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Sake, pronounced as “sa-keh”, is an alcoholic drink from Japan made of fermented rice.
It’s a general Japanese term for any alcoholic drink, although it is considered a category of drinks all on its own.
If you’re in a Japanese restaurant, you’ll probably see sake on the menu as it goes with almost any kind of food.
Food experts agree that it is best paired with sushi, sashimi, tempura, and other foods with Japanese flavors.
But is sake keto-friendly?
We discuss the different types of sake and whether this alcoholic drink fits the keto lifestyle or not. We also share some tips for drinking sake on keto.
What is Sake?
Sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage that literally means “alcohol” in Japanese. It’s made with rice, which is relatively high in carbs. But you may be surprised to know how little carbs this drink really has.
Sake has been brewed in Japan for centuries now. Still, the techniques for manufacturing modern sake were developed in the 14th century by monks in temples near Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka.
You might think that sake would be high in carbs since it is made with rice, but it is much lower in sugar because of the fermentation process.
There are around 70 different types of rice used for producing sake, with three main ones. These are:
- Yamada Nishiki
These three varieties make up ¾ of the rest rice-cropping area of approximately 15000 hectares.
Sake is low in carbs and sugars because, like with wine and beer, the fermentation process involves the yeast eating the starches and sugars to create the alcohol.
Types of Sake
Sake is not a brand of alcoholic beverage. It’s a category like wine, beer, or rum. Therefore, it has many ways of being brewed.
Here are some of the most common brewing methods.
Honjozo-Shu (Contains Partially Distilled Alcohol)
Some sakes do not contain added alcohol. Honjozo-shu is not one of them.
This type of sake contains a small amount of distilled ethyl alcohol during the final stages of its production.
It’s light, dry, easy to drink, and best served when warm.
Junmai-Shu (Rice Only)
Junmai-Shu is translated as “pure rice sake”. It only uses rice, water, and koji.
Koji is the mold that transforms rice starch into fermentable sugar.
This type of sake is dense and full-bodied. It is also more acidic compared to other sakes.
Ginjo-Shu (Highly-Milled Rice)
Ginjo-shu is made with polished rice to remove the outer layer of each grain, exposing the starch.
It may or may not contain alcohol as well.
If the bottle says that it is polished to 70%, that means it is ginjo-shu since at least 40% of rice has been milled away.
It takes a long time to make. It is fermented at lower temperatures for an extended time resulting in a more complex taste.
Daiginjo-Shu (More Highly-Milled)
Lastly, daiginjo-shu is like ginjo-shu as well, except the rice is even more polished. It may or may not have alcohol in it.
Because it is highly milled, daiginjo-shu is more expensive. Here, no more than 50% of the rice type remains.
Sake Nutrition Facts
Sake has gained popularity around the world. Even breweries in North America, South America, and Australia now make sake.
The nutrition of sake depends on how it’s made, but it is generally low in carbs and has zero fats.
1 fl. oz. of sake contains the following:
- 39 calories
- 0g fat
- 7.3 mg potassium
- 1.5g carbs
- 1.5g net carbs
- 0g sugar
- 0g fiber
- 0.1g protein
It also contains 1% DV of the following micronutrients:
Even though it is Japan’s national beverage, the popularity of sake has been in decline since the 70s.
Health Benefits of Sake
We don’t recommend drinking alcohol of any kind for its health benefits. You are much better off eating healthy whole foods for your nutritional needs.
But despite the risks of drinking alcohol many of us still like to enjoy it in moderation. And if you are going to partake in a drink or two, you are better off choosing a healthier option.
There are some research-backed benefits to drinking sake that may be of interest.
Reduces the Risk of Cancer
A 17-year cohort survey of 265,000 Japanese men was conducted. Researchers found that everyday sake drinkers have fewer cancer risks than those who don’t drink it.
This is because of the amino acids in the beverage that atrophies and annihilates cancer cells.
