Keto and Low Carb Success

What About Fruit and Starchy Vegetables?

March 09, 2023 Miriam Hatoum Season 2 Episode 40
Keto and Low Carb Success
What About Fruit and Starchy Vegetables?
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 40: What about Fruits and Starchy Vegetables?

In this episode learn about fruits and starchy vegetable. Berries and the less sweet fruits are allowed on Keto and there is more latitude with Low Carb, but it is important to know some issues with fruit especially if you have been diagnosed with  NAFLD - Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Enjoy starchy vegetables - also in moderation. The main reason to eliminate or cut down on these vegetables is because of the amount of carbohydrates they contain. I also have a segment on resistant starches that you might have heard about in your travels.

2:02    Personal Story
3:32     Don’t have your head in the sand about fruit and stubborn weight loss
6:01     Eating Fruit on Keto
7:00    What if you eat a lot of fruit?
7:33    If you have type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance or any other form of metabolic disorder, these can almost always be healed with a well-formulated Keto diet.
8:47    Why berries are allowed on Keto
9:41     Here are the fruits to eliminate or limit even if you are eating Low Carb
10:40  If you are taking the low carb path (rather than keto) in your journey
11:39    Snack substitutions
12:54   The more serious issue with fruit is not just the carbohydrate count
14:56   What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)?
17:15    What Are Root and Starchy Vegetables?
20:53  You may have heard of resistant starches
24:23  Carb cycling
25:11    Metabolic Flexibility
26:05  Carb Addiction
28:07  Remember: all carbohydrates turn to glucose in your system
30:58  This Week’s Actionable Coaching Advice
33:45  Next week's Episode 41 coming up

Lock & Key Lesson (Blog on insulin)
Book: Breaking Free From Diet Prison (Conquer Craving with Keto)
Course: Keto and Low Carb Success
35-Page FREE Keto and Low Carb Planner

Article or Resistant Starch
 Johns Hopkins Article
Connecticut College Study


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Episode #40 What about Fruit and Starchy Vegetables?

You’re listening to the Keto and Low Carb Success podcast, Episode #40, What about fruit and starchy vegetables?


Enjoy Keto and Low Carb success by becoming aware of what foods work best in your body and why. Master your mindset to make the journey an easy one. Learn all this, and more, with this podcast based on my trademarked Granny Keto Transitions Program. Join me, Miriam Hatoum, health coach, course creator and author of Conquer Cravings with Keto, as I give you actionable coaching advice with each episode that is sure to empower you and take any confusion out of following a Keto or Low Carb diet. It’s like being a private coaching client while you listen at your convenience!

But before we start, I wanted to offer my free gift to you for just for taking a peek at my course, Roadmap to Keto and Low Carb Success. No obligation – just take a peek! At the bottom of the page you will find a spot to put in your name and email address and like magic, my 35-page Keto and Low Carb Planner will appear in your in-box! The feedback on this Planner has been fabulous and it is yours free for just taking a look over at The direct link will be in the show notes and transcript.

And now to the episode, What about fruit and starchy vegetables?

I’ve been doing a few science-heavy episodes because I want to give my listeners a solid basis for understanding how to approach keto and Low Carb. Indulge me with one more for now, and next week I promise to get back to some mindset work.

2:02    Personal Story

During the summer of 2016, a friend of mine was telling me about the Atkins induction phase. I heard "no fruit" and was completely turned off. I'm not going there. Nope. Never.  But I did, for the first time, start looking into what low carb means.  

When I listened to Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes, everything finally fell into place for me, and I immediately gave up fruit and started Keto. It was over a year before I even ate a berry! 

I finally understood why I never lost a pound even though I faithfully followed a Paleo lifestyle for years.  It was all the sugar in the unlimited fruits I was eating along with other allowed elements of Paleo, including no limit on root vegetables, nuts, honey, etc.  The fruit-to-insulin connection and then what insulin is responsible for, opened my eyes and enabled me to begin Keto. 

It is easy to learn about what fruits to eat on keto (berries, sometimes called "little fruits"). Even for low carb the list is easy: Just go light on tropical fruits and dried fruits and eat others in moderation (I counsel my clients to have no more than 2 a day). 

3:32     Don’t have your head in the sand about fruit and stubborn weight loss.  

While you are following a low carb eating style, you can have fruit.  However, I think the biggest downfall of some of the popular diets is that fruit is unlimited. For instance,

·       A cup of grapes is 29 carbohydrates, and

·       Half a medium cantaloupe is 23 carbohydrates.

(You might say – who eats a half a cantaloupe?  If you are my age – in your 60s, surely you remember putting cottage cheese in the well of half a cantaloupe!)

