is corn keto-friendly
Health

Wellness Tips: Is Corn Keto-Friendly?

For years, people demonized fat as the macronutrient responsible for weight gain. However, times have changed, and fat is no longer the enemy. Thanks to the rise of low-carb diets, dieters are now loading up on fats and ditching the carbs to get in shape for the summer! But eating keto isn’t easy, especially since so many recipes are carb-heavy.

Take corn, for example. It’s in so many tasty dishes like southwestern chili, cornbread, taco salads, and more. But is corn keto-friendly? Here is everything you need to know about this starchy vegetable and if you can fit it into your low-carb diet plan.

What Is Keto?

Keto

Every chronic dieter knows the drill — if you want to shed the lbs, drop the fat. However, while this adage has been the norm for decades, the public consensus has changed. In the early 1970s, Dr. Robert C. Atkins wrote a best-selling book detailing a low-carb diet as the most effective method for losing weight.

He claimed that it wasn’t the fat that was causing excess weight gain but sugar. Therefore, his solution was to limit sugar intake to push the body into ‘ketosis’. Ketosis is a state the body enters in times of starvation, where it starts burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.

However, to trigger this state, you must consume fewer than 20g of carbs a day. Instead, Atkins advised basing your meals around fatty foods like meat, dairy, eggs, nuts, and seeds.

Keto works in much the same way. Derived from the Atkins diet, a ketogenic diet is also based around eating low-carb, high-fat foods. However, while the Atkins plan involves gradually increasing your daily carb intake, the keto diet aims to keep your carb intake around 20g a day. That way, your body keeps burning ketones for fuel for extended periods of time.

This diet has seen major success in the mainstream, especially among diabetics. Because it involves cutting out carbs, it helps people with insulin resistance manage their blood sugar better. It’s also shown promise in helping epileptic children manage their condition. According to recent research, children on a keto diet experienced a 50% decrease in seizures.

So not only is this diet a fat-burning machine, but it also comes with many health benefits to boot!

Is Corn Keto-Friendly?

Corn

So keto is basically centered around cutting out carby foods. Sounds simple, right? In practice, however, this can get complicated — especially when it comes to figuring out which type of carb you can eat.

In essence, carbohydrates are one of the three essential macronutrients. Along with fat and protein, they play a vital role in helping your body function normally. Once ingested, your digestive system breaks down all carbohydrates into glucose or blood sugar. Afterward, the glucose is released into your bloodstream to be used up as a primary energy source.

This is an issue if you want to go keto. Your body will not switch to burning ketones for fuel if it can convert existing carbs to glucose. So, going keto means cutting out all carbs, not just ultra-processed ones like white bread, pasta, sugary desserts, and soda. Plenty of whole foods also contain carbs that will trigger an insulin response and prompt your body to burn carbs for fuel.

Corn is one such food. Though it technically falls into the grain category, experts refer to it as a starchy vegetable. Starches are a type of complex carbohydrate that the body has a harder time breaking down. Therefore, they don’t trigger a massive insulin response the way refined carbs do.

Nevertheless, complex carbs will still elevate your blood sugar and kick you out of ketosis. So, as much as you love corn, it’s one of those veggies you’ll have to avoid if you’re going keto.

Are Corn-Based Products Keto-Friendly?

popcorn

If straight-up corn is a no-no on a keto diet, what about corn-based products? After all, refining foods can often change their nutritional content. Sadly, when it comes to corn-based products specifically, the refining process rarely affects their carb content. In fact, it makes the carbs of some products even higher.

Take, for example, the most popular corn derivatives — popcorn, cornmeal, cornflakes, and corn nuts. All of them are created by processing corn to various degrees. The first two, popcorn and cornmeal, are the least processed and are actually fairly healthy. Popcorn is classed as a fiber-rich whole grain, while cornmeal is loaded with heart-healthy vitamins and minerals.

Nevertheless, both derivatives are still pretty carb-heavy. Just one 100g serving of plain popcorn packs a whopping 74 grams of carbs. If you’re on 20g of carbs a day, that’s almost quadruple your daily allowance. Cornmeal is even worse, clocking in at 90g of carbs per 1 cup serving.

However, as bad as their carb content is, they at least provide some health benefits. Cornflakes and corn nuts, on the other hand, have very little nutritional value. They’re classed as ultra-processed foods, meaning they contain a boat-load of additives and preservatives any health-conscious person would want to limit.