It is similar to the study that wine consumption can mitigate the side effects associated with radio-cancer therapies.
Prevents High Blood Pressure
A Japanese study states that sake has 9 types of peptides that inhibit the enzyme that causes high blood pressure.
High blood pressure can lead to Cerebrovascular diseases like stroke, angina, and heart attacks.
Sake has glycerol, glycerine, and amino acids that contain moisturizing properties. Sake bathing is popular in Japan for having more moisturizing and heat-retention effects than a regular bath.
Some also claim that sake can inhibit melanin’s performance, the main culprit of sunspots, age spots, and freckles. It’s evident in sake brewery workers who have soft, white hands.
Lastly, sake is believed to help in treating and preventing rough skin. It’s used as a toner because of the saccharides and amino acids it contains.
Carb Content of Sake
The standard serving of sake is equivalent to 180ml or 6 oz, which contains 9g of carbs. This serving is referred to as a Go.
Per ounce, sake has around 1.5g of carbs.
The Go serving is typical in Japanese restaurants, where they serve a flask known as a tokkuri with tiny cups called ochokos, which range between 1-3 oz. or 30-90 ml.
A tokkuri split among two people is 90ml. Take note of this the next time you order a bottle for yourself and your date.
Each person consumes around 4.5g of net carbs.
Some sakes may have more carbs than others. Remember that there is more than one type of this drink. The temperature and filtration also affect the number of carbs per serving.
In general, your carb limit on keto should be less than 50g of total carbs. So, make sure you factor this in when deciding how much sake to drink.
Sake Alcohol Content
The alcohol percentage of sake varies, but it generally ranges from 14% to 16%, which is slightly higher than wine which has 12% to 14% alcohol.
Still, the alcohol content of sake is lower than vodka or whiskey, which can reach up to 40%.
The 14%-16% range is due to the dilution of the drink in water after brewing. This process results in a lower alcohol content.
Meanwhile, Genshu sake contains 18%-20% alcohol, which is slightly higher because it is not diluted in water.
Is Sake Keto-Friendly?
Compared to other alcoholic drinks, sake is keto-friendly because it is low in carbs and does not contain any sugar.
Despite being made from high-carb rice, the yeast in the fermentation process consumes the starches and sugars to create the alcohol, resulting in a low-carb drink.
With only 1.5g of net carb per fluid ounce or 9g of net carbs per serving, this drink will surely keep you in ketosis.
Still, for a drink that offers little to no nutrients, sake is not recommended on keto.
Ideally, you want to spend your daily carb limit on nutrient-dense whole foods.
In other words, all sake can offer you are empty calories and a bit of fun.
So, if you drink one serving during a social gathering, there is no need to worry about getting kicked out of ketosis. Just make sure to stop yourself eating too many carbs throughout the day.
Choose sake that is not loaded with sugar and has a lower alcohol content. The sweeter or, the higher the alcohol content, the more calories the sake will have.
But limit snacking with alcoholic beverages too because intoxication can cause bad food decisions.
A recent animal study found that mice given ethanol for three days were shown to increase food intake.
That’s because alcohol can trigger hunger signals in the brain, resulting in an increased craving for different kinds of food.
Another reason to be cautious about drinking sake on keto is that it may slow down the fat-burning process. Instead of using ketones, your body will prioritize burning calories from the drink.
Make sure to test your ketone levels from time to time to check how sake has affected your ketosis.
Tips for Drinking Sake on Keto
Here are a few helpful tips for you when you want to drink sake without messing up your keto diet.
- Drinking sake, or any type of alcoholic drink, may cause poor decisions like eating more carbs on the side. Have the willpower to avoid munchies while drinking.
- Stick to the lowest-carb sake option. The most keto-friendly sake is low in alcohol content and sugar.
- Cloudy sake, like nigori, should be avoided at all costs.
- The amount of carbs in sake varies, so make sure to check each bottle’s nutritional content.