  • A fresh Bartlett pear is 25 carbohydrates
  • A small banana  is 24 carbohydrates
  • A medium Granny Smith apple is 24.1 carbohydrates
  • 1 cup of cherries is 22.1 carbohydrates
  • 1 cup of watermelon is 11.6 carbohydrates
  • A medium navel orange is 17.6 carbohydrates
  • Two clementines is 18 carbohydrates
  • 1 large grapefruit is 26.8 carbohydrates

The reason fruits are not allowed on Keto and should be limited for low carbohydrate eating is because they are made up of fructose, sucrose and glucose, and therefore most carry a high carbohydrate load.

One difference here with low carb vs. keto is that fruit in moderation is allowed on low carb, while on keto, typically, only berries are allowed. Limit your fruits to very low carbohydrate ones (the lower carb count indicates less sugar) and limit the amount you eat in a day to no more than one or two. Forget the gigantic fruit salads you think are so wonderful!  

It is important to build an awareness and a mindfulness when you reach for fruit. The carbohydrate count alone can get in the way of successful weight loss, but there are things much more sinister lurking in fruit sugar.

6:01     Eating Fruit on Keto

  • If you have decided to do Keto, I ask my clients to cut out fruit. 
  • I would further suggest that they not have berries early in their transition to Keto
  • But if they must, I ask them to please limit berries to ½ cup per day.
  • You may want to do some investigation on your own.
  • For instance, blueberries are higher in sugar than other berries so try to go with raspberries, strawberries or blackberries. 
  • Keto allows the juice of fresh lemons and limes because the sugar/carbohydrate count is very low. 
  • However – and not that anyone would – please don’t drink a glass of pure lemon or lime juice! 
  • A couple of tablespoons of these juices throughout the day to flavor your foods and beverages are okay. 

7:00    What if you eat a lot of fruit?

  • If you are doing Keto and you are concerned about your reliance on fruit, don’t have fruit for a day or two. 
  • Then a week. 
  • Then before you know it, you won’t miss it at all. 

I remember when I started, I told my friend, “I can’t imagine never eating another piece of watermelon for the rest of my life.”  The rest of your life is a long time.  Don’t look at that now. 

7:33    If you have type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance or any other form of metabolic disorder, these can almost always be healed with a well-formulated Keto diet. 

  • There might come a time when you can have a piece of fresh fruit and not have your insulin and blood sugars go all wonky. 
  • More importantly, there will be a time, once you are not only physically healed but emotionally healed as well, when you can have a piece of fruit and not have the craving monster plague you. 

But for right now, for just this day in front of you, don’t reach for that piece of fruit. 

  • Trust me on this, please. 
  • I went through my first three summers of Keto without a piece of watermelon and I survived. 
  • The first summer I enjoyed some watermelon and I did not feel the need to binge on an entire serving plate of watermelon and other fruits.
  • When I measured my blood glucose in the evening it was all good which indicated that my insulin resistance was healing!
  • Yours will too.

8:47    Why berries are allowed on Keto

·       Berries, in contrast to some other fruits, in moderation (about ½ cup), not only have much less sugar but their glycemic load is also low.

·       They will very slowly, if at all, raise a person’s blood glucose level. 

·       They are loaded with phytonutrients.

o   Phytonutrients are natural compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help support a healthy body.

However, many doctors call berries "little fruits" because they still carry a warning about fructose as do other fruits. They should be eaten in strict moderation if at all.

The sweeter the fruit and the more concentrated the fruit, the higher the concentration of sugar. 

9:41     Here are the fruits to eliminate or limit even if you are eating Low Carb

Tropical fruits

Tropical fruits are very sweet (and thus very high in carbohydrates). Some of the most popular that you would recognize are:

  • Banana
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple

Less common, but still popular, tropical fruits are:

  • Dragon Fruit
  • Durian Fruit
  • Lychee
  • Star Fruit 
  • Mangosteen

Dried fruits

Dried fruits are very high in sugar because they are concentrated.

  • For instance, one cup of grapes is 29 carbohydrates, but a cup of raisins (not even "packed") is 115 carbohydrates.
  • A little sprinkling (like "ants on a log") is okay here and there but a baggie full of raisins or dates is not a wise choice for a snack.

10:40  If you are taking the low carb path (rather than keto) in your journey
There is no “rule” to eliminate fruit.

Keep your fruit intake to those with lower carbohydrate counts such as grapefruits and melons.

Learn which are the high-sugar fruits

  • grapes
  •  bananas
  •  dried fruits
  •  etc.

Do your best not to have them.

And, just as with Keto, have the only juices you use be for flavoring, not drinking.

