net carbohydrate we must do the following subtraction:
Net carbohydrate = TOTAL CARBOHYDRATES - FIBRE - POLYALCOHOLS
How many carbohydrates can I eat a day to stay in ketosis? The recommended amount of grams of carbohydrates per day is 20-25g (5% of daily kcal), however it can vary depending on your level of physical activity and how long you have been on the diet.
How do I know how many carbohydrates a food has?
We are going to divide this question into 2 broad categories: fresh unpackaged foods and packaged foods.
Fresh food: Here I include everything that is not packaged: meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit... To find out how many carbohydrates a fresh food has, you have 3 options:
- Search Google directly: put for example "blueberry carbohydrates "
- Put the food in a macro measurement app such as MYFITNESSPAL or FATSECRET. Personally, it is the option that I like the least because the food data is entered by the users and usually has errors.
- Search in some official database. I always look at the USDA FOOD DATA CENTRE
Packaged Foods: All packaged foods have a label on the back that puts all the nutritional information. There you will find the line of carbohydrates (now we go into more detail).
What foods have 0 carbohydrates?
To make your life easier, here is a list of foods with 0 carbohydrates:
- Fats: olive oil, coconut oil, mct oil, ghee, animal fat, avocado oil...
- Fresh meat: veal, chicken, pork, lamb...
- Salt, pepper and spices .
- Keto sweeteners: erythritol, stevia, monk fruit.
- Simple or zero drinks: Water, coffee, tea, sparkling water, “Zero” drinks.
- Pure alcohol: gin, whiskey, rum, tequila, brandy, cognac.
Another food that has zero carbohydrates is cheese., in all its colours and types. However, if you buy it grated from the supermarket, they usually bring extra carbohydrates since they add a lot of potato starch so that the cheese does not stick and it is more "presentable". That is why I always recommend buying it whole and grating it at home.
How is it possible to measure carbohydrates all the time?
Don't worry, it's just a bit tricky at first. When starting out, many people choose a certain number of low-carb foods to combine "without limit" to keep things simple. And over time you already know more or less the amount of carbohydrates in the foods you like the most, so the count is done practically automatically. Also, since I know how horrible the count is, at the end of all my recipes I leave you all the MACROS for the entire recipe and for each portion of each one of them.
How to read labels on keto?
I'll start by telling you that not all labels are the same and vary depending on the country. This information is super important, so pay attention:
If the product has been purchased in the EUROPEAN UNION: the carbohydrates that appear on the label already have the fibre subtracted, so it should be subtracted, if any, the polyols. European legislation "forces" to put the fibre in a separate line already subtracted so that the consumer can see it directly.
There are no negative carbohydrate foods.
If a food comes out with a "negative" net carb count, you're doing something wrong because it's not possible. Food cannot subtract carbohydrates from your day.
In this case, I imagine that you will be subtracting the fibre when it is already subtracted and that is why it comes out negative... but keep an eye on it because it is impossible.