Is Soy Sauce Keto-Friendly?

The widely-popular Ketogenic diet strictly limits the consumption of high-carb food, favoring healthy fats in place of carbs. All kinds of food you eat on a ketogenic diet, including seasonings, must be checked for its net carb content first to ensure you’re following the diet correctly.

Now, the question “Is Soy Sauce Keto Friendly?” pops out whenever seasonings allowed on a keto diet is brought up.

Soy sauce is a tasty condiment that is central to several dishes; hence, many Keto dieters want to know if its carb content is indeed within the acceptable limits of the ketogenic diet.

This article explores the truth behind soy sauce’s carb content and nutritional value, so that you may know if it can pass for a delicious seasoning under the Ketogenic diet.

What Exactly Is Soy Sauce?

Soy sauce is a salty liquid seasoning popular in Asian cuisine. It comes in a dark brown color and is made from fermented soybeans mixed with salt and water. Some varieties have either palm sugar, wheat, roasted grains, or yeast cultures as additional ingredients.

Traditionally, soy sauce is made by fermenting cooked soybeans using yeast cultures, then adding salt brine and letting it stand to brew for up to 6 months (1). Once fully fermented, the dark brown liquid sauce is extracted from the mixture. The liquid undergoes pasteurization and filtration to remove microorganisms and solid particles.

New methods of soy sauce production allow for faster brewing time and cheaper production costs. Acid-hydrolyzed vegetable proteins are now used in place of the yeast cultures for fermenting soybeans that turn into soy sauce.

The distinct salty-savory flavor of soy sauce comes from the compounds created during the breakdown of soybean sugars and proteins. Hence, soy sauce has been known to elicit the palatable 5th basic taste called Umami (2).

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Where Is Soy Sauce Use Popular?

Soy sauce use is central to most Asian dishes. Each of the following Asian countries actually has its varieties of the condiment:

  • China
  • Japan
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Philippines
  • Korea
  • Burma
  • Taiwan
  • Vietnam
  • Sri Lanka

Soy sauce varieties can either be thick or thin, depending on the ingredients used in its production. For example, Indonesian sweet soy sauce called Kecap Manis has a thick, syrupy texture thanks to its palm sugar content. On the other hand, Japanese soy sauce called Tamari is typically thinner in consistency because it only has soybean without any additives.

Nutritional Contents of Soy Sauce

Soybean, the main ingredient behind soy sauce, is brimming with several nutrients, including the following (3) :

  • Protein
  • B-vitamins
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Fiber
  • Unsaturated fatty acids
  • Phytochemicals

Most of these nutrients are retained even when soybeans are already processed into soy sauce.

Net Carb Content: Is Soy Sauce Keto Friendly?

The ketogenic diet is famous for limiting carbohydrate content to as little as 20-50 grams per day (4). This is so the body can turn to fats to create energy through a process called ketosis.

Counting the carbohydrate content in food is vital for a person on a ketogenic diet. The net carbohydrate content is specifically counted to ensure that one doesn’t go overboard beyond the strict daily recommended carb intake.

Net carbohydrates are calculated by subtracting fiber content from a food’s total carbohydrate count. It is also called non-fiber saccharides in scientific terms (5).

The net carb content of soy sauce may vary depending on the kind and brand used. But generally, a tablespoon of soy sauce contains about 1 gram of net carbs. This amount is sufficient enough for soy sauce to be considered as a low-carbohydrate seasoning ideal for ketogenic-friendly dishes.

However, be mindful of using soy sauce in cooking keto-friendly meals. A cup of soy sauce could already amount to 16-20 grams of net carbs. You might exceed your keto limits of 20-50 grams per day if you do not use soy sauce sparingly in your dishes.

Lots of keto recipes only call for around ¼ cup or four tablespoons of soy sauce. That translates to a totally acceptable 4 grams of net carbs per recipe. Still, remember to control your soy sauce use, as you can easily go overboard with it in a recipe.