The carbohydrates and fructose do not concern me if you limit them, but they may keep sugar cravings alive. If you are still battling the sugar demon it might work in your favor to eliminate all fruits and berries for a while. You can always add them back once you no longer have cravings that take you off course. 

11:39    Snack substitutions 

Are you used to taking a piece of fruit for a snack?  That was the hardest for me, even more than giving up those fruit salads and plates of fresh watermelon.  If you are choosing to do Keto and once you start with higher fat, you most likely will not have the urge to snack anymore, at least not because of hunger. Eating from boredom or habit is another issue!  Here are some ideas for snacks:

  • Salami & cheese, or just a piece of string or hard cheese
  • Celery and cream cheese or unsweetened nut butter
  • Broth with butter – don’t laugh – sometimes I will have that when I “need” a snack. Often, I have that and find myself so full and satisfied, I don’t even want my next meal!
  • Nuts
  • Kale or spinach smoothie (no fruit!)
  • Roast beef rollup
  • Hard boiled eggs

You can see that there is plenty to reach for and it doesn’t have to be an apple or banana!  As you cut out fruit your need to snack on it will lessen.

12:54   The more serious issue with fruit is not just the carbohydrate count

Fructose, specifically, puts a heavy burden on the liver which can cause Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, abbreviated as NAFLD.  No cell in the body can directly use fructose so it goes directly to the liver and can be responsible for problems you may be having with losing weight, and particularly belly fat. 

More serious than belly fat? Yes! There is a more serious concern with fruit that goes beyond their carbohydrate count which increases insulin which increase belly fat. 

  • Fructose, one of the sugars in fruit, cannot be used by your cells for energy. 
  • Fructose goes directly to the liver to be metabolized.
  • It is ultimately one of the major causes of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) which is linked to early death, diabetes and heart disease.
  • Fruit also makes you more insulin resistant
  • It raises your triglycerides
  • It increases inflammation 
  • It has a terrible effect on your cholesterol.

More and more studies are being done on this. There are already many animal studies, but the link is so strong and interesting that more human studies are also being conducted.

These studies include

  • Learning about the difference between fructose in fruits, HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) and combinations of fructose and glucose. 
  • From where things stand now, many researchers consider fructose to be a liver toxin because of the work the liver has to do to metabolize it. 

14:56   What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)?

  • Virtually unknown before 1980, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) now affects up to 30% of adults in the United States and other developed countries.
  • And of those, between 70% and 90% are obese or have diabetes.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is when too much fat builds up in liver cells.

  • NAFLD, often reversable, is the most common liver disease in adults and children in Western countries.
  • It is difficult to predict. 
  • It is often not detectible except for blood tests and imaging.
  • It can, however, lead to impairment of the liver.

NAFLD is also linked to an increased risk of other diseases, including

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • kidney disease

NAFLD is caused by many factors including

  • obesity
  • excess belly fat
  • insulin resistance
  • high intake of refined carbohydrates
  • sugary beverage consumption, and  
  • impaired gut health.

It is time to make the connection between Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and fruit. While you are working to correct these situations, let your liver “rest” and don’t tax it by making it necessary to work to rid itself of fructose.

16:38   Since we are in the produce section, let’s talk about Root Vegetables 

There are many questions around root vegetables on keto and low carb. If you are taking the keto path you will want to eliminate root/starchy vegetables. If you are taking the low carb path you will simply want to cut down on these.  The main reason to eliminate or cut down on these vegetables is because of the amount of carbohydrates they contain. Your best weight loss strategy at all times is to keep your carbs low.

17:15    What Are Root and Starchy Vegetables?

Starchy vegetables are more than just potatoes and peas and carrots. Let’s define them and see why they are so high in carbohydrates:  

  • Most starchy vegetables grow below ground.  
  • They are loaded with sugar because they are the source for feeding the greenery that grows above the root.  
  • Most people will think of potatoes but also think beets, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, shallots, onions and yams. 
  • There are others too. 
  • Always check the carb counts for a vegetable other than leafy greens. 
  • Two exceptions to the high-carb, below-ground vegetables are scallions (green onions) and radishes.

Above-ground starchy vegetables include 

  • winter squashes and corn (which is actually a grain, but some people consider it a vegetable). 
  • pumpkins 
  • tomatoes (which are actually fruit)
  • Pumpkins and tomatoes are higher in carbohydrates than other above-ground vegetables but not considered “starchy” and are allowed in very careful quantities. 

Ginger and garlic, both considered below-ground vegetables, have one carbohydrate for one tablespoon and one clove, respectively, so they certainly can add up in a recipe! When you have escaped from diet prison and are no longer counting everything that you eat, these carbohydrates will be minimal additions to your cooking.

