If you’re thinking about beginning a Keto diet you might be wondering if soy products such as tofu, soy milk and soya sauce make the cut for the list of acceptable Keto foods. This is especially true if you’re a vegan who is considering adopting a Keto meal plan, or someone on Keto who is thinking of becoming a vegan as well. Since soy products figure into a lot of “health” foods nowadays as an alternative to meat and dairy it makes sense to wonder if it’s allowed on Keto. The short answer is, no. The following article will explain why soy isn’t Keto friendly and what you can use instead.
Overview of the Keto diet
In order to fully understand why soy isn’t the best choice for your Keto diet, you need to first understand how Keto functions. It’s a lot easier to follow a diet if you understand the logic behind the rules. The main rule in Keto is that you need to drastically limit your net carbs; however, this is not an arbitrary rule. There’s science behind the number of net carbs that you can eat while on Keto and a very good reason why you should reduce your carbs.
When you eat a high carb diet your body produces a form of energy known as glucose. Glucose is very simple and quick for your body to create which means that shortly after eating a carb-rich meal you’ll experience a burst of energy. Anyone who’s ever eaten a big plate of spaghetti knows that although you feel a spike in your energy levels, it doesn’t last long and you can feel hungry again just a few hours after you last ate. This is because glucose is quickly burned through and your body needs more food to keep glucose production high enough to fuel your body.
When your body creates glucose it stores any carbs that it doesn’t immediately use away in your body as fat in order to be used if there’s a food shortage. The problem is, that food shortage never comes. The majority of North Americans get enough food and since our bodies are designed for survival, that stored body fat is very difficult to lose. Your body doesn’t want to let it go, in case it needs it one day and so it continues to hoard away excess carbs as fat.
Keto helps you access this stored fat so that you can burn it away by tricking your body into thinking that there’s food shortage without actually reducing the number of calories you consume. By reducing your net carbs to a point where your body doesn’t have enough to create glucose you force your body to begin creating an alternative energy source in your liver known as ketones. Ketones are created out of those stored fat cells that your body refuses to relinquish.
Because stored fat is plentiful and it takes longer to create ketones then it does glucose you get a steady stream of energy without the sugar highs and lows that are commonly associated with a high carb diet. This added energy is extended to your brain as well and many people on Keto find that they experience mental clarity and reduced brain fog. Keto can also lead to improved sleep after your body adjusts to its new energy source, and of course, the Keto diet can help you with weight loss as well.
Keto and processed foods
Carbs aren’t the only restriction on the Keto diet; although it is the biggest one. In addition to reducing carbohydrates, “Clean Keto” also has you reducing or eliminating the number of processed foods that you eat. There are tons of low-carb options in grocery stores today that are slapped with a Keto label. Unfortunately, just because something is low-carb doesn’t mean that it’s a good choice for your Keto diet. Processed foods are often high in sodium from added salts and with additives that don’t serve a nutritional purpose. They also contain preservatives and chemicals that can be dangerous for you and they lack the nutrition that your body needs.
The purpose of processed foods is convenience. When they’re made the manufacturer is targeting people who are short on time who want a quick and easy way of doing Keto. This means that instead of being focused on your health they’re focused on your wallet. There are so many essential nutrients that your body needs that processed food manufacturers skimp out on because it doesn’t serve their bottom line.
If you’re looking to do Keto the right way you need to stick with as many foods as you can that are “whole” foods, or foods that don’t come with a nutrition label. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat and oils are the best foods that you can choose on Keto because they contain the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs while allowing you to see exactly what goes into each and every meal.
Is Soy Keto?
The short answer is, no. Although soy products tend to be low in net carbs, this doesn’t mean that they’re healthy or the right food choices for your Keto diet. As we just learned, if you’re following a clean Keto diet then you’re going to be trying to reduce as much processed foods as you can. Soy is one of the most highly processed foods that you can put in your body and the chemicals and preservatives that are used in the processing process are potentially dangerous.
