Whether corn helps you reminisce about the times when you played hide-and-seek through the yellow fields as a child, or if a bite of buttery, salty, corn takes you back to the pier-walks with your grandparents, it certainly brings us a sense of comfort.
As soon as you decide to leap into the keto diet, you have to begin questioning the foods you ate regularly and assess their compatibility with your new low-carb, high-fat diet. And so, you start asking yourselves questions such as “is corn keto-friendly?”
Well, unfortunately, the short answer is no. Corn is not keto-friendly.
Even if you decide to venture into various corn products such as corn tortillas, cornflakes, and cornflour, you’ll be sad to know that all of these products may be harmful to your health.
Let’s find out together in this detailed guide and answer the question “is corn keto-friendly?”
Origins Of Corn
Corn has been around for thousands of years and was first discovered in South and Central America. Now, this wonderful vegetable has been adapted to all cuisines around the world and is commonly found in the majority of dishes.
Better yet, corn is versatile and its use has grown further than just to consume whole. Many food products have been adapted from corn, such as tortilla, corn syrup, and even corn tortilla chips which make for a wonderful snack!
What’s more, is that corn is used as an essential food to feed farm animals. In fact, over 60% of corn grown around the world is used as animal food!
Carbs In Corn
Corn is one of the most popular vegetables out there and is very hard to replace – there aren’t many vegetables we can really compare to corn! Unfortunately for us on the keto diet, corn is a starchy vegetable.
What does this mean?
Starchy vegetables tend to have a high carb count. Corn is no exception to the starchy vegetables, although it doesn’t resemble its starchy siblings such as the potato.
So the question now is, what are the carb contents of other corn products and which ones are the most keto-friendly?
Let’s see how many carbs field corn has shall we?
Below is the macronutrient profile of one ear (103g) of field corn (one ear is around 2/3 the size of a cup!) (*)
- Total Calories: 99
- Total Fat: 1.9 grams
- Total Carbs: 22 grams
- Fiber: 2.5 grams
- Net Carbs: 19.5 grams
- Protein: 3.5 grams
One ear of corn, otherwise known as corn on the cob, can wipe out your entire net carb allowance if you are following a strict keto diet. As such, corn on the cob is not low carb and cannot fit into your keto meal plans.
Carbs In Sweet Corn
Let’s take a look at the macronutrient profile and see the carb content that one cup (184g) of sweet corn contains:
- Total Calories: 177
- Total Fat: 2.1 grams
- Total Carbs: 41.2 grams
- Fiber: 4.6 grams
- Net Carbs: 36.6 grams
- Protein: 5.4 grams
As you can see, one serving of sweet corn contains far too many carbs for us to try and substitute into the keto diet. Furthermore, the 41s.2 grams of total carbs come directly from starch and have been shown to increase your blood sugar. (*)
Carbs In Baby Corn
Seemingly popular in Eastern Asian dishes, baby corn has slowly come to a rise in popularity amongst the west, and for a good reason too. Whilst we have established that corn is a starchy, high-carb vegetable, baby corn is not as starchy.
Baby corn is different from the field and sweet corn because it is harvested before it can fully mature (hence the name). This early harvest means we can eat both the corn and the stalk, which are otherwise inedible once the corn is fully grown.
Let’s take a look at the macronutrient content for one serving (85 grams) of baby corn and answer the question “is baby corn keto-friendly?”
- Calories: 19
- Total Fat: 0.3 grams
- Total Carbs: 4.2 grams
- Fiber: 0.5 grams
- Net Carbs: 3.7 grams
- Protein: 0.7 grams
Baby corn is evidently the superior corn when it comes to the ketogenic diet. With its negligible fat trace and only 4.2 grams of carbs, this low-carb vegetable can be used in the keto diet.
Can I Have Corn On The Keto Diet?
As of now, it should come as no surprise that the answer to the question “is corn keto-friendly?” is no. Field corn and sweet corn contain far too many carbs for them to be incorporated into our low-carb diet.
However, if you still wish to eat corn and enjoy those beautiful memories, you can try incorporating half a cup of sweet corn or field corn into your diet if you are not following a strict keto diet. Since half a come of sweet corn has around 16-18 grams of net carbs, this can be used liberally during the week as a snack.
Baby corn, on the other hand, can be classified as ketogenic-friendly. Since one portion of baby corn contains fewer than 5 grams of net carbs, these can be easily included in your meals to ensure a better sensation of being full and absorbing the nutritional benefits of baby corn.
When Should I Avoid Corn?
Although some people may refer to corn as being a low-carb vegetable, in terms of the keto diet, it is not. Although having a few kernels of corn may not cause a dent in your net carb allowance, eating an ear of entire corn on the cob may in fact kick you out of ketosis.
So, what’s the worst part?
Well, you’ve heard the term dirty keto, right? It may come as a surprise when we tell you that corn may in fact be a dirty food, and here’s why:
- A lot of corn and corn products found around the world are genetically modified.(*) This genetic modification of corn has led to resistance to certain herbicides such as glyphosate.
