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Is Rice Paper Keto Friendly?

Spring is right around the corner, and this season’s fresh produce is perfect for making salads and lightweight snacks like veggie wraps, dumplings and spring rolls. All of these use rice paper to neatly pack the delicious contents inside.

But can you enjoy these snacks even on a keto diet? Is rice paper keto friendly, or will you need to find a substitute?

Is Rice Paper Keto Friendly

Unfortunately, rice paper is unsuitable for those on a keto diet. A single roll is fairly high in carbs and stopping at a single roll can be quite difficult. It's best to avoid rice paper and look for some keto friendly alternatives.

Keep reading to learn more about rice paper and potential alternatives you can use!

What’s Rice Paper?

Rice paper is a Southern Vietnamese specialty, usually called bánh tráng or bánh đa nem in the country. It’s a really thin, almost completely translucent sheet traditionally used to wrap fresh spring and summer rolls. It’s also used in meals like pho or noodles.

Rice paper is normally a hard, flat sheet, so to use it as an ingredient you need to dunk it in water for one or two seconds, which makes it soft and malleable.

Edible rice paper is also used in baking goodies like macaroons, biscuits, or meringue. It helps prevent the food from sticking to the baking dish. Printed rice papers are also a thing- edible ink transfers onto rice paper and it can be used to decorate cakes. Although usually plain and translucent, edible rice paper also comes in color variations.

Although traditional rice paper is a pretty simple recipe, Central and Northern provinces of Vietnam have created many kinds of rice paper that are popular worldwide. These include coconut rice paper, milk rice paper, mango rice paper, etc.

A bit about the ketogenic diet.

Before moving onto learning is rice paper keto, let's take a look at what the ketogenic diet encompasses.

Basically, in a classic keto diet, you consume a considerably less amount of carbs, such as rice, flour, root veggies, fruits, and legumes. Normally, the carbs you eat break down to form glucose, which your body then uses as fuel. However, when you eat an inadequate amount of carbs, your body switches to using fats for energy, resulting in weight loss. When stored fats break down, they form ketone bodies, which are a substitute for glucose. Hence, the diet is ketogenic.

The goal of a keto diet is to induce ketosis (aka the state in which you use ketones instead of glucose). Inducing ketosis requires you to limit your carbs, no more than 40g net carbs per a typical 2000-calorie diet and takes a couple of days. On a normal keto diet of 2000 Kcal, your macros should be around 40-45g carbs, 70-75g proteins, and 160-170g fat, and you can cut on all macros equally if you want to lower calories as well. Make sure you’re getting enough fat- too much protein can also disrupt ketosis.

Whilst hard to kickstart, ketogenic diets have many positive benefits. They’re proven to be effective for patients with type 2 diabetes, PCOS, and epilepsy. Overweight people looking to shed a few pounds can give keto a shot too, although it’s recommended to consult a doctor first if you have an underlying health issue.

Is Rice Paper Keto?

Onto the million dollar question- is rice paper keto?

Unfortunately, rice paper isn’t keto-friendly. A single rice paper sheet has 8.4g of carbs, out of which only 0.1g is fiber. This is more than 20% of your daily recommended carb intake on a ketogenic diet.

keto friendly rice paper

While it doesn’t sound so bad in theory, everything from milk to eggs to berries to nuts to greens and avocados has some quantity of carbs- all of these carry essential nutrients and will make up most, if not all, of your carb content. If you eat one rice paper, you’ll have to cut back on many of these foods. And eating three or more rice papers will knock you out of ketosis.

Nutritional Information of Rice Paper

We've displayed the nutritional value in one Valcom rice paper sheet, a popular brand of paper worldwide. Other brands have similar distribution of macros.

*1 sheet of rice paper is 0.5 serving.

Energy (kCal)35
Nutrients%Daily Value/1 sheet
Carbohydrates3%8.2g
Protein0.17%0.1g
Total fats0.15%0.1g
Saturated fats<0.05g
Sodium3.62%87mg

*The % daily values are given for a regular diet. In keto diet, where carb intake caps at 40-45g, one sheet makes 18% of your daily intake.

How Rice Paper is Made

We can understand whether is rice paper keto or not by looking at its ingredients too.

Ingredients of regular edible rice paper include rice flour, salt, water, and any starch agent, such as tapioca flour or potato starch. The starch helps to make the rice paper smoother and give it some bulk. All of these are pure carbs.

Traditional rice paper is sold in the form of translucent, crisp, round sheets wrapped in plastic or cellophane. It's brittle until dipped in warm water for a few brief seconds.

Making rice paper is a relatively simple process. If you're starting with raw rice, it's left to soak for a while. Soaked rice is then ground with water to make a fine slurry. This slurry can be added instead of rice flour, and you won't need much water.

When starting with rice flour, it's mixed with potato starch or tapioca flour and salt. Once combined, you add water to form a glue-like paste.

