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Is Cheonggukjang Keto-Friendly?

Cheonggukjang on a kitchen counter

Is Cheonggukjang Keto-Friendly? This is a question that many followers of the ketogenic diet might be asking.

While Cheonggukjang, a traditional Korean fermented soybean paste, does bring a distinct flavor and some nutritional goodness to the table, its relatively high carbohydrate content could potentially disrupt a ketogenic regimen.

Successfully incorporating Cheonggukjang into a keto diet requires careful portion control, meticulous carb tracking, and a balanced approach to meal planning.

This article explores the complexities of Cheonggukjang's carbohydrate content, its potential health implications on a keto diet, practical methods for limiting its use, and discusses some keto-friendly alternatives.

Let's delve into the details.


  • Is Cheonggukjang keto-friendly? Technically yes, but it requires very mindful portion control due to its carb content. Read on for a deep dive into the specifics.
  • Overindulging in Cheonggukjang could potentially lead to symptoms of a 'keto flu', a reaction to reducing carb intake.
  • Without careful tracking and strict portion controls, consuming Cheonggukjang can risk breaking the state of ketosis.

Is Cheonggukjang Keto-Friendly?

Is Cheonggukjang Keto-Friendly?" is a question that many of you who are adhering to a keto diet and love Korean food might be asking. Well, the answer is not black and white, but rather it sits in a gray area.

Cheonggukjang, a fermented soybean paste, is a key ingredient in Korean cuisine. It's known for its high protein content, and it also contains a good number of healthy probiotics, thanks to its fermentation process. Now, you might be thinking, high protein and probiotics โ€“ sounds keto-compatible, right? However, there's a caveat to this.

Here is where the carbohydrate content comes into play. Cheonggukjang contains 6.85g of net carbs per 100g. When you're following a ketogenic lifestyle, the goal is to limit your carb intake, usually to somewhere between 20 to 50 grams per day, depending on individual factors. This low-carb quota is what makes the body switch from burning glucose to burning fat for energy, a state known as ketosis.

So, if you're a fan of Cheonggukjang, does this mean you need to remove it altogether from your diet? Not necessarily. Due to its carbohydrate content, consuming Cheonggukjang in substantial quantities could potentially tip the scale and disrupt your ketosis. But remember, the keyword here is 'moderation'. It's possible to incorporate Cheonggukjang into your ketogenic regimen, but caution and portion control are vital.

Can Cheonggukjang be Incorporated into a Strict Keto Diet?

Navigating the keto diet can feel like tightrope walking, especially when you're trying to incorporate foods like Cheonggukjang into your meal plan. Given its relatively high carbohydrate content of 6.85g per 100g, it becomes a challenge in a strict keto diet where your daily carb limit may be as low as 20 grams.

The concern here is not that Cheonggukjang is entirely off-limits, but rather, it's about the quantity. On a ketogenic diet, it's all about balance and portion control. Every gram of carbohydrate counts, and even nutrient-rich foods like Cheonggukjang need to be consumed with caution. A single serving of Cheonggukjang could consume a significant chunk of your daily carb allowance if you're not careful.

Now, you might be wondering, "Can I never enjoy Cheonggukjang on a strict keto diet?" Well, there's a workaround. The secret lies in careful planning and tracking. Allocating a small portion of your daily carb allowance to Cheonggukjang may allow you to incorporate it into your meal plan without disrupting your state of ketosis. But remember, this leaves you with less room for carbs from other food sources for the rest of the day.

For those who really can't imagine leaving Cheonggukjang off their plate, the use of a food tracking app might be beneficial. These tools can help you log your food intake, keep track of your macros, and better manage your daily carb limit. However, do note that this requires a significant level of commitment.

Delving into the Carbohydrate Content of Cheonggukjang

Understanding the carbohydrate content of foods is a critical aspect of a keto diet, and this is where we need to delve a little deeper into Cheonggukjang. As I've mentioned earlier, Cheonggukjang contains 6.85g of net carbs per 100g. But what does that really mean for those following a ketogenic diet? Let's break it down.

Firstly, it's important to understand the concept of 'net carbs'. Net carbs are the total carbohydrates in a food minus its fiber content. This is important because while fiber is technically a carbohydrate, it's not absorbed or metabolized by the body in the same way other carbs are. As such, it doesn't contribute to the blood sugar spikes that other carbs do. Therefore, when calculating the carbs that count towards their daily limit, individuals on a keto diet focus on net carbs.

Now, let's translate this into real-world servings sizes. If you were to add a serving of Cheonggukjang to your meal, let's say a traditional Korean stew, you're likely to use about 50g of Cheonggukjang. This means, in that single serving, you're consuming approximately 3.42g of net carbs.