Keto-Friendly Health Benefits of Soy Sauce

Now, we’ve seen that soy sauce packs a relatively low amount of net carbohydrates, making it an ideal condiment for keto-friendly dishes. But why should you include soy sauce in your ketogenic diet plan? Here are some of the condiment’s health benefits:

  • Soy sauce helps your body’s electrolytes in check.

Sodium and potassium levels can be significantly altered by the ketogenic diet, especially if you are just starting on the diet plan.

Low sodium levels can lead to fatigue, muscle cramps, headache, and agitation (6). Meanwhile, low potassium levels can cause heart rhythm problems and muscle cramps that start from the lower extremities and work its way upwards (7).

Soy sauce contains large amounts of sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes necessary to combat the electrolyte-depleting effects of ketogenic diets.

  • Soy sauce fights off Keto flu effects.

Keto flu is a collection of short-term yet unpleasant side effects that occur most, especially when you are new to the ketogenic diet. Symptoms include the following (8):

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Exercise Intolerance

Again, the culprit here is fluid and electrolyte imbalance. Hence, adding soy sauce to your keto diet repertoire helps you fight off keto flu effects thanks to its high sodium and potassium content.

Can Soy Sauce Be Bad for You?

Soy sauce is perfectly fine to include in a ketogenic meal plan. However, soy sauce might not be a good choice for everyone on the keto diet. This is because of the following:

  • Soy sauce has high sodium content.

One tablespoon of soy sauce contains approximately 880 mg of sodium. That’s already equivalent to 37% of a daily recommended intake, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Such high sodium content predisposes you to certain conditions such as elevated blood pressure, hypertension, and fluid imbalances (9).

  • Soy sauce increases estrogen levels.

Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone. It is linked with ovulation, the process by which a woman’s body releases an egg from the ovary.

Males also have small amounts of estrogen in their bodies. However, estrogen production might go overboard in some people, be it a male or a female.

Symptoms of high estrogen include the following:

For females:

  • Irregular periods
  • Heavy bleeding during menstruation
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Development of uterine fibroids

For males:

  • Large breasts (gynecomastia)
  • Infertility
  • Erectile dysfunction

It also predisposes individuals to certain illnesses like stroke, excessive blood clot formation, heart attacks, and cancers of the ovaries and breasts.

Soy sauce contains high levels of phytoestrogens (10). These are substances that are synthesized into estrogen upon digestion and absorption. Hence, phytoestrogens raise estrogen levels in the blood, further aggravating unpleasant symptoms in people with abnormally high estrogen levels.

  • Soy sauce may contain allergens.

Soy sauce may not be the best condiment for you if you are allergic to the following:

  • Soybeans
  • Wheat
  • Gluten

These ingredients often trigger allergic reactions to hypersensitive individuals. Hence, it is advised that you avoid soy sauce entirely and seek alternative condiments instead.

Speaking of alternatives, you can use the following keto-friendly sauces to replace soy sauce as needed:

  • Coconut amino – This is a gluten-free condiment derived from coconut trees and sea salt. It also has a lower amount of sodium compared to regular soy sauce. But beware of the net carbs; 1 tablespoon has 3 grams net carbs, which is three times higher than that of regular soy sauce.
  • Liquid amino – This is a soy-derived sauce that closely resembles the taste of regular soy sauce. It has a higher sodium amount compared to soy sauce. However, its net carb content is only 0.6 grams per tablespoon.

The Bottom Line: Is Soy Sauce Acceptable for Ketogenic Diet Meals?

Soy sauce is a delicious condiment that perfectly complements Asian-inspired dishes. Lots of recipes call for soy sauce as a flavoring, and many ketogenic dieters wonder if this condiment can be used in their ketogenic meal plans.

Is Soy Sauce Keto-friendly? YES!

Soy sauce only contains 1 gram of net carbs per tablespoon, so you can add a few tablespoons to flavor a dish and not worry that you’ve gone overboard the keto carbohydrate limits.

Simply exercise moderation in soy sauce use while on a ketogenic diet, and you’ll find that your meals will become incredibly flavorful without the carbohydrates you’ve been steering clear of.

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