on August 08, 2019
Carbs can be hidden in the most unlikely of places. Take vegetables, for example. Conventional wisdom tells us we can eat as many veggies as we want, but on the keto diet, conventional wisdom goes out the window. There are many items in the produce section that contain a full day’s worth of carbs or more in a single serving (peas, plantains, and garbanzo beans, to name a few).
Despite these carb-laden landmines, there are a number of keto heroes in the vegetable world that are delicious, low on carbs, and versatile enough to be used in dozens of different recipes. One of them is the cucumber, which is what we’ll be focusing on today. We’ll reveal how many carbs there are in cucumbers and show you the best ways to work this humble vegetable into your keto diet.
Whether you’re a follower of the keto diet or not, there’s so much to love about cucumbers.
They’re low in calories but rich in a number of important nutrients, including Vitamin K, which promotes healthy blood clotting and bone metabolism, and Vitamin C, which bolsters the immune system and may protect against cardiovascular disease. An entire medium-size cucumber contains just 45 calories.
They’re also filled with antioxidants, which fight the accumulation of free radicals that are associated with cancer and other diseases.
Cucumbers are a good source of hydration, which is hard to find in foods. They’re 96% water, so they’re a helpful option to snack on if you struggle with drinking enough water each day. Another benefit of water-rich vegetables? They boost saliva production, which fights against bad breath.
Finally, cucumbers may help lower and stabilize blood sugar levels, which is critical to maintaining ketosis. A study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition found that blood sugar levels were reduced in diabetic mice who were fed cucumber, suggesting the possibility of a similar result in humans.
So the big question for keto dieters is this: are there carbs in cucumbers? The answer is yes--like most vegetables, cucumbers contain carbs.
However, they’re on the low end of the spectrum. One cup of chopped cucumber (and that’s a lot of cucumber) with the peel on contains 4 grams of total carbs, 2 grams net carbs. Remember, net carbs are the carbs that are actually absorbed by the body. This number is found by subtracting the fiber and some of the sugar alcohols from the total number of carbs in a given food. So, you can eat a decent amount of cucumber without making much of a dent in your daily carb macros.
One thing to note is that the majority of a cucumber’s nutrients and fiber are found in the peel. To get the full nutritional benefit from this green veggie, eat it with the peel intact.
With cucumbers, can you have too much of a good thing? In practical terms, no. Most people eating standard portion sizes won’t consume enough cucumber to be worried about ill effects.
One group of people that may need to watch their cucumber intake are those on blood thinners. Because the Vitamin K in cucumber promotes blood clotting, people on blood-thinning medications shouldn’t start eating a high amount of the veggie without first consulting their doctor.
For the majority of people, the biggest concern about cucumbers isn’t what’s in the vegetable, but what’s on it. Over the last decade, cucumbers have been ranked on the Environmental Working Group’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, which calls out the foods with the most pesticides.
To limit the number of pesticides you’re exposed to, buy organic cucumbers whenever possible and wash them thoroughly before eating. Use a clean vegetable brush, which will also help scrape off the waxy outer coating found on some cucumber varieties. If you have a green thumb, you might even start a garden and grow your own.
If you think cucumbers are merely a topping for salads and sandwiches, think again. With the right mix of ingredients, they can play a starring role in a variety of snacks and main dishes. Here are four of our favorite ways to work cucumbers into your keto diet.
Potato salad is a backyard barbecue staple, but those carb-filled spuds will quickly throw your ketosis completely out of whack. Instead of potatoes, use cucumbers as the base for your next salad recipe. They’re sturdy enough to hold up in a salad without wilting and beautifully take on the flavor of whatever they’re combined with.
You can go savory, zesty or even spicy for your low-carb cucumber salad. We love this creamy cucumber salad from Wholesome Yum. Made with sour cream, dill and a dash of lemon juice, it’s a flavorful side dish that rivals any macaroni salad in the potluck spread.
We don’t know about you, but potato chips rank pretty high on our list of most-missed foods that are off-limits on keto. Not to worry, though, because, like many high-carb snacks, potato chips have a keto-friendly replacement: cucumber chips. They’re super simple to make; the success lies in the seasoning.
Try these tasty salt and vinegar cucumber chips from Low Carb Yum. You can prepare them with a food dehydrator or simply bake them on low heat in a conventional oven. Use a mandoline to get the slices perfectly thin so they crisp up nicely.
When we think of cucumbers and sandwiches, we typically envision the veggie between the bread. In this case, it takes the place of the bread. Thick-sliced cucumbers serve as a great base for sandwiches and protein-based salads like tuna salad, salmon salad and chicken salad.
To start, try this chicken salad variation from Sugar Free Mom. It features a delicious chicken salad with cumin and cilantro (which is also great on its own, by the way) and an olive topping for added flair.
Parties and other social gatherings can present a challenge for keto dieters. You don’t want to be that guy in the corner with the super picky food preferences, but you also don’t want to sacrifice all your hard work to maintain ketosis for a few bites of food you’ll regret later.
Nip the problem in the bud by bringing a dish you--and everyone else--can enjoy. Cucumber bites make an ideal keto-friendly party contribution. Think of them like a bagel bite. They’re the perfect vehicle for a creamy, savory topping.
These keto cucumber bites from My Keto Recipes are to die for, made with indulgent cream cheese, onion, chives, and bell pepper. Top them with a slice of smoked salmon for an added serving of protein. They’re so good you’ll want to make a batch to store in the fridge and munch on at home as a snack.
The keto diet can be a lot of fun for foodies because it teaches you so many surprising ways to prepare foods that at first glance might appear pretty boring. To add to your vegetable repertoire, here are a few other ideas for low-carb veggie alternatives.
In our humble opinion, eggplant is one of the most underrated vegetables. You can grill it, fry it, roast it or saute it. It pairs well with all kinds of different cuisines, from Italian to Middle Eastern. It can even take the place of meat in many dishes.
A 3.5 ounce serving of eggplant contains about 3 grams of net carbs.
Our favorite way to use eggplant is to turn it into pizza. Sure, keto pizza dough is great, but it’s messy and time consuming to prepare. When you’re short on time and ingredients, use a thick slice of eggplant as your base. Top it with a generous amount of cheese and your favorite pizza toppings. Check out this low-carb eggplant pizza recipe from Eating Bird Food for a how-to.
It’s no secret we’re big fans of cauliflower. Not only is this cruciferous vegetable low carb (2 to 3 grams of net carbs per 3.5-ounce serving), it can be prepared in an endless number of ways.
One of our favorite new trends is buffalo cauliflower, a meatless alternative to the ubiquitous buffalo chicken wings that are popping up on a growing number of menus. This version from Healthy Recipes Blog is made with no breading for a keto-friendly spin on the popular dish.
Last but not least is nutrient-dense asparagus. It’s packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and will set you back just 2 net carbs per 3.5-ounce serving.
One of the best ways to prepare this low-carb vegetable is to keep it simple and roast it with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and mozzarella cheese as shown in this recipe from Cafe Delites. It feels indulgent but will keep you well within your daily carb limits.
Now that you’ve got the scoop on cucumber, there’s just one question left: which recipe are you going to try first?
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