Next, step is to spread the paste on a plate covered with a plastic wrapping. Microwave this on high heat for about 45 seconds. The time may vary depending on your oven- a 500W microwave can do the job in 40-50 seconds. Traditional rice paper sheets are instead dried in the sun for a day- placed on woven racks that give them their distinct pattern and style. Patterned plates are used for decorative rice paper.

Other Rice Paper Prep Methods

Coconut rice paper is a staple in the diet of people living in coastal regions of Vietnam, like the Bin Dinh province. Coconut is added in the paper mixture along with cassava flour (instead of potato starch). The coconut shouldn't be too ripe to ensure it's soft, sweet, and thick. Coconut milk is also added, along with spices and pepper, and the combined mixture is first steamed then dried to create a flavorful rice paper.

Coconut rice paper usually made on a charcoal stove. Onion and sesame are added sometimes for aroma too.

The Role of Carbs in the Keto Diet

Normally, carbs break down to form glucose, which is your body’s default source of energy. On keto, you cut down carbs so much that your body learns to use ketones instead, derived from stored fat. The fat you consume breaks down and stores as well, albeit in less quantity, leading to weight loss.

Rice paper keto friendly

One important thing to note in keto is that the diet measures your net carbs only, not the total carbs. A food group may be rich in total carbs, but have half the net carbs. These foods are normally safe for keto. So what’s the difference between these two carbs?

Simply put, total carbs include fiber while net carbs don’t. Since fiber doesn’t digest or absorb, it won’t interfere with ketosis. Instead, it will aid in digestion and improve gut health.

So if let’s say you have 100g of tomatoes, your total carb content will be 3.9g with 1.2g of fiber. 3.9-1.2 means you’re left with 2.5-2.8g of net carbs per 100g.

Note that many processed foods display net carbs excluding the artificial sugars and sweetners. While they don't have carbs, they can spike your blood sugar. As such, the “net carbs” in packaged goods may be misleading. Whole food products are healthier in general.

Now that we've established the difference between net carbs and whole carbs, let's talk about keto.

In ketogenic diets, the recommended amount of net carbs is around 30g, with total carbs (fiber included) being around 40-45g. While a couple extra grams won't stop your ketosis, net carbs shouldn't exceed 40g.

Can you live on no carbs?

Keto is a low-carb diet, not a zero-carb diet. And although you can live without ever eating carbohydrates again (there are essential amino acids and fatty acids, but no essential sugars), carbs exist in some quantity in all fruits, vegetables, and dairy. These sources give us essential minerals, so cutting them out entirely is a bad idea.

A healthy keto diet would be 70-75% fat, 20% protein and 5-10% carbs.

How rice paper compares to other keto-friendly options in terms of carb content?

As we’ve discussed, rice paper isn’t exactly keto-friendly. It’s rich in carbs but low in fat, the opposite of what you’re aiming for. Luckily, there are some fantastic alternatives you can try!

For example, lettuce leaves are excellent for wrapping spring rolls. Not only do they taste fresher but have more than 10 times less net carbs compared to a traditional rice paper. The leaves inside a head of lettuce have less carbs.

Nori sheets are another food alternative, specifically for seafood. They're made feim dried seaweed and are packed in vitamins and minerals. 10 Nori sheets have just 1.3g carbs.

Eggwraps, such as those from Egglife have 1g of carbs per serving and 5g proteins, being great for keto.

Lastly, you can just go and get low carb tortillas and wraps from your nearest grocery store. There's no set carb value as they vary by brands, but try getting your hands on one averaging less than 5g per serving.

How Rice Paper Can Fit into a Keto Meal Plan?

There are various ways you can incorporate rice paper in your daily keto plan- the most important of which is cutting down on other sources of carb that day. This can be achieved by making rice paper wraps with protein-rich ingredients.

Seafood is the best option for a filling. It’s densely packed with micronutrients like zinc, has zero sugar, and tastes amazing with a zesty chilli sauce. Rice paper can replace seaweed and nori sheets in a sashimi roll too.

keto rice paper

If you enjoy fresh veggie rolls in the summer, then adding green vegetables is a great way to make them keto-friendly. They’re a great source of minerals and other essentials like Vitamin A, B, C, E, and folates.

Zucchini is a fantastic option- it has a mild taste and can be used in virtually any dish. Most importantly, one cup of zucchini has only 2.7g net carbs, so one rice wrap will have half a gram at most. You can also add Parmesan cheese for a depth of flavor.

Likewise, one cup of spinach has only 0.4g of net carbs, and making a delicious spinach and cream cheese filling for your rice paper wraps will have negligible carbs. In fact, spinach has more protein- almost a gram per cup, making it super keto-friendly. You can add shredded chicken in there for extra protein too.

