Corn is a very popular food. Summer days often lead to fresh-picked corn on the cob dripping with butter and there’s nothing better than a big bowl of salty popcorn with your movie night. It’s also an ingredient in a large number of other foods in the form of cornstarch, flour or corn syrup. However, is corn Keto-friendly? The short answer is, no. You should avoid corn while on the Keto diet. The following article will explain what makes corn a bad food choice on Keto and what you can use in its place.
Overview of Keto
Before you can understand the role that corn plays in the Keto diet you need to first understand how Keto works. An in-depth understanding of the rules can help you make positive choices for your Keto on a daily basis.
The purpose of Keto is simple. You want to encourage your body to produce ketones in your liver in order to provide your body with energy. A typical diet provides your body with enough carbohydrates that you can function solely off of glucose. Glucose is a very quick form of energy and your body prefers to use it when it can because it’s an easy way to get a quick burst of energy.
However, glucose has its downsides. If you’ve ever eaten a carb-rich meal you’re probably familiar with the sugar rush you get followed a few hours later by a complete crash in your energy levels. This is because glucose is burned through rather quickly leading you to become hungry frequently. Anyone who’s ever tried to diet knows that hunger is the enemy of weight loss and it can sabotage a diet faster than anything.
Ketones are a much better source of energy, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. They’re created from your stored fat cells. The majority of us have plenty of fat cells to spare so our bodies don’t run out of fuel as frequently and this means fewer hunger pains and a greater chance of weight loss success. Because Ketones are created from stored fat this means that you’re literally burning away body fat which means that the Keto diet often leads to weight loss.
Stored body fat can be tricky to lose without entering ketosis. Your body was designed to survive food shortage and environmental stress. For this reason, any carbs that it doesn’t use immediately for energy it will take and store in the body as fat. This is your body’s way of preparing for a fast that never comes. Burning away this stored fat through exercise is almost impossible because your body stubbornly holds onto it in order to survive an emergency.
Keto can help you break your body’s ironclad grip on your stored fat by turning it into useful ketones. In order to keep your body in a state of ketosis where it continues to make ketones you need to ensure that your net carbohydrates are kept to 20-25g of net carbs daily. Any more than this and you’ll kick your body out of ketosis and start producing glucose again.
Net carbs are determined by taking the total carbs in a food item and subtracting any sugar alcohols and any fibre. This is because both fibre and sugar alcohols cannot be absorbed by the body and turned into glucose. Keeping your net carbs low is one of the biggest rules in Keto. In order to do this, you need to carefully track your nutrients and plan your meals.
Starchy Vegetables and Keto
For the most part, starchy vegetables aren’t allowed on Keto. This is because the starchier the vegetable is, the more carbs it contains. When you think of starchy vegetables you probably picture ones that grow below ground such as beets, carrots, parsnips and potatoes. However, because corn is a grain, it’s also a high-carb starch.
Is Corn Keto?
No, corn is not a good choice for your Keto diet. It’s loaded with carbohydrates that can kick your body out of ketosis. The number of carbs in corn isn’t the only reason you should avoid this food. Clean Keto requires you to eat healthy, whole foods. You should also steer clear of genetically modified foods (GMO’s), artificial foods, preservatives and chemicals. This means trying to get organic, pasture-fed, free-range, non-GMO foods whenever this is an option.
The majority of corn grown by farmers today is genetically modified, and the strains that are labelled as organic are probably GMO as well because of factors outside of the farmer’s control such as birds and the wind spreading seeds from field to field. Corn was genetically modified so that farmers could use Roundup on their food crops without the crop of corn dying as well. I don’t know about you, but just because a plant doesn’t die from exposure to a pesticide such as Roundup this doesn’t mean that you should eat the fruit of that plant!
The effect of exposure to GMO’s in humans is an out of control immune response. There’s a variety of white blood cells known as eosinophils that are designed to attack infections as soon as they enter the body. However, the proteins in corn that are altered by genetic modification can trigger these eosinophils to go into overdrive and fight an infection that’s not even there. This can lead to a barrage of side effects such as headaches, rash, fatigue, and nausea as well as various autoimmune disorders such as allergies, lupus, celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.
Corn isn’t something that anyone should be eating let alone someone on Keto who is trying to stick to whole, organic foods. The genetic modification of corn isn’t the only reason that corn is bad for Ketoers. Corn can also mimic the effects of gluten on your body. It’s what’s known as a cross-reactive food. Even though it doesn’t contain gluten, it can still trigger the same response in your body that gluten does.
Along with potatoes, soy and instant coffee, corn confuses your body’s immune response and causes it to become irritated. As a response, your body sends out an immune response to combat the threat it perceives as being there. You may experience headaches, skin problems, stomach and joint pain or brain fog. It’s worth noting that these symptoms will only appear if you have a sensitivity to gluten.
Carbs in various corn products
Corn is a very versatile ingredient that’s found in a lot of the foods we enjoy. Different types of corn products have different amounts of carbohydrates, but as a general rule, all corn products have too many carbs to be considered Keto-friendly. Below are the carb counts for a few of the more popular corn products. You can see how it would be hard to justify eating any of the following if you’re sticking to a 20-25g of net carb limit.
- Corn on the cob-19.1 grams of net carbs per cob
- Cooked corn kernels- 32 grams of net carbs per cup of kernels
- Popcorn- 3 cups of popped popcorn has 14 grams of net carbs
- Corn syrup
- Corn Tortillas- 10.7 grams of net carbs in every medium round tortilla
- Corn chips- an ounce of corn chips (that’s only 10-15 chips!) has a whopping 17.9 grams of net carbs
Alternatives to corn on the Keto diet
There are plenty of foods that can be substituted for corn in your favorite recipe. Whether you’re looking to mimic the flavor, the nutrients or the function of corn one of the following foods will work in almost every scenario.
- Corn extract: This is the perfect way to get the flavor of corn with none of the pesky side effects, health risks or an increase to your net carbs. For example, if you’re trying to make a Keto cornbread, you can use the extract in place of the corn in order to replicate the sweet taste that real corn would bring.
- Black soybeans: Although beans are often avoided on the Keto diet, black soybeans are the exception to the rule coming in at 1g of net carbs per 1/2 cup serving. You would use this substitute if you’re looking to replace the texture of corn in one of your dishes, not necessarily for its flavor.
- Superfine almond flour: If you’re baking and you need a substitute for a recipe that uses corn flour, one of the best Keto-friendly options available is almond flour.
- Keto-friendly veggies: Corn is one of the most popular side dishes and vegetable choices for busy people just trying to get dinner on the table. However, you can easily substitute corn for a more Keto-friendly vegetable such as bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus.
Corn is not a Keto-friendly food because it’s too high in net carbohydrates. Due to its genetic modification and the way that it replicates the effects of gluten in the body, there are a lot of people who should steer clear of corn altogether. If you’re looking for a substitute for corn in your dishes it’s as easy as substituting for another vegetable, flour or adding in a drop of corn extract. When you make the decision to give up corn you can be sure that your body will thank you!