Why Is Sugar Alcohol Not A Carb?

The Nutrition Facts panel’s total carbohydrate figure includes sugar alcohols. Only if the product contains more than 5 g of sugar alcohol can the amount of sugar alcohol content be reduced by half from the total amount of carbohydrates because sugar alcohols include fewer carbohydrates. It would be assumed that a food item had only 21 g of total carbohydrates, for instance, if it contained 25 g of total carbohydrates and 8 g of sugar alcohol.

Here’s what you need to know:

Sugar alcohols have a less significant impact on blood sugar levels than regular sugar because they are more difficult for the body to absorb. Subtract half of the grams of sugar alcohol mentioned on the food label from the total grams of carbohydrates when calculating the amount of carbohydrates in products prepared with sugar alcohols.

Keep in mind that eating too many sugar alcohols may result in digestive symptoms like gas, cramps, and diarrhea since sugar alcohols are more difficult for your body to digest.

Now let’s practice using the sample food label shown here:

  • Find the amount of carbohydrates in a serving. The entire amount of carbohydrates is 29 grams, as you can see.
  • Each serving contains 18 grams of sugar alcohol.
  • Calculate the sugar alcohol content in half (18 grams of sugar alcohol divided by 2 equals 9 grams).
  • Only half of the grams of sugar alcohol should be deducted from the total amount of carbohydrates when calculating this product’s carbohydrate content (29 grams total carbohydrate minus 9 grams sugar alcohol equals 20 grams of carbohydrate).

Sugar alcohols – do they count as carbohydrates?

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According to registered dietitian Tegan Bissell, RD, “Sugar alcohols may have a little effect on your blood sugars, but overall, they are safe to take as part of a balanced diet.

However, eating an excessive amount of sugar alcohol can have negative side effects. Bissell provides the information we need to enjoy the advantages and stay away from the disadvantages.

What is sugar alcohol?

Sugar alcohol is neither sugar nor alcohol, hence the name is deceptive. According to Bissell, sugar alcohols are a form of carbohydrate with a chemical composition comparable to sugar.

According to Bissell, sugar alcohols stimulate the tongue’s sweet taste buds, giving flavor without adding extra sugar or calories. “Food businesses may label their meals as low-carb, sugar-free, or diabetes-friendly without compromising taste,” she adds.

Do sugar alcohols work with a keto diet?

On a ketogenic diet, sugar consumption is restricted because it raises blood sugar levels when consumed.

This is a problem since high blood sugar levels can make it challenging for your body to stay in the ketosis state, which is essential for enjoying the benefits of the keto diet (9, 10).

Sugar alcohols are frequently present in keto-friendly goods since they have a relatively minor impact on blood sugar levels.

Additionally, keto dieters frequently exclude the sugar alcohols and fiber from the total amount of carbohydrates in a food item because they aren’t completely digested. The resultant quantity is known as net carbohydrates (11).

Still, some sugar alcohols are better for the keto diet than others due to the variance in GIs of different types.

Erythritol has a glycemic index of 0, making it a suitable keto-friendly choice for both cooking and baking. Erythritol also has a smaller particle size than other sugar alcohols, which makes it more tolerable than those substances (12, 13).

But on a ketogenic diet, xylitol, sorbitol, and isomalt are all acceptable sweeteners. If you experience any stomach problems, you could only wish to reduce your intake.

Compared to sugar, maltitol has a lower GI. However, compared to other sugar alcohols, it is likely to have a greater impact on your blood sugar levels due to its GI of up to 52. (14, 15).

As a result, if you’re following a ketogenic diet, you might wish to limit your intake of maltitol and go for a sugar substitute with a lower GI.

Most sugar alcohols are regarded as keto-friendly because of how little of an impact they have on blood sugar levels. On a ketogenic diet, maltitol intake should be kept to a minimum because of its stronger impact on blood sugar.

Are sugar alcohols considered carbohydrates for keto?

Depending on:

  • Using what type of sugar alcohol
  • Your level of sensitivity to sugar alcohols

Although sugar alcohols are still included in the calculation of total carbohydrates, most people who follow the ketogenic diet completely deduct the grams of these substances because they are not fully digested. similar to how you could subtract dietary fiber to determine your net carbs. While some subtract a specific percentage from the overall amount of carbohydrates.

How do you know if you are sensitive to sugar alcohols?

Testing your blood sugar is the most reliable approach to determine whether sugar alcohols cause blood glucose to rise. The finest $20–$40 you’ll ever spend is definitely on a blood sugar meter.

