When the cool and wet weather rolls in, my mind instantly drifts to the comforting flavors of delicious Pho. Those rich bowls of soup, filled with bone broth, pasture-raised beef, and immune-boosting spices, have always made my heart skip a beat. But as someone following a ketogenic diet, I wondered if indulging in this beloved Vietnamese dish was possible without derailing my low-carb journey.
Pho, a soup with its origins in Vietnam, has gained immense popularity in Western metropolitan areas. But how authentic is this dish? It turns out that Pho is not as ancient as one might think; there are no records of pho recipes older than 100 years. The influences of French occupation and neighboring Chinese traditions have shaped the famous broth. Some even suggest that pho may have originated from the Vietnamese pronunciation of the French dish “pot-au-feu.”
The reputation of pho as a hearty and healthy soup is well-deserved. It contains a medley of low-carb foods, like steak, bone broth, leek vegetables, ginger, and spices. However, there is one catch: the traditional addition of rice noodles. These noodles, made from white rice, have a high glycemic index and can disrupt blood sugar control, potentially increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
So, how do the carbs in pho noodles stack up? On average, cooked rice noodles contain 24.9 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, with 23.9 grams of net carbs. Considering that a typical serving of pho includes around 100 grams of rice noodles, it’s clear that this dish is not keto-friendly. The carbohydrate limit for ketosis is approximately 25 grams per day, and a bowl of pho with rice noodles would tip the scale.
But fear not! There are alternatives to traditional rice noodles that can bring the flavors of pho into your keto diet without sacrificing your progress. Three options stand out: Shirataki noodles made from konjac flour, noodle substitutes made from seaweed, and zucchini noodles.
Shirataki noodles, also known as miracle noodles, are a great choice when you’re short on time. These noodles are entirely composed of fiber, which means they have zero net carbs. In my Keto Pho recipe, I rely on these noodles to create a satisfying and keto-friendly bowl of pho.
If you’re a fan of algae products, consider trying kelp noodles as an alternative. They have a negligible amount of net carbs and provide a unique texture to your pho.
For those who enjoy a bit of DIY in the kitchen, zucchini noodles, or zoodles, are a fantastic option. With a spiral slicer, you can transform zucchini into low-carb noodles that are fresh and free from packaged products.
When preparing pho at home, the broth is the foundation of the dish. I prefer to make a hearty bone broth myself, simmering it for at least 12 hours to extract maximum flavor. However, if time is a constraint, you can find 100% keto-friendly bone broths available for purchase.
To achieve authentic Vietnamese pho flavors, a few essential spices are necessary. Organic coconut aminos can replace soy sauce, offering a healthier alternative without genetic manipulation or additives. Vietnamese fish sauce, without glutamate and additives, adds a touch of umami. Organic star anise and Ceylon cinnamon sticks can be included for additional aroma and flavor.
With these alternatives and spices in hand, you can create a keto-friendly pho recipe that satisfies your cravings. Explore the possibilities and relish the health benefits of this beloved soup without hesitation.
Remember, while the refined carbohydrates from rice noodles may make traditional pho a challenge on a ketogenic diet, you don’t have to give up on it entirely. Embrace the keto-friendly substitutions and stay in ketosis, burning fat instead of carbs. Pho can still be an enjoyable part of your low-carb lifestyle.
To learn more about the impact of refined rice products on blood sugar control and the risk of type 2 diabetes, refer to the studies listed below.
Musa-Veloso K, Poon T, Harkness LS, O’Shea M, Chu Y. The effects of whole-grain compared with refined wheat, rice, and rye on the postprandial blood glucose response: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Oct 1;108(4):759-774. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy112. PubMed PMID: 30321274.
Hu EA, Pan A, Malik V, Sun Q. White rice consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis and systematic review. BMJ. 2012 Mar 15;344:e1454. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e1454. Review. PubMed PMID: 22422870; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3307808.