- This means that there may be some unabsorbed glyphosate on the corn which you are eating, which has also been shown to have carcinogenic properties. (*) Additionally, eating genetically modified corn has shown that damage could be caused to your organs. (*)
- Corn has been shown to possess similar qualities to that of gluten and may trick your body is responding similarly to it does to gluten. (*) Therefore, if you have decided to join the keto community to avoid gluten, you may want to avoid corn.
- Corn is classified as a grain, which puts it into the same category as rice and wheat, which renders it a dirty keto food.
Corn Can PREVENT Weight Loss
This sounds crazy, doesn’t it? How can a vegetable stop us from losing weight?
Well, as discussed corn is a starchy vegetable. This means that it has the tendency to spike your blood sugar, and so should be avoided in those suffering from diabetes or who require insulin.
As studies have shown, low-carb diets are proven to be substantially better at maintaining or reducing blood sugar. (*) Although corn is a fibrous vegetable, its tendency to spike blood sugar can lead to further weight gain.
What does this mean for you?
If you are following a diet to lose weight, you may want to avoid eating corn and various other starchy vegetables.
A study was carried out to prove just how much your weight can increase by corn daily. (*) This study resulted in the majority of its candidates gaining weight when eating corn but not gaining weight when eating other starchy vegetables such as peas and potatoes.
Corn Products – Are They Ok On The Keto Diet?
A lot of our favorite go-to snack foods such as the tortilla chip, popcorn, and tortillas are made from corn. But now that we have established that corn is not ketogenic-friendly, what does this mean for corn-based products?
In short, if a product contains corn or is made using corn, it is more likely not going to be low carb or ketogenic-friendly.
Let’s take a look at the glycaemic index of various processed corn products to truly identify their lack of ketogenic benefits (*):
- Sweet corn – 52±7
- Corn tortilla – 46±4
- Popcorn -65±5
- Cornflakes – 81±6
- Taco shells – 62 ± 4
The main takeaway here is that not only do these corn products contain too many carbs, they also possess a medium to high glycemic index score. A medium to high score means that these foods are likely to spike your blood sugar, and should be avoided on the keto diet.
Ketogenic Alternatives To Corn:
Now that you’ve learned about corn and how it is not keto-friendly, as well as how many products contain corn, you are probably wondering what are the go-to alternatives?
Guess what? You’re in luck!
With the ever-rising popularity of fad diets and those wanting to follow a vegan path, different vegetables have slowly risen to the public eye. We are currently at the peak of culinary creativity, and our chefs have found wonderful ways for us to enjoy vegetables that can act as alternatives to corn.
Why don’t we delve into the substitutes that you can have for all corn products, starting with:
Sweet Corn Alternatives
Although corn is a starchy vegetable that is notoriously known to contain a high carb content, there are other lower carb, healthy starches that we can enjoy and adapt to our diet without a worry about our net carbs:
Want to know a secret?
All these vegetables contain a glycemic index of less than 15 and have a very low net carb content so that you can enjoy these freely without worry.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try making cauliflower-based corn products such as a cauliflower tortilla or pizza base?
Corn Products Alternatives
Most of these corn products which we have spoken about have one thing in common other than being made from corn – they are processed. Therefore, when you try and find the best alternatives for these products, make sure they are keto-friendly and contain only natural ingredients.
- Keto cornflakes- there are not many keto-friendly cornflakes found in the markets these days, but you can certainly make your own. Our favorite is to use almond and coconut flakes and have them with some unsweetened almond milk.
- Tortilla Wraps – Although notoriously not keto-friendly, you can actually make your own using only three ingredients: almond flour, olive oil, and psyllium husk. Simply mix all of the ingredients into a dough, cut into a tortilla shape, and place on a frying pan for 2-3 minutes!
- Tortilla Chips – plenty of companies out there have decided to compete and make the best low-carb tortilla chips! Our favorite is Susalia.
- Snacks –If you are concerned about traditional corn snacks and wanting to find a comprehensive list of keto-friendly snacks, why not have a browse through our comprehensive list here!
Alongside all of these substitutes, you can use corn extract. This sugar-free extract is concentrated and gives your foods that corn flavor that we sometimes crave, especially when we want Mexican Food!
To keep your body in a state of ketosis, you need to eliminate all forms of carbs, including those coming from starchy vegetables such as corn.
To answer your question of “is corn keto-friendly?”, simply:
No, corn is not keto-friendly due to the high number of carbs found in the sweet corn varieties. Furthermore, corn is not a clean food because of its genetically-modified nature which is more prevalent than natural corn and prevents weight loss, which is the complete opposite goal when it comes to the keto diet.
If you do want to incorporate corn into your recipes or baked goods, make sure that you use baby corn which does not contain many carbs and packs a wonderful taste.
For corn product alternatives, we recommend you make your own keto-friendly versions using almond flour and sugar-free corn extract for that extra corn taste!