Putting Net Carbs to the Test


This content was published as part of an advertising partnership with ZenoBar.


Three members of the Beyond Type 1 team living with Type 1 diabetes volunteered as net-carb test subjects. They tried a bar with 23 grams of total carbs and only 3 grams of net carbs – without dosing any insulin – to see what would happen to their blood sugar levels. Here’s what went down.

Nothing but net?

A number of specialty diets, like that of Keto or Atkins, have taken to using the term “net carbs,” urging participants to only calculate these types of carbs when eating as opposed to taking the total carb count into consideration. Net carbs are the total amount of carbohydrates in a food minus the fiber content. It’s believed by some that the only carbs that impact blood sugar levels are net carbs. This is a topic that has sparked a lot of debate, so the Beyond Type 1 team decided to test out some low-net-carb snacks as T1D guinea pigs and see if there might be some truth to the phenomenon. 

Enter ZenoBars

ZenoBars were created to fit in to an ultra low-carb, low-sugar, vegan diet. Named for a Greek philosopher, the bars are the brainchild of Russell and Sue, two vegans with diabetes who met by happenstance on a food blog. Both struggled with finding filling snacks they enjoyed indulging in. Upon realizing there was no real option for a low-carb, low-sugar energy bar, inspiration struck. The result of Russell and Sue’s friendship and over 2000 recipes: tasty bars that claim to have only two to four grams of “net carbs” and use allulose as a sweetener.

Because these bars boast virtually no effect on blood sugar, naturally the Beyond Type 1 office had to investigate! We had members of our team who are living with Type 1 diabetes try the bars and report on taste, texture and what their respective blood sugar levels before, during, and after a Zenobar-eating experiment.

For our experiment, we used Cocoa Chip flavored Zenobars. Per the nutrition label, each bar contains 23 grams of total carbohydrate, 8 grams of fiber, 11 grams of allulose, and 1 gram of erythritol. On the label it also says: “Allulose is the added sugar but can be fully subtracted from total carbs to determine net carbs.” When you do that, the bars have 3 grams of net carbs.

Three Beyond Type 1 staff members with Type 1 diabetes ate one Cocoa Chip bar each and recorded their blood sugars every half hour for two hours. Todd and Dana both purposely chose not to dose insulin to really put the net carb claims to the test. Makaila started the challenge with an elevated blood sugar level, so she had some insulin on board at the experiment start time.

Here’s how it played out:

Dana Todd Makaila
Starting Sugars: 7.3 mmol/L131 mg/dL 8.7 mmol/L157 mg/dL 12.3 mmol/L222 mg/dL
30 Min Post-Bar: 7.1 mmol/L128 mg/dL 8.2 mmol/L149 mg/dL 10.1 mmol/L182 mg/dL
1 Hour Post-Bar: 6.9 mmol/L125 mg/dL 7.8 mmol/L142 mg/dL 8.3 mmol/L150 mg/dL
1.5 Hours Post-Bar: 7.7 mmol/L138 mg/dL 6.9 mmol/L125 mg/dL 5.0 mmol/L90 mg/dL
2 Hours Post-Bar: 6.5 mmol/L117 mg/dL 7.2 mmol/L130 mg/dL 7.2 mmol/L130 mg/dL

Overall, our team’s blood sugar levels stayed stable after eating a Zenobar. Makaila’s dipped and came back up, likely due to the earlier insulin on board. Some people may need to dose a small amount for one of these bars, but overall there wasn’t much impact on blood sugars.

The verdict

ZenoBars seem to be as advertised! These bars are truly low-carb, and had virtually no effect on blood sugars in the Beyond Type 1 office. Even though the makers of ZenoBar recommend covering all bases and dosing a unit of insulin if necessary, our team found that they didn’t need it. Naturally, everyone with Type 1 is different and management rests on the sole needs and preferences of the individual, and it is always better to be safe than sorry. But overall, we were impressed that these bars turned out to be so successful in maintaining blood sugar levels.

Flavor-wise, the office was unanimous in declaring chocolate as the runaway favorite (the bars also come in almond and strawberry). A few team members without Type 1 tried the bars and enjoyed them, remarking that the level of sweetness was pretty remarkable for having such little sugar content. As such, ZenoBars might be helpful for anyone wanting a low carb, vegan energy bar.


Check out the origin story of ZenoBar here.

WRITTEN BY Jordan Dakin, POSTED 08/19/19, UPDATED 08/03/21

Jordan recently graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles after earning her BA in English and Film Studies. She is a passionate storyteller, traveler, and lover of people and hopes to use her experience working in tech and as a writer to advocate for the BT1 community. In her spare time, she also enjoys hiking, karaoke, and cooking for friends. Check her out on Instagram: @jordanemilydakin.