Is Squash Keto?

With autumn just around the corner, it’s time for pumpkins, sweaters, beautiful fall leaves and warm coffee. Squash is a food that’s often associated with the autumn and if you’re following a Keto diet you might be wondering whether your favorite fall side dish is allowed on Keto. The answer is both yes, and no. There are particular varieties of squash that are more Keto friendly than others. This article will explain which squash varieties are your best option, which you should steer clear of and the reasoning behind the rules so that you can get the most out of your Keto!

What is Keto?

At its core, the Keto diet is an extremely low-carbohydrate diet that’s designed to change the way that your body burns energy. The typical diet in North America consists of a moderate to high number of carbs with very little fat and a moderate amount of protein. When you eat a diet like this your body has plenty of fuel in order to create an energy source known as glucose.

Glucose is created in your liver from the carbs that you eat and any glucose that isn’t used immediately is stored in the body as fat to be used at a later date. It’s created quickly so you experience a burst of energy shortly after eating a high carb meal. However, it’s also used up quickly so you often feel hunger pains only hours after eating. 

This can cause issues with trying to stick to a diet because every dieter knows that hunger is one of the biggest enemies of weight loss. It also causes problems with your weight because the carbs that are stored as fat never get used. They pounds just keep accumulating and accumulating because your body would prefer to use glucose instead of dipping into its emergency reserves.

This is where the Keto diet comes in. Instead of using glucose as energy, the Keto diet aims to switch your body into turning that stored body fat into an energy source known as ketones. Ketones are also produced in the liver but they take longer to create and longer to use up. This creates a more stable energy for your body so you don’t experience the sugar highs and lows of carb-rich meals.

Because the Keto diet uses your store body fat in order to produce ketones it helps you lose weight and burn away stubborn fat. It also stabilizes your energy levels, increases your mental clarity and helps you sleep better at night. In order to keep your body in a state known as ketosis where you’re creating ketones, you need to reduce the number of carbs that you consume.

Net Carbs on Keto

The Keto diet asks that you stick to a carb count of roughly 20-25g of net carbs daily. This is a general rule because different people have different sensitivities to carbs. If you truly want to be sure that your body is producing ketones you can use one of three tests. Keto urine strips are the cheapest option. They don’t tell you how many ketones your body is producing, but they can tell you if they’re present. You can also get keto blood tests and keto breath tests done. These are more costly but they’re more accurate.

As long as your body is still producing ketones you can play around with your net carb limits until you find the one that fits your body the best.

When you look at the nutrition information for a piece of food you should see a total carbohydrate amount listed. This number is generally followed by one or two subcategories called sugar alcohols and fibre. Both sugar alcohols and fibre are types of carbs. However, your body can’t digest them and turn them into glucose so they don’t count towards your net carbs. If you want to figure out the net carbs for an item you simply take the total number of carbs and subtract any grams of fibre or sugar alcohols. 

Vegetables on the Keto diet

There are a lot of vegetables that are allowed on Keto. For the most part, any vegetable that grows above ground is allowed. Dark leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce and kale are all very low in carbs while being high in fibre. Some other above-ground vegetables that you can eat on Keto are tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, celery, cucumbers, cabbage, cauliflower, avocado, olives, broccoli, swiss chard, Brussel sprouts and asparagus.

The majority of below-ground vegetables are too full of starch to be allowed on the Keto diet. The starch content in a food item is a good indicator as to whether or not it’s going to be high in carbs. As you probably guessed, the more starch there is, the more carbs there are. This is a general rule so always be sure to check the carb count of a food item before passing it up or adding it to your meal plan.

It’s best to avoid carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, beans, corn, artichokes, yams, rutabaga, beets, onions, celeriac and some varieties of squash.

Is squash Keto?

So, if above ground vegetables are Keto-friendly then does that make squash a Keto-friendly veggie? The answer is both yes and no. Some squash are higher in carbs than others so it depends on the variety. 

Winter squash

Generally, you’ll want to avoid winter squash. Although these fall favorites are packed full of fibre, the high carb count often makes them unsuitable for a Keto meal plan. You can see how some of the following squash varieties could blow through your 20-25g carb budget pretty quickly!

  • Acorn squash- This autumn favorite is often roasted in the oven with some olive oil drizzled on top. It’s then mashed and served as a side dish to traditional thanksgiving meals. However, despite the oil dressing, this squash is the worst one you can eat in terms of carbs. coming in at 20g of net carbs you could blow through your entire carb budget with one cup!
  • Butternut squash- Another popular side dish, butternut squash is also a no-go while on Keto. With a whopping 15g of net carbs in a single cup you’ll never find room in your carb budget for this squash.
  • Spaghetti squash- You would think that spaghetti squash would be the perfect option on Keto. It’s a fantastic substitute for regular noodles that you need to avoid while on Keto. The problem is, even though spaghetti squash is healthier than noodles made from grains, it’s still too high in carbs for it to work on Keto. With a single cup, you’re looking at 8g of net carbs. Fear not, there is another noodle substitute listed below that is Keto friendly!

Summer squash

Summer squash tends to be the type of squash that you can actually find room for in your Keto carb budget. Know as summer squash because they are harvested in the summer months, as opposed to winter squash that are harvested in the autumn months, these tasty vegetables are a lot lower than their cool weather relatives.

Of the summer squash, zucchini is the one you should stick with. It’s the king of Keto-friendly squash! Zucchini plants grow abundant numbers of this green or yellow vegetable so they’re a great addition to your garden. Growing zucchini at home is a fantastic way of knowing exactly where your food comes from. It’s also a great way of growing your noodles at home.

Zucchini noodles, also known as zoodles, are some of the best alternatives to regular noodles on the Keto diet. A cup of sliced zucchini noodles only has 2.41g of net carbs! This means that you can have plates and plates of Keto-friendly spaghetti without sending your carb count sky-high! Zucchini is a very versatile vegetable. You can roast slices of it on the BBQ or in the oven, eat it raw with some dip or sprinkle it with some parmesan cheese and garlic to make your own “zucchini bread” in place of garlic bread. You can also bread it and fry it or use slices of it to make a Keto-friendly lasagna.

It’s also a very low-calorie food. Since you’re eating so many healthy fats on Keto it can be easy to surpass your calorie goal without even noticing and it’s a good idea to have several low-cal options such as zucchini around so that you can snack without the guilt. Easy to grow, abundant, versatile, low in calories and low-carb. What’s not to like about this type of squash?

Conclusion

There’s something about autumn that screams squash! Unfortunately, if you’re on the Keto diet, the cooler weather varieties of squash such as butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash are off-limits because their carb counts are too high. However, there is a type of squash that you can eat without feeling any pangs of regret. Zucchini is very Keto-friendly and it makes a great substitute for grain-based noodles that you need to avoid while on Keto. So, the majority of squash isn’t Keto-friendly; however, if you stick to zucchini then you’ll be absolutely fine. Enjoy those zoodles!

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