One cup of sugary cornflakes contains a modest 27g of carbs. This isn’t a lot, but when you consider that 10 of those 27 grams come from pure added sugar, that handful of cereal isn’t so appealing anymore. Corn nuts are even more carb-heavy, packing a hefty 69g of carbs per cup. They also contain an astronomical 500mg of sodium and 14.5g of trans fats.

In short, these two foods aren’t just something you should cut out if you’re on keto. They’re also foods everyone should consume in moderation to stay as healthy as possible.

How Many Carbs Are in Corn?

Carbs

Since corn-based products are carb bombs, you likely expect the real deal to be just as carb-heavy. However, plain corn is surprisingly not as bad as some of the previously mentioned corn foods.

One 6 3/4″ to 7 1/2″ long cob of corn packs 19g of carbs, and around 88 calories. Plus, it also contains 3g of protein and a bunch of other minerals like potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and selenium. So overall, it’s a pretty nutritious food item.

Nevertheless, if you’re on a strict keto diet plan of 20g of carbs a day, then corn is not a good vegetable to choose. Instead, low-carb veggies like spinach, arugula, lettuce, or cauliflower are a better alternative to beef up your plate.
However, if you’re following a less strict low-carb plan of 50g of carbs a day, then you may be able to fit a serving into your daily allowance.

6 Keto Corn Substitutes

All this talk about limiting your carbs and cutting out corn makes keto seem exhausting. However, don’t despair. Though a keto diet does limit certain foods, you can still enjoy your favorite meals. All you have to do is replace some carby dishes with keto-friendly alternatives.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of keto-friendly corn substitutes to add to your recipes.

1. Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is the bread and butter of savory keto recipes. With just 3g of carbs per 100-gram serving, it’s the ideal companion to any fat-heavy meal. Plus, it has a fairly neutral taste and a versatile texture.

Therefore, you can use it as a corn alternative in many sauces, soups, and chowders. Alternatively, you can also use it to replace popular carb-heavy side dishes like creamed corn, mashed potatoes, and rice. If that’s not enough, cauliflower can act as a good alternative to flour in many of your favorite baked goods.

You can enjoy cauliflower bread, low-carb pizza bases, and wraps, all while losing weight and staying within your carb limit.

2. Avocado

Avocado

To be fair, avocado isn’t the most appropriate corn substitute in most cases. Nevertheless, it can still be a tasty way to bulk up your meal. This fruit contains just 2g of carbs per 100-gram serving. It’s also a veritable fat bomb, boasting a solid 15g of healthy unsaturated fats.

All in all, it’s an indispensable part of a balanced keto diet you can use in both savory and sweet recipes. Add it to a leafy green salad, or mix it with some cocoa powder and a 0 kcal sweetener to get a satisfying dessert to curb your cravings.

3. Broccoli

Broccoli

In terms of taste and texture, broccoli can’t really substitute corn. However, it can act as a solid alternative in many liquid foods like soups and chowders. With just 4g of carbs per 100-gram serving, this vibrant cruciferous vegetable is one of the best ways to add micronutrients to your keto diet plan.

You can enjoy it plain or smothered in cheese sauce. Furthermore, broccoli can serve as a great replacement for potatoes, carrots, or other starchy root veggies in many recipes.

4. Zucchini

Zucchini

For pasta lovers, zucchini is godsent. With just 3g of carbs per 100g serving, this summer squash is the perfect replacement for carb-heavy noodles in many pasta recipes. As a bonus, it also makes for a good corn alternative in a lot of cold dishes like salads or wraps.

5. Celery

Celery

Celery may be one of the most stereotypical diet foods out there. However, its popularity is more than justified. One 100g serving of celery has just 16kcal and 2g of carbs. Therefore, it’s a must-have veggie if you’re following a keto diet.
As a bonus, it’s also incredibly versatile. Celery serves as the base for many soups and stews. You can also enjoy it as a corn substitute in salads, especially if you like your meals extra crunchy.

6. Kale

Kale

Like celery, kale gets a lot of hate from dieters because of its sharp, earthy taste. However, if you prepare it right, it becomes a tasty addition to any meal, especially a keto-friendly one. With just 3g of carbs per 100-gram serving, this nutritious vegetable that belongs to the cabbage family is a suitable corn replacement if you’re a fan of corn nuts.

Simply drizzle it with olive oil, add a pinch of sea salt, and let it bake in the oven. Once the kale gets nice and crispy, you can enjoy a keto-friendly snack that packs the same satisfying crunch as corn nuts but none of the carbs!

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