19:01   Beware of outliers

  • An example of an outlier in carbohydrates is the shiitake mushroom that is 10.4 carbohydrates per half cup, while most other mushrooms are no more than two carbohydrates. 
  • These are not below-ground vegetables, of course, but I am mentioning them here because I want to make the point that it is important to note that you probably should not take carbohydrate counts for granted! 
  • Your care now will pay off later so you can escape from diet prison.

My advice is that even if your ultimate goal is not to weigh, measure and track everything you eat, you would be well-advised to look things up at the very beginning of this journey.  There might be unexpected surprises like those shiitake mushrooms!

20:00 Here are some examples of how many grams of carbohydrates are in starchy and root vegetables

  • Small baked potato: 25 grams 
  • One cup of peas and carrots: 22 grams 
  • One cup of beets: 12 grams
  • One cup steamed carrots: 17 grams
  • One cup steamed parsnips: 31 grams
  • One cup acorn squash: 30 grams
  • One medium sweet potato: 28 grams
  • AND THE WINNER IS YAMS: One cup fresh (not canned with syrup): 38 grams 

These little innocent sides to your meal could be your full carbohydrate allotment for keto and easily half your day’s allotment for low carb. 

20:53  You may have heard of resistant starches

  • Resistant starch is a carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine. 
  • As the fibers ferment they act as a prebiotic and feed the good bacteria in the gut. 
  • There are several types of resistant starch. 
  • They are classified by their structure or source. 
  • More than one type of resistant starch can be present in a single food.

21:30   Many keto proponents advise eating resistant starches even if you are doing strict keto

  • For those who feel they are extremely carb addicted, it might be a foolish road to go down. 
  • When I read about resistant starches and realized that white rice is included I was dreaming of not one... but MANY bowls of white rice. 
  • For me, right at this point in time, I personally am not going to wander into starches... resistant or not!


  • Research has shown that using resistant starch the correct way can lower blood glucose levels. 
  • Resistant starch may be keto-friendly because it bypasses digestion, so it isn’t broken down like a typical carbohydrate—which means it won’t spike your blood sugar.

A very interesting article on resistant starch says, "Some people respond well when they introduce resistant starch into their diet, while for others, it just doesn’t work. It can take six weeks or more for your body to get used to it, so start small. If you have too much, too soon, one of the tell-tale side effects of resistant starch is gas and bloating." If you want to read more, this, and the other following studies, are in the show notes and transcript.

23:05  Food Sources of Resistant Starch

I do not use resistant starch and so I am not writing from first-hand knowledge, but here is an abbreviated list. 

"Foods that contain resistant starch include:

  • Plantains and green bananas (as a banana ripens the starch changes to a regular starch)
  • Beans, peas, and lentils (white beans and lentils are the highest in resistant starch)
  • Whole grains including oats and barley
  • Cooked and cooled rice

23:44  The amount of resistant starch changes with heat.

  • Oats, green bananas, and plantains lose some of their resistant starch when cooked. 
  • Another type of resistant starch is made in the cooking and cooling process. 
  • Cooked rice that has been cooled is higher in resistant starch than rice that was cooked and not cooled."

The general consensus seems to be go slowly and drink a lot of water! And, I would add, don't start if you consider yourself very carb addicted and are not ready to handle any starches just yet. A source from Johns Hopkins speaks more to this.

24:23  Carb cycling

This is an approach where you eat a higher amount of carbohydrates on either a regular basis (once a week, every other day, etc.) or as needed. For instance, many women find some relief if they add extra carbohydrates during their menstrual cycles.

Increase carbohydrates through natural whole foods such as adding a sweet potato or other root vegetables to a meal. Carb cycling does not give you permission to eat candy bars and chocolate cake once a week!

25:11    Metabolic Flexibility

There has also been some anecdotal evidence that carb cycling may increase your body’s ability to burn fat in the long run by making your body metabolically flexible. People who are very keen on this method of Keto are Leanne Vogel, Will Cole and Mark Sisson. There are many more proponents of carb cycling, but these are three professionals I am most familiar with.

I recommend that you do some research on the purported benefits of carb cycling if you are interested. If you are severely insulin resistant or have other metabolic issues, this might not be for you. Do your research. Remember: It does not mean you have permission to pig out once a week – even if you schedule it into your food plan.

26:05  Carb Addiction

This seems as good a spot as any to bring up carb addiction. 

A Connecticut College study found that "Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat/high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability." 

As with many other studies, it has been found that sugar activates the opiate receptors in our brain and affects the reward center, which leads to compulsive behavior, despite the negative consequences. 

