What is Starch and Why is it Bad for Keto? (Plus: Low Carb Alternatives)
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What is Starch and Why is it Bad for Keto? (Plus: Low Carb Alternatives)

Carb Manager Staff

Carb Manager Staff

a year ago

For most people, removing carbs from their diet can be a challenge.

On the Ketogenic diet, trying to get rid of bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice is a common obstacle. But the only way to truly reap the benefits of the Keto lifestyle is by eliminating these tasty starches entirely.

Luckily, there are several low-carb alternatives you can use to replace starches so you can stay in ketosis while satisfying your carb cravings.

In this Keto Beginners Series, we’ll show you how to replace starches in your meals with low-carb, Ketogenic-approved food sources.

What is Starch and Why Is it Bad for Keto?

Basically, starches are just a bunch of sugar molecules (or glucose) smashed together. They occur in high amounts in foods typically referred to as “starchy” foods or “carbohydrate” foods including oats, pasta, rice, bread, couscous, potatoes, cereal, rye, and barley.

During digestion, your body breaks apart all the glucose molecules that are smashed together in the starch so that the glucose can be used for energy. But as you may already know, glucose must be kept to a minimum in order to start burning fats (ketones) as a primary fuel source.

While you’re on the Keto diet, you’ll need to avoid these starchy foods as they will kick you out of ketosis very quickly by providing you with a large dose of glucose. (Be sure to check out this article on common sources of hidden carbs!)

How to Replace Starches With Low Carb Alternatives

To put things into perspective, just 1 cup of all-purpose flour contains up to 100g of carbs. Luckily, there are several ways to replace these starches with low-carb alternatives.

Here are the most popular low-carb starch alternatives you can use to satisfy your cravings while still reaping the benefits of Keto.

Flour

There are several low-carb flour options to choose from. We recommend trying all of the flour alternatives listed below to see which one suits your cooking needs best.

Almond Flour

Almond flour is the most popular low-carb flour alternative on the market and it’s considered a staple in every serious Ketogenic dieter’s pantry.

It’s made from almonds that are blanched in water to remove the skin, then ground into a fine flour. This is the perfect starch alternative for low-carb cookies, cake, and bread.

Just a quarter cup of almond flour contains 5g of protein, 12g of fat, and only 2g of net carbs.

Almond Meal

The only difference between almond flour and meal is the way it’s made. Instead of blanching the almond in water, almond meal is made with the skin still on. This produces a more dense and textured food product.

The nutritional value is almost identical to almond flour with a quarter cup containing 6g of protein, 14g of fat, and only 3g of net carbs.

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is made from dehydrated coconut meat after the fat has been extracted.

A quarter cup of coconut flour contains 6g of protein, 3g of fat, 12g of fiber, and 7g of net carbs. The high fiber content makes it a great starch alternative for anyone looking to improve overall digestion.

Flax Meal

Also known as ground flax, this flour alternative is extremely nutrient-dense, providing ample amounts of copper, vitamin B, and the omega-3 fatty acid ALA (alpha-lipoic acid).

Two tablespoons of flax meals contain 3g of protein, 4.5g of fat, and only 1g of net carbs.

Sunflower or Pumpkin Seed Meal

These are great low-carb options for anyone who has a nut allergy. They contain large amounts of essential vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, copper, selenium, thiamine, and phosphorus.

Other Starches

Pork Rinds

If you’re in the mood for a meal that requires breadcrumbs like mozzarella sticks or chicken fingers, use pork rinds instead.

All you have to do is grind them up and use them as a replacement for breadcrumbs.

Some stores even sell ground pork rinds so you don’t have to crush them up yourself. Most pork rinds have zero carbs. Before purchasing, check the nutrition label to make sure there aren’t any unnecessary carbs from sugars or flavoring.

Cauliflower

Rice pairs great with just about any meal you can think of. If you’re craving for a rice-based meal, making cauliflower rice is the perfect low-carb alternative.

The taste is surprisingly similar to normal rice and the only difference is the texture is slightly harder.

You can also make mashed cauliflower to go along with your steak dinner.

If you don’t have the time to make cauliflower rice or mashed cauliflower, most grocery stores sell them packaged in the frozen section next to the vegetables.

Spaghetti Squash or Zucchini Noodles

Craving spaghetti with meatballs? Replace regular spaghetti with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles for a tasty low-carb meal.

While it may taste a little sweeter than normal spaghetti, the texture of the squash is almost identical and you’ll barely be able to tell the difference after adding meatballs and sauce. Zucchini noodles are even closer to regular pasta and shine in soups and salads.

Making spaghetti squash is as easy as baking the squash and scraping it with a fork. Making zucchini noodles are as simple as purchasing a vegetable spiralizer, using it to spiralize the zucchini, and cooking it as is or even leaving raw!

Lettuce Leaves

If you are in the mood for tacos, burgers, or any sandwich that involves bread, using lettuce leaves is the perfect low-carb alternative.

Lettuce leaves can turn any traditional bun, tortilla, or bread-based meal into a Keto-approved treat. It provides the same satisfying crunch as a shell which makes it a great substitute for tortillas.

These Starch Alternatives Make Keto Easy

No matter how disciplined you are, you’re bound to crave starchy foods eventually.

By using the low-carb alternatives listed above, you’ll have the luxury of staying in a fat-burning state but satisfying your craving for starches at the same time!

Note: The content in this article is not medical advice and is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Always talk to your doctor before changing your diet.