Hundreds of people have contacted me anecdotally to suggest that erythritol impacts their blood sugar levels, despite the fact that literature and studies indicate that numerous sugar alcohols, including this one, have no effect on blood sugar levels.

Do you count net carbs for sugar alcohols?

Because fiber is subtracted from a total carb count in recipes and packaged foods, net carbohydrates are essentially the sum of digestible carbs. It’s crucial to know how to read food labels, ingredient lists, and nutrition information.

It’s also crucial to keep in mind that the keto diet places a daily carbohydrate restriction of 20g net grams, not 20g total grams. This is why when reading a nutrition label it’s important to know how to calculate the net carbs for sugar alcohols.

Many individuals reduce half of the grams of any sugar alcohols stated on food packages or listed in recipes from total carbs in order to obtain your net carb count, whereas the total count of grams of fiber is subtracted from total carbs to reach a net carb count in packaged goods and recipes. Erythritol is an exception to this rule; its carbs can be totally removed from the total carb count if it is the sole sugar listed.

Many readers employ the following technique for calculating net carbohydrates for sugar alcohols from a food label:

Do you subtract carbs from sugar and alcohol?

Fiber can be divided into two categories: soluble and insoluble. Your diet contains about two thirds insoluble fiber and one third soluble fiber.

Water cannot dissolve insoluble fiber. It makes stools thicker and may aid with constipation. This form of fiber does not modify the composition of the colon, has no calories, and has no impact on insulin or blood sugar levels (2).

In contrast, soluble fiber turns into a gel when it comes into contact with water, which helps you feel full and slows down the absorption of food (3).

Soluble fibers are converted into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) by bacteria once they reach your colon. These SCFAs support gut health and may have additional positive effects on your overall health.

Depending on the kind of fiber, studies have indicated that the fermentation of 1 gram of soluble fiber to SCFAs yields roughly 12 calories (4, 5).

Since most meals include roughly one-third soluble fiber, a serving of food with 6 grams of soluble fiber could provide up to 4 calories in the form of SCFAs.

Soluble fiber does contain a little amount of calories, but it doesn’t appear to raise blood sugar levels. Recent studies even show that its effects in the intestines may lower blood sugar levels (6, 7).

Numerous studies have suggested that soluble fiber may improve insulin sensitivity, blood sugar regulation, and calorie absorption (8, 9, 10, 11).

The isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO) processed fiber, on the other hand, appears to be partially absorbed in the small intestine like non-fiber carbohydrates, which may cause blood sugar levels to rise (12, 13).

IMO has recently been substituted with other types of fiber by a number of food makers. IMO is still present in a variety of “low-carb dishes, nevertheless.


The small intestine does not absorb naturally occurring fiber. Soluble fiber is fermented by gut bacteria into SCFAs, which have modest calorie counts and neutral to positive effects on blood sugar levels.

With a few key exceptions, sugar alcohols are digested similarly to fiber.

There is a wide range of sugar alcohols and many of them are only partially absorbed in the small intestine.

According to research, 290% of sugar alcohols are absorbed in the small intestine. Nevertheless, some are just momentarily taken into the bloodstream before being eliminated in the urine (14).

All of these sugar alcohols are significantly less caloric than sugar, but they can have different effects on insulin and blood sugar levels.

The glycemic and insulin indices for the most popular sugar alcohols are listed below. The glycemic and insulin indexes of glucose, in contrast, are both 100. (14).

  • Glycemic index, zero; insulin index, two; erythritol
  • Glycemic index: 9; insulin index: 6; isomalt
  • Insulin index 27; glycemic index 35; maltitol
  • Glycemic index: 9; insulin index: 11; sorbitol
  • Glycemic index 13 and insulin index 11 for xylitol

The most widely utilized sugar alcohol in processed foods, such as sugar-free sweets and low-carb protein bars, is maltitol.

The remainder is fermented by bacteria in the colon after being partially absorbed in the small intestine. Additionally, it has been discovered to give roughly 33.5 calories per gram, compared to sugar’s 4 calories per gram (15, 16, 17).

According to anecdotal evidence, maltitol raises blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes and prediabetes.

The small intestine absorbs around 90% of it, which is then eliminated in the urine. The remaining 10% is converted in the colon through fermentation to SCFAs, rendering it practically carb-free, calorie-free, and unlikely to cause digestive issues (14, 18, 19).

Other sugar alcohols may similarly boost blood sugar levels, though to a smaller extent than maltitol, according to studies. However, many people appear to experience severe gas, bloating, and loose stools as a result of them (14, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24).

