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Is Spinach Keto-Friendly? (& Substitutes)

On the ketogenic diet the goal is to keep your carbohydrate intake low enough. What about spinach, is it keto-friendly?

Spinach is a popular leafy green vegetable known for being full of valuable vitamins and minerals. The ways to eat spinach vary from raw on its own, to a small part of dishes like soup, omelets, lasagna, and more.

The net amount of carbs, which comes down to total carbs minus carbs from fiber, in raw spinach is around 1.4 grams per 100 grams.

While it depends on the rest of your diet, for most people raw spinach is very keto-friendly. You do have to keep in mind that boiled spinach can lose a lot of the water content which makes it higher in net carbs per 100 grams.

Even if you eat it raw, you do not have to force yourself to eat spinach. If you are not the biggest fan of this food there are substitutes that are even better than spinach or about as good for staying in ketosis.

When is a food keto-friendly

The goal of the ketogenic diet is to put your body into ketosis, a state where it starts mainly burning fat as a fuel (1). This comes down to more or less getting 55%-60% of your macronutrients from fat, 30%-35% from protein, and 5%-10% from carbohydrates.

For most people this comes down to eating around 20g – 50g of carbohydrates a day.

In reality, this number is different depending on a lot of factors. For example, people who exercise a lot may be able to consume more carbohydrates before getting kicked out of ketosis.

That being said that daily amount can be a good general guideline.

It is also common to exclude fiber from this amount since it doesn’t get absorbed into your body the same way as regular carbohydrates.

Carbs in spinach

100 grams of raw spinach contains the following amounts of carbs (2):

  • Total carbs: 3.6 grams
  • Of which fiber: 2.2 grams
  • Net carbs: 1.4 grams

While possible depending on the other foods in your diet, it is unlikely that the 1.4 grams of net carbs in 100 grams of raw spinach are enough to kick you out of ketosis.

One cup of raw spinach is about 30 grams, and contains the following amounts of carbs:

  • Total carbs: 1.1 gram
  • Of which fiber: 0.7 grams
  • Net carbs: 0.4 grams

The number of net carbs in 1 cup of spinach, 0.4 grams, is even easier to fit into a keto diet.

Whether or not spinach is keto for you ultimately depends on what portion you have in mind, your individual situation, and the rest of your diet.

Other nutrients in spinach

Other nutrients like fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals also still matter on the ketogenic diet.

100 grams of raw spinach contains the following nutrients (2):

  • Calories: 23
  • Protein: 2.9 grams
  • Carbs: 3.6 grams
  • Part of the carbs that is fiber: 2.2 grams
  • Fat: 0.4 grams
  • Vitamin K: 604% of the DV (Daily Value)
  • Vitamin A: 188% of the DV
  • Folate: 49% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 47% of the DV
  • Manganese: 45% of the DV

And some other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts.

Besides being low in net carbs, spinach can also provide you with big amounts of valuable nutrients. A good combination for a ketogenic diet.

One thing you have to keep in mind is that spinach contains a relatively high amount of vitamin K. This may interfere with certain blood-thinning medications (3).

If you take these kinds of medications you want to consult with your doctor before implementing large amounts of spinach in your diet.

How to avoid eating too many spinach

You generally should be able to fit spinach in your keto diet. Even so, in some situations you may have to exercise some portion control. Buying a big bag of spinach and hoping that you don’t eat too much is not the ideal way to do this.

You can avoid eating too much spinach with some of the following tips:

  • Plan ahead, how much spinach will you eat?
  • Put the planned amount on a plate and leave the rest of the spinach out of sight
  • Don’t eat during other activities like watching TV
  • Consider not buying spinach if you crave them too much

If you notice you get out of ketosis you may need to reduce the number of spinach you eat.

Substitutes for spinach on keto

Spinach is not the only option when you want to eat vegetables on the ketogenic diet. Spinach is one of the vegetables lowest in net carbs but there are many vegetables that can also be keto-friendly.

Some of the following substitutes may be better or a nice alternative to spinach on the keto diet. These are the net carb values per 100 grams (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9):

  • Chicory: 0.9 grams of net carbs
  • Green leaf lettuce: 1.5 grams of net carbs
  • Celery: 1.8 grams of net carbs
  • Radishes: 1.9 grams of net carbs
  • Asparagus: 2.1 grams of net carbs
  • Zucchini: 2.5 grams of net carbs

If you want to stay in ketosis but want to switch up the vegetables in your keto diet, these other options can be nice substitutes for spinach.

Keep in mind that even with these examples you may have to exercise portion control to stay in ketosis. That being said, spinach and these other substitutes are generally relatively low in net carbs.

What is your goal with keto?

Even a small portion of spinach added to certain daily diets could potentially put you just over the net carbs border, out of ketosis. Depending on the goal you have with the keto diet this may or may not be a problem.

If your goal is to stay strictly in ketosis 24/7 you want to be careful about your carbohydrate intake.

If your goal is to lose weight and become healthier, spinach can be a good food option even if it potentially puts you at a carbohydrate level slightly above your ketosis level.