This is why people feel addicted to sugar and baked goods. When one cookie leads to the entire box and you feel out of control, you can be assured it is not in your head. It is a very real thing.

Some people - especially proponents of the "everything in moderation" brand of intuitive eating - feel very strongly that there is no such thing as carb addiction and that it is possible to eat all things in moderation. 

This is where I parted company with traditional intuitive eating programs. In my course, The Roadmap to Keto and Low Carb Success, I do teach intuitive eating but with the guidance of low carb and keto behind it. For a lot of us it is not a matter of moderation and certainly not a matter of willpower.

28:07  Remember: all carbohydrates turn to glucose in your system

  • A person may join a sugar detox program and will laugh and say, "I'm addicted to sugar" 
  • But then that person eats bread, pasta, a loaded baked potato or a serving or two of any other starchy vegetable - even something as "innocent" as carrots. 
  • Once these other carbohydrates hit the bloodstream the opiate receptors will be activated and then the downhill slide into nonstop eating begins.

Not everyone is this sensitive to sugar. I personally admire someone who can have one cookie, one piece of candy, a side order of spaghetti or baked potato, and walk away and call it a day. 

It may be a matter of admirable willpower, but more often than not it is just that they do not have the level of carb addiction that I do, or the level of insulin resistance that causes a cascade of out-of-control eating.

  • Once you realize this connection between carbohydrates (even the "good" ones like starchy vegetables) and why it seems that you can't help yourself, you can break the cycle of "eating - overeating - feeling physically miserable - feeling emotionally distressed - repeat." 
  • You don't necessarily break the cycle by miraculously being able to eat all the things. 
  • The cycle you break is the one of seeing yourself as stupid, lazy or broken because you cannot seem to find any self-control.

30:01  My friend, it's the food. 

  • If you heal your insulin resistance through what I teach you (or what any good keto or low carb coach teaches you), you may begin to moderate your reaction to these sugars. 
  • A lot of mindfulness and habit retraining will also have to take place because you have forged those neural pathways over so many years. (Example of neural pathway: See food, eat food. Fight with friend, eat food. Lonely, eat food.)
  • However, even though a lot of this is about the food, you must learn not to fear food, not even starchy vegetables!

30:58  This Week’s Actionable Coaching Advice

The best way to get out of diet prison is to stop eating the foods that keep your cravings and hunger alive.

  • The sugar in fruit is bound to keep cravings and hunger alive.
  • Aside from sugar cravings, fruit can make you hungry because your cells are not getting the benefit of energy coming from the food.  
  • In addition, fruits, because of their sugars, will raise your insulin which will make you hungry.
  • Recall the lock-and-key lesson where if you have insulin resistance the insulin will not be able to unlock the cell to let the glucose in to be used as energy.
  • Therefore, not only will you be hungry from too much fruit, you will be tired!

For this week, I want you to follow these rules of thumb to stay out of diet prison:

  • If you are eating Keto don't eat any fruit except berries in limited amounts.
  • If you are eating Low Carb, please limit your fruits to one or two a day.
  • I would also say to limit tropical fruits to no more than once a week, or even less often than that.
  • If carbohydrate counts aren't enough to make you pull back your hand from the fruit bowl, it is time to make the connection between Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and fruit. 

Sugar begets sugar cravings. The more sugar you eat in the way of fruit and starchy vegetables, the harder it will be to stay out of diet prison. 

Also, if you did not do it last week, please go to page 29 of your Keto and Low Carb Planner (link for its download is in the show notes and transcript) and fill out the Keto and Low Carb questionnaire. The questions are thought-provoking and will help you get to your WHY, which will make this whole process of changing your eating style much easier for you.

Now, let me remind you. If you’ve ever got a question you’d like to ask me or share a topic idea that you would like me to cover on a future episode, don’t be a stranger! I always look forward to hearing from listeners like you. You are welcome to email me directly…  And don’t forget to leave a review wherever you listen to this podcast. Leaving a review makes it easier for other people who are looking to listen about Keto and Low Carb.

33:45  Coming up in the next episode I will be talking about Emotional Eating which is also called head hunger or heart hunger.

So go share the show with your friends, let them know that’s coming up in the next episode, and invite them to tune in with you and learn how to become free from diet prison with my Keto and Low Carb Success podcast.

Until then, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time. 

Lock & Key Lesson (Blog on insulin)
Book: Breaking Free From Diet Prison (Conquer Craving with Keto)
Course: Keto and Low Carb Success
35-Page FREE Keto and Low Carb Planner

Article or Resistant Starch
 Johns Hopkins Article
Connecticut College Study