Importantly, less than 10 participants took part in the controlled research on sugar alcohols, and blood sugar levels weren’t consistently measured.

Although sugar alcohols don’t appear to have a significant impact on insulin and blood sugar levels overall, each person’s response may be different, especially if they have diabetes or prediabetes.

The way that sugar alcohols are absorbed and fermented varies greatly. Most can at least somewhat increase insulin and blood sugar, with the exception of erythritol.

Fiber occurs naturally in whole meals. In order to determine the net carbs, you can just take the fiber out of the total carbohydrates.

Thousands of foods, including their carbohydrate and fiber content, are covered in detail by the USDA Food Composition Databases.

For instance, a medium avocado has 17.1 grams of total carbohydrates, of which 13.5 grams are fiber (25).

Fiber is a component of whole meals that can be taken out when figuring out net carbohydrates. Total carbohydrates plus fiber equal net carbs.

The more details you have, the easier it will be to determine the net carbohydrates in a packaged food.

Calculating Net Carbs From Fiber

The majority of fiber can be fully removed from the total amount of carbohydrates given on the nutrition label.

If you reside outside of the US, the fiber has already been taken out and is listed separately from the “total carbohydrate line.”

However, only half of the fiber carbohydrates should be subtracted if isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO) is listed in the components.

Calculating Net Carbs From Sugar Alcohols

In general, the total amount of carbohydrates mentioned on the nutrition label can be reduced by 50% when accounting for carbs from sugar alcohols.

The exception is erythritol. The carbs in it can be entirely deducted from the total carbs if it is the only sugar alcohol included in the ingredients.

Since many businesses eliminate all fiber and sugar alcohol carbohydrates when calculating net carbs, this value may differ from the amount of net carbs listed on the product label.

For instance, the label of an Atkins bar sweetened with maltitol lists 3 grams of net carbohydrates.

However, when only half of the carbohydrates in sugar alcohols are removed, the net carb value is only 8.5 grams, or 23 grams of total carbohydrates.

9 g of fiber

11 grams of sugar alcohols equal 8.5 grams of net carbohydrates (11 grams X 0.5 = 5.5 grams).

To determine net carbs, deduct fiber and sugar alcohols from the total amount of carbohydrates. Net carbohydrates are calculated as follows: total carbs minus fiber (or half of IMO), minus half of the carbs from sugar alcohols (other than erythritol),


  • Counting net carbohydrates may result in more flexible eating options. For instance, even though blackberries, avocados, and seeds are mostly fiber-rich foods, they may be avoided on a ketogenic diet with a daily carbohydrate intake limit of 20 grams.
  • Fiber-rich foods have been demonstrated to improve fullness, lower blood sugar, and minimize calorie absorption, which may encourage higher fiber intake. Limiting them could occasionally backfire (8, 9, 10, 11).
  • Insulin users have a lower risk of hypoglycemia since these foods and foods high in fiber and erythritol should be taken into account when administering insulin to cover all carbs.


  • Calculating net carbohydrates with total accuracy is currently not achievable due to the variety of processing effects on fiber, the combination of sugar alcohols used in products, and individual response.
  • Some people with type 1 diabetes may find it less effective: While some type 1 diabetics say that counting all carbohydrates makes it easier to control blood sugar, others claim that deducting fiber from the total number of carbohydrates may help prevent low blood sugar.
  • A high intake of sugar-free sweets is possible: Overeating bars that are advertised as “low in net carbohydrates” can hinder weight loss, raise blood sugar, and cause other health issues.

The choice of total versus net carb counting should ultimately depend on what is most effective for you.

Some people might find it useful to count net or digestible carbohydrates, while others might prefer to count all carbohydrates. The decision is up to you.

It’s unlikely that the argument over whether total or net carb counting is more accurate will end any time soon.

However, being aware of how your body reacts to various types of carbohydrates can help you control your blood sugar, weight, and general health.

One approach of doing this is to calculate net carbohydrates. the word “The term “net carbohydrates” simply means “carbs absorbed by the body.”

Subtract the fiber from the total amount of carbohydrates to determine the net carbohydrates in whole foods. Subtract the fiber and a fraction of the sugar alcohols to determine the net amount of carbohydrates in processed foods.

However, keep in mind that the “The net carbohydrate information on food labels can be deceptive, and reactions may differ between people.

You might opt to count total carbs instead of net carbs if you discover that counting net carbs causes higher-than-expected blood sugar levels or other problems.

No matter how you calculate them, the important thing is to consume the amount of carbohydrates necessary to help you reach your health goals.