We unravel the confusion surrounding dairy on keto – and reveal the 7 best keto dairy options!
When many people think of the ketogenic diet, they imagine consuming huge quantities of milk, bacon, eggs, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products. Others contend that any type of dairy product is out of bounds for keto dieters?
It’s no wonder that most keto newbies are totally confused when it comes to the keto diet and dairy products.
So, where does the truth lie?
As in most cases, somewhere in the middle.
Sugar and Dairy
All forms of dairy contain sugar. The form of sugar in dairy products is called lactose. It is contained in the milk of nearly all mammals. Humans break down lactose for digestion with the help of an enzyme called lactase.
Lactase breaks down lactose into glucose. This is the last thing that you want in your body when you’re following the keto diet.
70% of adults do not produce enough lactase to be able to properly break down lactose. As a result, they have problems like gas, stomach upset and flatulence when they eat dairy products.
As a result of lactose intolerance, a large number of keto dieters choose to stay away from dairy products to avoid stomach upset. For those who don’t have this problem, the question of keto and dairy comes down to the amount of sugar in the form of lactose that the food contains.
Staying in Keto
The goal of the ketogenic diet is to get into, and stay in, the state of nutritional ketosis. In this state, you have depleted your body of glycogen. This is the form of energy that your body converts carbohydrates into. With the glycogen absent, your body will be forced to switch over from a glucose-based energy system to a fat-based energy system. It will rely on your stored body fat to provide the energy you need throughout the day.
To get into this state of ketosis, you need to reduce your daily carb intake to between 20-50 grams per day. That is a very low amount and requires keeping tabs on the carb count of everything you eat – including dairy products.
Keto Dairy No-Nos
There are a number of dairy products that are immediately ruled out for keto due to their high carb count. These include ice cream, flavored milk, and flavored yogurt.
You might think that your pottle of yogurt is nice and healthy. It may even claim to be fat-free. But that doesn’t mean that it’s sugar-free. Yogurts that have added pieces of fruit will also have added fruit jelly. The carb count can be as high as 40 grams per bottle. That is more than most keto dieters are allowed in a whole day. In other words, that small bottle of yogurt will kick you out of ketosis – and put a halt to your fat loss!
Here are the top 6 dairy products that you have to cut out of your life if you want to stay in keto:
- Ice cream
- Flavored milk
- Sweetened yogurt
- Soft cheese
- Dehydrated Milk Powder
What About Milk?
Most of us were brought up on milk. We were told that it was good for our bones and our muscles, thanks to high levels of calcium and protein. As a result, milk has become habitual for many people starting on keto. They think of it as a healthy food. So, when it comes to cutting out the carbs, a lot of people don’t even think of milk.
The reality is that there are a large amount of carbs in milk. Both whole and raw cow’s milk contain 11-12 grams of carbs per serve. That’s more than half of the entire daily limit for many keto dieters. Milk sourced from other mammals such as sheep, goats or buffalo is a little lower but still too high for keto followers.
You might think that low-fat milk might be better for keto lovers – but you’d be dead wrong. When the fat content goes down, the sugar content goes up. Of course, when you’re on keto, you want high fat and low carbs. That means you need to stay away from low-fat milk.
Powdered milk is the result of dehydrating whole milk to leave only milk solids. The original lactose count remains unchanged. Often sugar is added to the mix. As a result, powdered milk is also off the menu for keto followers.
Update: There is now some powdered milk on the market that actually removes the lactose along with the water content of the milk. These products are ideal for keto lovers.
7 Best Keto Dairy Options
Cream results from skimming the butterfat from milk. It is very high in fats, moderate in protein and low in carbs, which is the ideal macronutrient profile to fit the keto lifestyle. A single serving of heavy cream will provide you with 86 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein and 7 grams of carbs.
Sour cream is what you get when you ferment heavy cream. The fermentation process further reduces the lactose count, making this an even better keto-friendly option than the unfermented form of cream.
A half-cup serving of sour cream will add about 5 carbs to your daily macro count. Serve it with berries for a delicious, nutritious treat.
Natural Yogurt (Whole Milk)
Yogurt is what you get when you ferment whole milk. Fermentation reduces the lactose count because micro-organisms eat up the lactose to provide lactic acid. This is what produces the tangy taste of yogurt. A serving of natural yogurt will provide you with 10 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein and 5 grams of carbs.
Be wary of flavored and low-fat yogurts, along with these with added fruits. The carb counts on these versions can be as high as 40 grams per serving!
Cheese is a very popular keto food option, being high in protein and fats while low in carbs. The harder the cheese, the lower the carbohydrate count. That’s why you should prioritize hard cheeses like parmesan, which contains only one gram of carbs per serving. Semi-hard cheeses, such as Swiss, are also keto-friendly, with about two grams of carbs per serving.
Coming in at around 98% fat content, butter is a keto lover’s dream food. It’s got no carbs whatsoever, with just a tiny amount of protein. Look out for grass-fed butter. It may cost a little more but will deliver high-quality omega-3 fatty acids to your system.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that margarine and butter are the same thing. Margarine is an artificial fake food full of toxins and high in sugars – stay away from it at all costs!
Let’s face it – anything tastes better when it’s topped with whipped cream. The good news is that whipped cream is keto-friendly.
However, to get the best keto bang for your buck, we suggest making your own. That’s because store-bought versions often add sugar. Add heavy whipping cream to a mixing bowl and start whipping it with a hand mixer until it’s lovely and fluffy. Then add it to your berries for an awesome evening treat.
Cream cheese is one more cheese variant that is very doable on the keto diet. It contains one gram of carbs per ounce, so you can use it to flavor your celery stalks – just don’t go overboard.
When it comes to deciding if a dairy food is keto-friendly, think about its constitution and its method of preparation. Cream and solid dairy will usually be keto-friendly. However, liquid forms of milk are probably going to be too high in lactose.
If you really want to get your daily milk fix, switch over to lactose-free versions such as almond or coconut milk.