Other fresh spring roll vegetables you can add include the colorful bell peppers- one cup of red capsicum has only 6g of net carbs, and you’re consuming less than 1/8th of a cup per wrap. Arugula is another option often looked over. Arugula goes great with an egg filling and has as little carbs as spinach. It’s also packed with calcium and potassium.

Going down the list of veggies we also have cucumber, as it's known for being 96% water and super hydrating. 1 cup of sliced cucumber with peel has just 1.7g net carbs. This fresh ingredient is great for both fillings and dips (cucumber does great with yoghurt and mayo).

Aside from plants, everybody’s favorite fungi, mushrooms are also protein-rich. As per the USDA, a cup of white mushrooms has 1.6g of net carbs whilst boasting 2.2g of protein. Mushrooms cooked with minced meat make a yummy umami filling.

Non-Veggie Fillings

Since rice paper is carb-rich, you can make stuffings with only meat and cheese to make a scrumptious filling meal. If you haven’t tried rice paper before, a simple low-moisture mozzarella cheese roll is a good place to start. The rice paper gives a brilliant crispy texture and has little to no flavor of its own. Full fat cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and pepperjack are great too. If you’re lactose intolerant, there’s dairy-free options too.

If you like eggs, you can also give this egg and mayo filling a shot. Simply mash an egg with mayo and add thinly sliced cabbages (which are keto as well!), then add some salt and pepper for flavor. Vegans can opt for tofu too. Avoid legumes as they’re carb-rich.

Potential Benefits of Adding Rice Paper to a Keto Diet

Adding rice paper to your keto diet plan has some cool benefits too. For starters, it opens up a whole avenue of food options. You can enjoy traditional Vietnamese cuisine or make fresh rolls instead of the same boring salad. Rice paper also gets super crispy when fried, and can be used to make gooey cheese sticks. It’s a better keto alternative to your whole grain tortilla in wraps.

Another benefit could be the healthy fiber. While rice paper itself has no fiber, it pairs perfectly with veggies that do, along with minerals and good vitamins.

Rice itself also has many antioxidants. While rice paper is processed and loses some of the goodness, it still contains many of these compounds. Anthocyanins, γ-oryzanol, vitamin E, and phenolic acids are found in different kinds of rice paper. All these antioxidants help reduce cell damage and improve health.

Potential Risks of Consuming Rice Paper on the Keto Diet

After covering the health benefits of consuming rice paper, it's also important to note some potential risks it carries on your keto diet.

For the most part, the main problem with eating rice paper is that it can kick you out of ketosis, especially if consumed regularly. Even though meat doesn’t have any carbs, in a complete high-protein meal you’ll have at least some low-carb veggies, eggs, milk, etc. People also have soups or low-carb noodles in keto. Fruits are an essential food group too and it’s wise to eat peaches, watermelon, avocados, etc for their nutritional benefits. In short, you do consume carbs throughout the day, whether as an ingredient in a dish or as a fruit.

These alone make up the majority of the maximum carbs you’re allowed in keto. Eating rice paper wraps on top of it can make your body switch fuel from ketones to glucose. This can be managed though- if you eat rice paper wraps once in a while and don’t eat veggies or fruits that day, you’d be safe. However, it’s not recommended to continue doing it as other food groups are essential for your health, while rice paper isn’t.

Another potential risk of consuming rice paper is a reaction to gluten. While all rice paper is naturally gluten-free, many brands manufacture their rice paper in the same place where they process wheat, which can cause cross-contamination. It’s best to buy rice paper that is certified gluten-free if you’re sensitive to it.

Comparison to Other Keto-Friendly Wraps

Compared to the substitutes we mentioned, rice paper is pretty carb-heavy, averaging at 8.4g per sheet. There's not much fiber to bring down the number either.

Meanwhile, both nori and lettuce have fewer carbs and a little more fiber per sheet.

Of course if you're comparing rice paper with keto substitutes, only carbs don't matter- taste does too. Rice paper is mostly plain (unless it's coconut or mango flavored) and has a starchy taste. Spicy rice papers infused eith chili are readily available.

seaweed wrap keto

Lettuce is of course crunchy and mildly bittersweet. It tastes fresher as well. Nori is both sweet and salty, so it works with seafood well.

Cost-wise, a box of rice paper costs about $6-7. One bunch of lettuce is usually $2. A pack of 6 egglife wraps costs $4.78 at Walmart. Similarly, one bag of nori sheets retails for $3-4. All in all, rice paper and its substitutes cost the same.

If you'd like to learn more about keto rice paper alternatives, please click on one of the links below:

Is lettuce keto friendly?

Is seaweed keto friendly?

Conclusion

So, is rice paper keto? We've found that it's not- rice paper has a high amount of carbs and even a single sheet (that's half a serving) makes about a quarter or more of your daily recommended carb intake.

As such, we recommend you try alternatives like eggwraps, low-carb tortillas, and lettuce for your spring rolls.

Steven
Steven

Founder of The Art Of Keto.

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