If you're following a strict ketogenic diet, where you're aiming to stay below 20 grams of net carbs per day, that single serving of Cheonggukjang would represent around 17% of your daily carb allowance. And that's before you consider the other ingredients in the stew, or anything else you eat that day. As you can see, it can add up pretty quickly!

Nutritional Snapshot of Cheonggukjang

Cheonggukjang is a powerhouse of nutrition, boasting a rich array of both macro and micronutrients in a 100g serving. It's a substantial source of protein, with 12.35g, beneficial for muscle growth and repair. Its net carb of 6.85g and total fats of 6.4g balance well within a moderate diet.

The dietary fiber content of 4.2g contributes to healthy digestion, and its total calorie count is a moderate 141kcal. Cheonggukjang also contains essential amino acids like Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, vital for protein synthesis and muscle tissue repair.

The micronutrient profile is equally impressive. Cheonggukjang is rich in Potassium (539.0mg), beneficial for maintaining fluid balance, and Magnesium (60.0mg), known for its role in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It also offers a good source of Calcium (145.0mg), necessary for bone health.

On the vitamin front, it provides Vitamin A, B-6, C, and Folate. Vitamin A supports eye health, while B-6 plays a key role in brain development and function. Vitamin C is a known antioxidant, and Folate is essential for DNA synthesis and repair.

Moreover, Cheonggukjang contains beneficial fatty acids, including Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats, which contribute to heart health.

Nutrient NameAmount and Unit per 100g
Net Carbs 6.85g
Carbohydrate, by difference 11.05g
Fiber, total dietary 4.2g
Total fats 6.4g
Protein 12.35g
Sodium, Na 14.0mg
Potassium, K 539.0mg
Magnesium, Mg 60.0mg
Calcium, Ca 145.0mg
Vitamin A 8.0ug
Vitamin B-6 0.06mg
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid 17.0mg
Copper, Cu 0.12mg
Iron, Fe 2.5mg
Phosphorus, P 158.0mg
Selenium, Se 1.4ug
Zinc, Zn 0.91mg
Manganese, Mn 0.5mg
Thiamin 0.26mg
Riboflavin 0.16mg
Niacin 1.25mg
Pantothenic acid 0.13mg
Folate, total 111.0ug
Calories 141.0kcal
Water 68.6g
Tryptophan 0.15g
Threonine 0.49g
Isoleucine 0.54g
Leucine 0.88g
Lysine 0.74g
Methionine 0.15g
Cystine 0.11g
Phenylalanine 0.56g
Tyrosine 0.44g
Valine 0.55g
Arginine 0.99g
Histidine 0.33g
Alanine 0.56g
Aspartic acid 1.44g
Glutamic acid 2.32g
Glycine 0.51g
Proline 0.58g
Serine 0.69g
Fatty acids, total saturated 0.74g
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 1.21g
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 3.01g
This data was provided by the US Department of Agriculture's FoodData Central system.
'Cheonggukjang' was not found in FoodData Central, so nutritional data for 'Soybeans, green, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt' was used instead under Cast Iron Keto's editorial and research standards.

Health Implications of Cheonggukjang on a Keto Diet

While incorporating Cheonggukjang into a keto diet can add variety to your meals, it's crucial to understand the potential health implications it can have on your keto journey.

A significant challenge with Cheonggukjang is its potential to kick you out of ketosis, the metabolic state that the keto diet aims to achieve. As we've previously covered, Cheonggukjang has a relatively high carb content, and consuming it in large quantities can quickly eat up your daily carb limit. Once you exceed this limit, your body may switch back to burning glucose for energy, rather than fat, effectively disrupting the state of ketosis.

On the other hand, Cheonggukjang has several properties that contribute to overall health and wellness. For instance, it is rich in protein, a crucial contributor to muscle building and repair. Cheonggukjang also hosts a healthy dose of probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that aid digestion and boost your gut health. It is known to contain isoflavones, compounds that are linked to a reduced risk of certain health issues.

However, these benefits do not negate the fact that due to its carb content, Cheonggukjang must be consumed judiciously on a keto diet. While it can be a part of your diet, it needs to be portioned correctly and accounted for meticulously in your daily carb count.

Importance of Limiting Cheonggukjang in Your Keto Meal Plan

The importance of limiting Cheonggukjang in your keto meal plan cannot be overstressed. Remember, the goal is to maintain a state of ketosis, and given Cheonggukjang's carb content, this could be a challenge if you're not cautious.

But don't fret! There are ways to still enjoy the unique flavor of Cheonggukjang without disrupting your ketogenic lifestyle. Here are some practical tips and delicious ideas:

  1. Portion Control is Key: Instead of making Cheonggukjang the main ingredient in your dishes, use it sparingly to add flavor. A small amount can often provide the taste you're after without going over your daily carb limit.
  2. Pair with Low-Carb Foods: When using Cheonggukjang, pair it with low-carb ingredients. For example, a traditional Korean stew known as Cheonggukjang-jjigae can be modified for a keto diet. Use a smaller portion of Cheonggukjang and add more of low-carb vegetables like spinach, zucchini, and mushrooms.
  3. Use It as a Condiment: Another way to still enjoy Cheonggukjang is to use it as a condiment. A small dab of Cheonggukjang can add a punch of flavor to your grilled meats or tofu.

