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Is Pho Healthy? - How to Make Low-Carb Keto Pho

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 11/06/2023

Is pho healthy? Pho is a delicious Vietnamese soup that has become popular across the globe. It’s incredibly flavorful and made with nutritious ingredients that support health and well-being. 


While traditional pho isn't keto-friendly, this versatile and aromatic soup can easily be tweaked into a keto-approved low-carb version.


Find out how to make keto pho that you'll want to eat regularly as part of your Healthy Keto® diet.

Bowl of pho

What is pho?


Pho, pronounced "fuh," is a popular Vietnamese noodle soup that has historically been eaten for breakfast to provide sustenance and nutrition for the day ahead.  


It's a traditional dish with a rich history closely tied to Vietnam's cultural identity. The origins of pho can be traced back centuries and likely was influenced by the Chinese and French cuisines that were present in Vietnam during different time periods.


Pho ingredients

Traditionally, pho is made by simmering beef or chicken bones for several hours to create a rich and flavorful broth. The bones are cooked with a combination of sesame oil, onions, ginger, cinnamon, coriander seeds, star anise, sugar, and fish sauce. 


Pho broth is typically served with beef or chicken, pho noodles, and bean sprouts and is topped with fresh herbs, lime wedges, and chili peppers. 


Is pho healthy?

Pho can be part of a healthy diet, but the nutritional content of pho soup can vary depending on how it’s prepared and what ingredients are used. 


Chicken and beef bones are rich sources of collagen and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Additionally, many herbs and spices used to make and garnish pho soup have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that promote health.


If you buy ready-made pho or are ordering pho from a Vietnamese restaurant, it’s typically high in sodium and may contain artificial ingredients, including monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG intake has been linked to digestive issues, metabolic imbalances, and weight gain, and it’s best to avoid MSG whenever possible.

Pho spices and herbs

How to make keto pho 


Traditionally, pho broth is sweetened with crystallized cane sugar and hoisin sauce and served with rice noodles which are high in carbs and not keto-friendly


Fornutaley, you can use plenty of keto-friendly alternatives to make healthy, keto-approved pho soup. 


Keto substitutes for rice noodles

Rice noodles are high in carbs and can quickly spike your blood sugar and insulin levels, pushing you out of ketosis. 


Here are some keto substitutes for rice noodles.


  • Zucchini noodles or zoodles - Zucchini noodles are spiralized zucchini and a perfect keto-friendly alternative to rice noodles. One cup of zoodles contains less than three grams of net carbs, and their tender texture makes them an ideal keto-approved pho ingredient. Check out this video to learn how to make zucchini noodles.     


  • Shirataki noodles - These translucent and gelatinous Japanese noodles are made from tubers of the elephant plant. Shirataki noodles are carb-free and an excellent replacement for rice noodles and other pasta like this delicious recipe for Keto Spaghetti.


  • Egg noodles - Made from eggs, cream cheese, and spices, Keto Egg Noodles have a springy texture that won’t fall apart, making them a perfect keto alternative for your keto-friendly pho recipe.  


  • Spaghetti squash - Spaghetti squash has an excellent flavor and texture for a meaty broth like pho. And, what’s more, it’s on the Keto Food List because it’s low in net carbs and rich in nutrients.    

 

  • Kelp noodles - Made from iodine-rich seaweed, kelp noodles are low-carb and have a similar texture to rice noodles, which works great for low-carb pho recipes. 


Keto-friendly sweeteners

To make your own keto pho, it’s essential to use a keto-approved sweetener that won’t kick you out of ketosis. 


Monk fruit and stevia are no-carb, no-calorie sweeteners and suitable for keto pho recipes. Both are popular keto sweeteners that support weight loss and help balance blood sugar. 


If you don’t enjoy the somewhat bitter aftertaste of stevia, try erythritol or xylitol. These keto-friendly sugar alcohols are as sweet as table sugar but won’t impact your blood sugar levels.

Chicken pho

Health benefits of keto pho


Making your own keto pho lets you enjoy the health benefits of traditional pho without impacting your blood sugar and insulin levels. Keto pho is a delicious and nutritious dish that’s excellent for weight loss, supports joint health, and helps your body fight inflammation and infections.  


Here are three reasons why you should eat keto pho regularly.

 

1. Joint health 

Beef and chicken broth are rich in collagen, chondroitin, and glucosamine, all building blocks of cartilage and needed for healthy joints. 


