August 13, 2020

Good news for followers of the ketogenic diet; the glorious vanilla spice is keto-friendly. In fact, vanilla is an essential spice used in the keto diet to create delicious low-carb desserts and savory  dishes because it adds a powerful flavour punch.

You can use vanilla extract to titivate your coffee, smoothies and yogurt and add it to keto-friendly desserts like homemade ice-cream, cakes and custard. Vanilla extract also adds wonderful flavour to savory dishes, lifting an ordinary dish to extraordinary levels.

Vanilla contains incredible properties that are good for your health. This includes antioxidant, anti-depressant and anti-microbial properties that promote digestive, skin and hair, respiratory and heart health. 

Vanilla extract may be keto-friendly but not all vanilla extract is 100% healthy. To derive the most out of vanilla for your health, it’s best to make your own homemade vanilla extract or only buy pure vanilla extract that contains nothing more than the essence of the magical vanilla bean and naturally-distilled alcohol.

How many carbohydrates are in vanilla extract?

One tablespoon of pure vanilla extract contains 1.6 grams of net carbohydrates. The amount of vanilla extract you use in desserts and savory dishes is negligible. Most recipes only require one teaspoon of vanilla extract and the tiny amount you use adds hardly anything to the carbs load.

Breaking this down, three teaspoons make one tablespoon of vanilla extract. So one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract equates to about 0.50 grams of net carbs. Hardly anything to worry about, and even less so if you’re putting not more than a few drops or a splash of vanilla extract in your coffee or smoothie.

The problem comes with imitation vanilla extract. The factory-made varieties not only contains harmful chemicals and preservatives but also sugar or corn syrup. To be absolutely sure what you’re adding is 100% keto-friendly and healthy, only use pure vanilla extract or simply extract the delicate seeds and pulp from the bean itself.

One vanilla bean contains 0.1 grams of carbohydrates. Using vanilla beans as opposed to vanilla extract is the purist form of this exotic spice because they don’t contain any alcohol which is used to extract the essence of vanilla.

Difference between pure vanilla extract and the imitation varieties

In the United States, for vanilla extract to be labelled pure, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the solution contains a minimum of 35% alcohol and 100g of vanilla beans per litre (13.35 ounces per gallon). Always check the label before buying vanilla extract from a store.

To make pure vanilla extract, the beans are soaked in alcohol, typically ethanol. For homemade vanilla extract, you use naturally-distilled alcohol  to extract the delicious flavour of the spice. Pure vanilla extract contains no preservatives, sugar or cane syrup and more importantly, no artificially-manufactured vanillin.

There are over 200 flavour compounds in one vanilla bean, which vary in concentration depending on the terroir of the region from which they’re grown. Compared to imitation vanilla extract, pure vanilla extract has more complexity and depth of flavour. To mimic the taste and flavour of vanilla, extra sugar, preservatives and dye is used in the manufacturing process.

Imitation vanilla extract is made using synthetic vanillin that is typically produced from a by-product of the wood pulp industry. Worst-case scenario, it’s made from the castor gland found close to the anus of a beaver’s tail. Beavers use castoreum to mark their territory with a secretion that has a musky fragrance similar to natural vanilla. For years, castoreum was used to mimic the fragrance of vanilla but this practice has fallen out of favour.

In short, imitation vanilla extract is made by refining petrochemicals to produce synthetic vanillin. Many manufacturers also produce vanilla from fungi such as yeast, where they genetically engineer the yeast to transform sugar into vanilla flavour. As it comes from a natural organism, the manufacturers get way with calling it natural flavour.

If the health benefits of vanilla are as important to you as its powerful flavour and taste profile, use pure vanilla extract or better still, make your own. It’s really simple to make homemade vanilla extract and you’re guaranteed it contains no harmful ingredients and is keto-friendly.

You might like: What is Vanilla Powder?

Ways to incorporate pure vanilla extract for a keto-friendly flavour boost

How many ways can you use pure vanilla extract in your keto diet? There are hundreds of ways but here are a few of tips to incorporate the wonderful flavour of vanilla in everyday drinks and snacks.

Vanilla extract in your coffee

If black coffee doesn’t appeal to you on the keto diet, make your own homemade keto-friendly coffee creamer. The coconut milk and vanilla extract combine to produce a delicious cup of coffee that will brighten your day.

Combine heavy-whipping cream, full-fat coconut milk, keto-friendly sweetener with salt to balance out the sweetness and a dash of vanilla extract.

Vanilla extract in unsweetened Greek yogurt

Unsweetened Greek yoghurt may be eaten in moderation while following the keto diet. Yoghurt is high in calcium, B vitamins and trace minerals. In fact, a single cup of unsweetened natural yoghurt provides almost 50% of the recommended daily intake of calcium which you need for healthy teeth and bones. 

Add a few drops of pure vanilla extract to unsweetened Greek yogurt for a keto-friendly snack that’s yummy and healthy.

Keto-friendly vanilla ice-cream

Take your favourite recipe for keto-friendly homemade ice-cream and add pure vanilla extract to sweeten the deal. You only need a teaspoon for the yummiest treat.

Keto green smoothies

The healthiest keto-friendly smoothies use low-sugar fruits, plenty of healthy fats and non-starchy greens. Low-sugar fruits include raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. For a green smoothie that’s packed with nutrition and simply delicious, add pure vanilla extract for a naturally sweet flavour.

Use sugar-free vanilla extract or better still, make homemade vanilla extract that only contains naturally-distilled alcohol and vanilla. 

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