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Is Corn Keto?

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FACT CHECKED
  Published on May 31st, 2022
  Reading time: 3 minutes
  Last modified May 31st, 2022
Sweet corn on the cob

From tortilla chips to popcorn and sweet corn on the cob, corn is one of the most widely eaten and versatile foods. Corn is also used to make corn starch and corn syrup, which is added to a range of recipes and food products. If you’re wondering whether corn is keto, we’ll break it down for you. Let’s look at the nutrition of different corn-based food products and how many carbs are in corn. 

Corn Isn’t a Vegetable

Contrary to popular belief, corn is actually a grain not a vegetable. Some grains are higher in fiber and lower in carbs, but others have a higher carb content and should be avoided on keto.

Some keto professionals believe grains, in general, aren’t a good choice for the ketogenic diet, while others say it depends on the grain, the person, and how often the grain is consumed. People who are more fat-adapted might be able to remain in ketosis while consuming small amounts of certain grains.

Is Corn Keto?

Overall, corn isn’t keto-friendly. Corn is a complex carb and a starchy grain containing more digestible carbs than fiber, and it should be limited or avoided if you’re low carb [1]One cup (165 grams) of canned, cooked corn yields 24 grams of net carbs and only 3 grams of fiber. Corn also provides nutrients like magnesium and potassium.

Canned sweet corn in a bowl

For comparison, one medium sweet potato provides 27 grams of carbs [2]. Corn is generally too high in carbs, but some keto dieters might be able to consume a small amount of corn or half a sweet potato and remain in ketosis.

The Different Forms of Corn

Corn is transformed by manufacturers into many different kinds of food, including tortilla chips and popcorn. However, with the exception of popcorn and corn oil, corn-based food products should be off the keto menu.

Corn Starch

Corn starch is a fine white powder made from corn kernel seeds that is added to many recipes and food products. Just one-quarter cup serving of corn starch has around 24 grams of net carbs, so most keto professionals advise you avoid corn starch on keto [3].

Corn Syrup

The same goes for corn syrup, which is a sweet syrup derived from the naturally occurring sugars in corn. Unsurprisingly, this sugary syrup isn’t keto-approved.

Processed and Refined Corn Products

Highly processed and refined versions of corn, such as tortilla chips and taco shells, are especially high in carbs and will probably push you out of ketosis. 

Corn Oil

Corn oil is a keto-friendly refined grain oil containing zero carbohydrates. One camp of health advocates points out that corn oil shouldn’t be used for cooking at higher temperatures due to the chemical structure because the polyunsaturated fats can break down into toxic compounds and are less stable than saturated fats like those found in coconut oil.

Grab Some Popcorn!

If you’d like to eat corn on a keto diet, buttery, puffy, crunchy popcorn is the way to go. Popcorn is keto-friendly as long as you don’t eat too much. A 1 cup (14 grams) serving only has 6.5 grams of net carbs. Air-popped popcorn is ideal. Be aware that flavorings on popcorn may add carbs, and you’ll obviously want to stay away from caramel-covered popcorn and other sweetened types of popcorn snacks.

Including Corn in Your Ketogenic Diet

So, is corn keto-friendly? The short and simple answer is no. At 23 grams of net carbs for one cup of cooked corn, most keto dieters say no to corn and prefer to use their carbs elsewhere.

Of course, the only way to really know for sure if you’re staying in ketosis is to test your ketones. If you’re on a targeted or cyclical keto diet, you might choose to include corn here and there and map the carbs in corn around your workouts.

Corn is also a grain and one of the top allergens, so people on a paleo keto diet or with a corn allergy should avoid all types of corn. Popcorn is a delightful exception as it has a lower carb count, particularly if you choose air-popped popcorn.

You could use corn extract in keto dishes to get the flavor of corn without the carbs or try a low-carb alternative recipe like this one for flavorful keto cornbread.

References

1.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Database. Corn, Canned, Cooked, No Added Fat. FoodData Central (usda.gov)

2.

United States Department of Agriculture Food Database. Potatoes, Baked, Flesh, Without Salt. FoodData Central (usda.gov)

3.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Database. Cornstarch. FoodData Central (usda.gov)

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