Soy is unique in that it contains a plant hormone known as phytoestrogens. Although this isn’t actually estrogen it’s structurally similar to the human hormone and it can bind to estrogen receptors, acting in a similar way as estrogen. Some people believe that this makes soy a helpful tool in preventing breast cancer; however, others think that plants shouldn’t have an effect on your hormone levels and that any hormonal changes are bad ones.
The majority of soy products are genetically modified. GMO’s should be avoided whenever possible, especially considering the heavy fertilizers and pesticides that are needed in order to grow them. In addition to soy plants being grown in potentially unhealthy ways, the processing of soya beans involves a chemical known as Hexane. Hexane is a neurotoxin that is very dangerous when inhaled.
Keto and Soy Sauce
Soya sauce is technically Keto-friendly if all you care about is net carbs. A tablespoon of regular soya sauce contains 0.7g of net carbs, a tablespoon of low-sodium contains 0.8g of net carbs and a packet of soya sauce contains approximately 0.4g of net carbs. As you can see by looking at the carbohydrate counts, the carbs in soya sauce won’t cut into your 20-25g of net carbs allowed a day.
However, soya sauce isn’t a good option for a clean Keto diet. Along with the reasons that soy itself is unhealthy, soya sauce has the added downside of being full of wheat and gluten by-products which should be avoided on the Keto diet.
If you have a hankering for soya sauce you might want to try coconut aminos, fish sauce or dried mushrooms instead. Coconut aminos are made from fermenting coconut sap which means that they can contain a bit of sugar. The number of carbs varies by brand; however, on average you can expect to get 1g of net carbs in a serving. Fish sauce is made using anchovies and salt so it’s low in carbs; however, like the coconut aminos you need to be careful as to the brand you chose as some of them can contain added sugars. Dried mushrooms are very similar in flavor to soya sauce (although they have a radically different texture) so they’re a great option.
Keto and Soy protein powder
The jury is still out on whether soy protein powder is good for you or not. It’s a good source of protein, and when you look at the protein efficiency score which is a measure of how much something grows after being fed a protein, it falls in the middle of the pack. However, some people have reported difficulties digesting this protein source and there are other protein sources that are less controversial.
If you don’t want to take the chance with soy protein then whey protein and egg protein are both Keto-friendly options with even better protein efficiency and fewer possible risks.
Alternatives for other soy products
Just as protein powder and soya sauce are poor choices if you’re following clean Keto, tofu, soy milk and soybeans are off your ingredient list as well. Below are some substitutes that you can use that are keto-friendly and provide more nutrients for your body.
- Tofu: Instead of processed soy in the form of tofu or tempeh you can try mushrooms. Although they don’t have the exact same texture, they replicate meat which is what most tofu recipes are trying to do. If you’re not a vegan then the best substitute for tofu is good old fashioned meat which is definitely Keto-friendly.
- Soy Milk: Instead of milk made from soy you should try almond milk which is similar in taste and Keto-friendly. You can also find cashew milk and coconut milk. Whichever one you chose make sure that you get the unsweetened version in order to avoid any sneaky carbs.
- Soybeans: If you’re looking to replace soybeans in a recipe then you can always opt for peas. They have the same texture, size and appearance although the taste is slightly different. However, if you’ve stumbled across Edememe then there’s good news for you! Edamame are young soybeans that are still in the pod and they are Keto-friendly! As long as you stick to whole, unprocessed edamame and steer clear of any packaged as a crunchy baked snack, you should be able to reap the protein and fat benefits of soybeans without the harmful effects that come with the processing.
Although it’s technically low enough in carbs to be considered Keto, soy is usually a GMO crop and the processing it undergoes to become tofu, soy milk and soya sauce take out much of the benefits and may even be dangerous to your health. If you’re looking to do clean Keto you should avoid soy and choose a more nutritious alternative.