The Keto diet requires you to eat the majority of your calories from fats with only 5-10% of your daily calories coming from carbohydrates. This can make it difficult to get the nutrients you need if you’re used to eating sugary fruits and starchy veggies. Luckily, vegetables such as cauliflower make great Keto-friendly options. The following article will outline the benefits to cauliflower on Keto as well as how to best incorporate it into your diet.
How does Keto work?
Before you can understand what makes cauliflower a Keto-friendly vegetable you need to take a step back and understand a little bit about how Keto works. The Keto diet is designed to change the way that your body metabolizes food for energy. Typical diets that are higher in carbohydrates provide your body with the fuel required to make glucose.
Glucose is an easy fuel for your body to make; however, it’s quickly depleted. Shortly after you eat a high-carb meal your body turns it into energy, your blood sugar levels rise and you feel a spike of energy. A few hours after that your body crashes as your blood sugar levels drop and you get hungry as your body sends out signals for more energy.
Anyone that’s tried to lose weight knows how difficult it can be if you’re always hungry. High-carb diets have another downside when it comes to weight loss. Since your body was built to survive it stores any carbs that aren’t needed right away in the form of body fat. This way they’re available when you need it. The problem is, when your glucose stores are depleted a few hours after eating your carb-rich meal, your body doesn’t turn to these fat reserves. Instead, it sends out hunger signals, and you feed it. Then the cycle repeats itself.
How is Keto different?
The Keto diet allows your body to let go of those fat reserves it’s been holding onto so stubbornly. It does this by changing the way your body metabolizes food. When you reduce the number of carbs that you eat to only 5-10% of your daily calories then your body realizes that there aren’t enough carbohydrates to continue producing the glucose it needs. This is the signal it needs to begin producing a different source of energy known as ketones.
Ketones are produced in your live, like glucose; however, they’re created from your fat cells. Both your stored body fat and your dietary fat can be used to make ketones. This allows your body to begin putting that fat it stored away to good use.
There are other advantages to ketones. When you’re producing enough ketones to power your body you end up providing your brain with the energy it needs to fully function. Your brain is very hungry and it’s one of the biggest consumers of energy in your entire body. When you’re powering your body off of glucose there’s often not enough energy to go around so your body shuttles it to the areas that need it the most and this might mean a reduction in the amount of energy available to go to your brain which can leave you feeling like your brain’s in a fog.
Ketones are a steadier form of energy that don’t cause the spikes and drops in your blood sugar. This can be helpful for those battling or at risk for type II diabetes. It’s also helpful for athletes who need a steady supply of energy in order to fuel their workouts.
Vegetables on the Keto diet:
Carbohydrates are sneaky things and they’re found in areas that you wouldn’t normally think to look for them. Vegetables are one source of carbs that you might overlook. There are a lot of veggies that are remarkably high in carbohydrates and starchy veggies are the worst offenders. Root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and beets are all too high in sugars and carbs to be Keto friendly. The starch that’s in these veggies is a type of sugar and sugars are carbs.
This doesn’t mean that you have to live off of multivitamins in order to get the nutrients you need. There are plenty of vegetables that are low enough in carbs to be Keto-friendly. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, lettuce and bok choy are all low in carbs. The same goes for bell peppers, arugula, pumpkin, zucchini, broccoli, and of course, cauliflower.
Cauliflower on Keto
Cauliflower is what’s known as a cruciferous vegetable. It shares this category with broccoli, bok choy, kale and brussel sprouts. As a general rule, the majority of cruciferous veggies are allowed on Keto as long as they’re eaten in moderation. Cruciferous vegetables tend to be high in vitamins E, A, C and folate as well as good sources of fibre. Fibre is very important on Keto in order to keep your digestive tract healthy. A lot of the foods that are typically thought of as high in fibre are also grains so you cannot eat them on Keto. This is why foods such as cauliflower make a great addition to any Keto diet.
A single serving of cauliflower will typically consist of ½ a cup of chopped florets. In this serving you’ll be consuming a mere 1.5g of net carbs. Cauliflower has 2.5g of total carbs in a serving, but it also has fibre as mentioned above. When you subtract the 1g of fibre from the 2.5g of total carbs you’re left with only 1.5g of net carbs.
Net carbs are the carbs that your body can actually digest and they’re the ones that are important on Keto. The general rule is that you should aim to eat 20-25g of net carbs a day, or less. If you consider this guideline you can see how a serving of cauliflower fits in nicely.
Health benefits of cauliflower
Cauliflower is a vegetable with a range of health benefits. It’s a good source of fibre which helps increase the water in your digestive tract in order to keep things running smoothly. It also has a lot of vitamins and minerals.
The Vitamin C that’s in cauliflower is excellent for the health of your immune system and it’s also a good source of vitamin K which you need for proper bone health. You can get vitamin B by eating cauliflower which allows your cells to grow and divide. There’s also vitamin E which is a fat-soluble vitamin that you need for proper blood and vision health.
There was a study done in 2016 that showed that cauliflower may be helpful in reducing your risk of developing heart disease. It’s also been shown to help you manage your weight which is a big reason that a lot of people come to the Keto diet.
There are also studies being done looking at cauliflower’s role in helping to prevent some cancers. If you’ve eaten cruciferous veggies before you’ve probably noticed that some of them have a strong taste that’s similar to sulphur. Instead of turning your nose up at this, you should dig in! The chemical in cauliflower that causes this flavor, glucosinolates, breaks down into compounds that might be helpful in protecting against some forms of cancer.
Ways to eat cauliflower on Keto
Cauliflower is mild in flavor and it’s a remarkably versatile vegetable if you have a bit of creativity. This makes it the perfect vehicle for carrying the flavor of other ingredients throughout your meal. On Keto, cauliflower is often used as a substitute for grains. This is because it has a mild flavour and a texture similar to some grains.
One popular substitution is to use cauliflower to make the crust on a Keto friendly pizza. This allows you to eat the pizza you’re craving without the net carbs. In order to do this all you need to do is chop some cauliflower in a blender, mix it with an egg and a cup or two of cheese such as mozzarella or parmesan and mix in some of your favorite spices like Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. You then spread the crust on a baking sheet and bake in an oven for 15 minutes. Then add your toppings and you’re off to the races!
Another popular substitute is cauliflower rice in place of regular rice. To do this you simply pulse some cauliflower in your blender until it’s developed a rice like consistency. You can add some spices if you wish and then serve with your favorite meal.
Cauliflower also makes a great substitute for it’s starchy relative, the potato. You simply boil the florets the same way you’d boil your potatoes, then drain and mash. The mashed cauliflower will have a very mild flavor so you might want to add some herbs and spices.
You can also use the cauliflower to make a vegan type of chicken wing. If you take the florets and cover them in a mixture of oil (extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil work well), keto friendly hot sauce and spices you can bake them to make a crunchy, nutritious snack that tastes just like a chicken wing. The oil will help you reach your daily fat goal as well.
Cauliflower is an excellent addition to any Keto diet. It’s simple to cook with and very versatile. With the wide range of nutrients and health benefits that cauliflower provides it’s well worth adding into your Keto meal plan.