- Zero-carb sakes are uncommon, but you can ask if the restaurant serves them. You can also find these drinks at a Japanese or Asian market.
Ritual and Etiquette of Drinking Sake
Sake is typically sold in large bottles and poured into smaller vessels or flasks known as “tokkuri”.
It is served either hot, cold, or lukewarm. In Japanese, the term for room temperature is “joon.” Many bars serve them hot when the sake is old or of low quality.
To prepare this sacred drink, pour it into the ceramic tokkuri and place it in a bath of hot water. The sake should be about 120 degrees Fahrenheit if you want to serve it hot.
If you want to serve it chilled, then it should be around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
AUTO STAR’s Sake Set contains a warmer with a unique black pottery surface. These ceramic pot and cups have an anti-slip surface so you can hold your drink steadily.
This beautiful set comes in a protective gift box to avoid breaks during shipping.
Here are some unwritten rules of pouring and drinking sake:
- Pour sake for others, but not for yourself. Let someone pour yours instead.
- Be gentle! Place both hands on the tokkuri, even if it is small, to show respect.
- If you’re receiving the sake, cradle the small cup in the palm of your hand as you rest your fingers on the other hand on the side of the cup. Lift the cup toward the server.
- Use a two-handed technique when pouring for a senior or someone with a high status. You can use one hand for juniors.
- If the sake pourer is of higher status, cradle heir ochaku cup with two hands.
- If you’re drinking sake informally, it’s okay to use the one-handed technique, as long as you lift the cup off the table and hold it toward the pourer.
FAQ The Keto Diet and Alcohol
Does Keto Get You Drunk Faster?
Going on a low-carb diet may mean you’re consuming fewer nutrients that keep your blood alcohol levels at bay. This means you’ll get drunk faster when you’re on the keto diet.
When you are deprived of carbs like pizza, pasta, and bread, your body’s metabolization of alcohol slows down.
Trust your drunk self not to destroy your keto diet because it’s possible to get tipsy and be kicked out of ketosis even if you pick the lowest-carb alcoholic drink out there.
Find out how alcohol affects your ketosis.
Which Alcoholic Drinks Can I Drink on Keto?
The best way to pick the most keto-friendly alcoholic drink is by choosing a sugar-free drink with low alcohol content.
As mentioned, when on keto you can get drunk faster. So, you want to pick a drink that has a low percentage of alcohol.
This will help you prevent munching on snacks alongside your drink.
A sugar-free drink is also necessary as it contains fewer carbs.
Some examples of keto-friendly drinks aside from sake include champagne, dry red wine, whiskey, and low-carb beer. Your keto-friendly drink options are endless.
Does Sake Slow Down Weight Loss?
Any alcoholic drink can make you gain weight in a lot of ways. One is through the tendency to overeat while drinking.
Another way alcoholic beverages like sake can slow down weight loss is when it is used as a primary source of fuel.
Whether you’re on the keto diet or not, alcohol is burned first as a fuel source before your body uses ketones or anything else.
And when this happens, the excess carbs and fats you consumed end up as adipose tissue or body fat.
Make sure to consume high-quality fats on the keto diet to stay in ketosis.
Limit Sake Consumption on Keto
Sake affects your judgment calls as you get drunk faster on a ketogenic diet.
It can cause you to eat more. Even the most die-hard diet enthusiast wouldn’t be able to resist eating when intoxicated.
We don’t consider the drink off-limits, and it is keto-friendly, but you should limit consumption, so you don’t put your keto efforts to waste.
No matter how few the carbs are, they may still have an impact on your ketosis.
Choose the lowest-carb, sugar-free sake with low alcohol content. Avoid munching while drinking, even if the snack is high-fat. Remember, too much fat can ruin your ketosis!
The best choice if you are on keto and trying to lose weight is to avoid alcohol altogether.
Always remember to drink any kind of alcohol in moderation no matter what diet you are on.