If you look around the online keto-sphere, you’ll notice that 20 or 30 grams is often the standard daily limit for carbohydrate intake. Any more than that, they say, and you’ll never get into ketosis, never become fat-adapted, and waste all your efforts at reducing carbohydrate intake. And then you come to Mark’s Daily Apple, sign up for the June Keto Reset, or buy a copy of The Keto Reset book and see that I allow 50 grams of carbs per day and don’t even consider non-starchy vegetables as counting against that total carb count.
Why does the Keto Reset allow 50 grams of carbs per day? Why don’t I count non-starchy vegetables?
There are several main reasons.
I Allow 50 Grams of Carbs Because I Don’t Subtract Fiber from Total Carbs. I Don’t Do Net Carbs. I Count It All.
Most keto plans subtract fiber from total carbs to arrive at “net carbs.” They do this for a very good reason: Fiber is not digested, does not count as glucose, and does not impact ketosis. I get it. I’m not denying the fact that the body treats indigestible fiber differently than digestible glucose and fructose. The fiber you eat does not affect your ability to generate ketones. Sure, the body doesn’t treat indigestible fiber the same way as digestible glucose.
But I find it’s just way simpler to count total carbs rather than ask people to pore over the labels and do a bunch of subtraction. This has the effect of giving a “higher total” carb allowance, but the actual number of digestible carbs remains about on par with other keto plans.
Non-Starchy Vegetables Don’t Impact Ketosis in Most People.
For all intents and purposes, foods like spinach, chard, broccoli, and others do not impact ketosis one way or the other. The vast majority of them are so low in carbs that you burn more glucose digesting them than you’re able to extract from them. I’d rather your average 62-year-old retiree who’s trying to get healthier and lose the extra 30 pounds so he can take retirement by the horns not have to weigh and measure his romaine lettuce and spinach. I don’t even want him to have to think about his romaine lettuce. Just eat the stuff!
I’m sure there are extra-sensitive people out there for whom a spinach salad does impair ketosis, but I’m creating general guidelines that work for the largest number of people. Most people can eat one and remain ketotic. And the limit is an upper limit; it’s not a requirement that everyone has to reach.
Non-Starchy Vegetables Offer Many Unique Benefits to the Keto Eater.
Many of them, like spinach, have satiety-inducing effects that reduce cravings for high-carb junk food and make dietary adherence even easier. And they’re often the best sources of micronutrients that keto dieters otherwise have trouble obtaining, like potassium and magnesium.
We Want to Nourish the Gut Biome.
One of the potential downsides to conventional keto diets is the disruption of the microbiome. Several years ago, a study came out claiming to show that “chowing down” on meat and dairy had horrible impacts on the gut biome. Looking more closely, the “meat and dairy” diet was actually a processed meat diet completely bereft of non-starchy plant matter. It didn’t say anything about the type of diet that Primal eaters eat, but it did represent a strike against the conventional caricature of the “salami and cream cheese keto diet.” That’s the “salami and cream cheese” keto diet, the one I cannot support and definitely do not recommend. Having 50 grams of carbs available and not counting non-starchy vegetables makes it easier to eat the plants that contain the prebiotic fiber that nourishes and supports your gut bacteria.
Ultimately, the 50 grams limit with unlimited non-starchy vegetables gives you plenty of wiggle room.
I’ll admit that this has been confusing for some folks. There have been questions about “50 grams” and “not counting non-starchy vegetables.” But it also means that I’m not getting a deluge of questions about whether you should count the carbs in avocados and Brussels sprouts (no and no), whether the asparagus you had last night is going to send you back to square one (it won’t, unless it was breaded and fried and you ate a pound), whether you committed a grave sin by having three bites of roasted potatoes (you only committed a small transgression), and all the other minutiae that bog people down. To me, on net, that balances out in the Keto Reset’s favor. It shows me that people by and large aren’t overthinking the errata (worrying about their broccoli intake). They’re focusing on the big picture (getting fat-adapted while eating a nutrient-dense diet).
How do you folks approach carb counting on your diet? Do you worry about the spinach and broccoli? Do you use net carbs?
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.