Remember, overindulging in Cheonggukjang could potentially lead to what's known as the 'keto flu', a group of symptoms that can occur as your body adapts to a lower carb intake. Symptoms can include feeling tired, having difficulty sleeping, and experiencing digestive changes. By carefully limiting and monitoring your Cheonggukjang intake, you can reduce the risk of experiencing these symptoms while still benefiting from its unique flavor and nutritional benefits.

Keto-Compatible Alternatives for Cheonggukjang

While Cheonggukjang can be a challenge to manage within the confines of a ketogenic diet, there are other options to explore. Let's look at some keto-compatible alternatives to Cheonggukjang and how they can be used creatively in your food preparation:

  1. Miso Paste: Miso, a Japanese fermented soybean paste, can be a good substitute for Cheonggukjang. While it still contains carbs, it has a strong flavor, meaning a smaller quantity can be used for the same effect. For instance, a tablespoon of miso (approximately 18g) contains around 2g of net carbs. You can use miso to prepare a keto-friendly miso soup with tofu and seaweed or add it to your stir-fry dishes for added flavor.
  2. Gochujang: Another Korean paste, Gochujang, can be used as a spicy alternative to Cheonggukjang. It is made from chili powder, glutinous rice, meju powder, yeotgireum, and salt. While it's slightly higher in carbs (7.3g net carbs per 100g), its strong flavor allows it to be sparingly used.
  3. Tamari Sauce: Tamari, a type of soy sauce, can also be a viable substitute. It's gluten-free and has 1.4g of net carbs per tablespoon. It can be used as a marinade or a dipping sauce in many keto-friendly dishes.
  4. Tahini: Made from sesame seeds, tahini is another alternative that can provide a unique flavor profile. With only 1.5g of net carbs per tablespoon, it can be used in a variety of dishes, from dressings to dips.

Concluding Thoughts on Cheonggukjang and Keto

Incorporating Cheonggukjang into a ketogenic diet presents a unique challenge, primarily due to its relatively high carbohydrate content. While it's a flavorful and nutritious element in many traditional Korean dishes, its suitability for a strict keto diet is limited.

Maintaining a state of ketosis requires strict control over carb intake. Given that Cheonggukjang contains 6.85g of net carbs per 100g, it's easy to see how even a small portion could take up a significant part of your daily carb allowance. This makes the effective management of Cheonggukjang in a keto diet rather tricky.

However, that doesn't mean you need to completely abandon this food if you're following a keto lifestyle. With careful portion control, meticulous tracking, and a balanced approach, you can have a small quantity of Cheonggukjang without breaking your keto regimen. Utilizing tools like food tracking apps can be beneficial in managing your carb intake.

If you're looking for alternatives to Cheonggukjang, there are several keto-compatible options such as Miso paste, Gochujang, Tamari sauce, or Tahini. These can be used sparingly to provide a similar flavor profile without the high carb content.

Finally, as a unique idea, why not experiment with making a keto-friendly version of Cheonggukjang? Fermenting your soybeans with a specific strain of bacteria may reduce the carb content. However, do keep in mind that this is a complex process and requires expertise. But who knows? Your culinary creativity might just lead you to a new favorite keto-friendly dish.

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Cast Iron Keto's Editorial and Research Standards

Certain rare or exotic food items may not have nutritional profiles in the FoodData Central database. If an exact match is not found in the FoodData Central database, then, the Cast Iron Keto team utilizes a three-prong approach to provide readers with the closest relevant nutritional data, where possible.

First, in the event that nutritional profiles for a rare or exotic food item is not available in the FoodData Central database, we investigate alternative names for that particular food item and use that data, when possible. Second, in cases where no alternate names exist, Cast Iron Keto will use nutritional data for a close relative or similar food item. Finally, if no close relatives or similar items exist, we refrain from publishing nutrient data tables.

When making dietary or health decisions based on FoodData Central's data, we suggest readers consult with a nutritionist or other health experts, particularly if the food in question has a significant role in your diet or if you are using the food item to treat any health disorder(s).

Furthermore, it is important to note that even if a close relative or similar item is used to approximate the nutritional data, different food items can have varying levels of nutrients due to factors such as soil quality, farming practices, and regional differences.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Technically, yes, but due to its relatively high carbohydrate content, it should be consumed in very small quantities under strict portion controls.

Yes, overconsumption of Cheonggukjang, like any high-carb food, can potentially lead to symptoms of 'keto flu' as your body adjusts to a lower carb intake.