In fact, research found that glucosamine and chondroitin can reduce the severity of osteoarthritis symptoms and have been found to promote joint health in athletes. 


2. Anti-inflammatory 

Pho contains several ingredients with potent anti-inflammatory properties, including ginger and Thai basil.


Ginger has been used as a natural remedy for inflammatory ailments for centuries. Gingerol, a phytochemical in ginger, is believed to lower the production of inflammatory compounds and may protect your cells from oxidation, which is linked to inflammation and increased risk of chronic disease. 


Thai basil is a rich source of plant chemicals that promote cellular health, may be beneficial in inhibiting cancer cell growth, and are potent antimicrobial compounds that can lower your risk of bacterial and viral infections.


3. Anticancer

This study suggests that regular consumption of various herbs and spices may lower the risk of prostate, lung, and breast cancers.  


Pho soup is an aromatic soup packed with nutrient-rich herbs and spices, including garlic, ginger, chili pepper, anise seeds, coriander seeds, and cinnamon. 


Each of these spices contains a variety of health-promoting phytochemicals that have been found to inhibit cancer cell growth, promote the activity of immune cells needed to detect and destroy cancerous cells, and may protect DNA from oxidative damage linked to the development of cancer.  

Bone broth pho

Key takeaways


Pho soup is a popular Vietnamese dish made with beef, chicken, or vegetable broth. It’s a nutritious and aromatic soup typically served with noodles and a variety of herbs and spices. 


While traditional pho isn’t keto-friendly, it’s surprisingly easy to make healthy keto pho. You can choose from a range of keto-approved noodles and sweeteners to create your own keto pho recipe that you can enjoy regularly.  



FAQ


1. How many carbs are in pho?

The carb count of pho varies depending on the exact recipe and the type of ingredients. On average, one cup of traditional pho contains around 25 grams of carbs. 


In contrast, one cup of keto pho using monk fruit and shirataki noodles provides around three grams of net carbs. 


2. Is pho healthy on keto?

Traditional pho isn’t keto-friendly. It’s typically sweetened with rock sugar and served with high-carb rice noodles. 


Eating rice noodles can cause your blood sugar to spike and quickly push you out of ketosis. Pho broth can also contain hoisin sauce, a high-carb condiment that isn’t keto-friendly.  

 

3. Is pho good for weight loss?

Because traditional pho is high in carbs, it raises your blood sugar and insulin levels, which promotes a metabolic state that stores fat rather than using it as an energy source which can lead to weight gain and difficulty losing weight.  


In contrast, keto pho is low-carb and won’t impact your insulin levels. This helps you stay in ketosis and promotes fat-burning, which supports weight loss and weight maintenance. 


4. Is pho healthier than ramen?

Pho is generally considered healthier than ramen. Ramen is typically high in carbs and often contains artificial ingredients and monosodium glutamate, a synthetic food additive linked to weight gain, headaches, and digestive issues.

 

5. What is the healthiest pho option?

Homemade keto pho is packed with nutrients that promote joint health, support your immune system, and may lower your cancer risk.


Substituting rock sugar and rice noodles with ingredients on the Keto Food List keeps the carb count low. This helps maintain ketosis, a metabolic state linked to several health benefits, including weight loss, improved energy and focus, and a lower risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. 


6. Is pho considered junk food?

Pho is a nutritious soup that can be part of a healthy diet. However, some pho soups are high in carbs and sodium and may contain artificial ingredients, including monosodium glutamate.


It's best to avoid store-bought pho and instead make your own healthy keto pho that's low in carbs, sugar-free, and doesn't contain artificial ingredients. 

 

7. How do I make keto pho?

It's surprisingly easy to make your own keto pho. While most pho is based on beef or chicken broth, you can also choose a veggie broth to make keto pho. 


To sweeten your pho, substitute rock sugar with a keto-sweetener like monk fruit or stevia, and serve your pho with a keto-friendly noodle alternative instead of rice noodles.


8. What’s a low-carb alternative to rice noodles?

Zucchini noodles, shirataki noodles, egg noodles, spaghetti squash noodles, and kelp noodles are all low-carb alternatives to rice noodles.  


9. Is pho gluten-free?

Yes, pho is generally gluten-free. However, some ready-made pho soups may contain gluten, and it's important to read labels to avoid gluten-containing ingredients if you are following a gluten-free diet.  

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