We’ve been told that drinking milk can be good for our health. Milk is one of the best sources of calcium, which is needed for muscle contraction and bone health, as well as other nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus (*). But for those who are lowering their carbohydrate intake, is milk keto?
This is an important question considering that cow’s milk and some plant milks contain more carbs than others. On a keto diet, carbs should be kept under 50 grams per day to reach and maintain a metabolic state of ketosis.
Here’s what you need to know about milk on keto and which options are best for you.
It depends on the type of milk you’re going to consume and whether they’re plain or sweetened. Generally speaking, it’s easier to get knocked out of ketosis with cow’s milk, oat milk, rice milk, goat’s milk, and any milk product with flavoring syrup and added sugars. Stick to low-carb milks as much as possible, such as almond milk, coconut milk, pistachio milk, and other nut milks.
However, you may still be able to consume any plain, unsweetened milk as long as you strictly monitor your carb intake throughout the day. The key is to know how many grams of carbs one serving (usually 1 cup) provides and then adjust your intake from other keto-friendly foods.
One cup of unsweetened whole cow’s milk provides 12 grams of total and zero fiber (*). Note that some plant milks contain more fiber, which reduces the number of net carbs in a serving. Fiber cannot be digested by your body and won’t affect your blood sugar. For this reason, cow’s milk isn’t probably the best choice on the keto diet.
If you enjoy drinking milk, there’s no reason to skip it while on the keto diet as long as you watch your carb consumption — which entails tracking the carbs from your choice of milk — and avoiding all milks with traditional sweeteners.
For example, let’s say you’re craving unsweetened cow’s milk. Given that one cup of cow’s milk has 12 grams of carbs, make sure you don’t exceed one cup. This will leave you with 38 grams of carbs, which can be met from non-starchy veggies and fruits.
Otherwise, consume only milks with the fewest possible carbs per serving. That way, you’ll be able to have more than one serving and still remain in ketosis.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind:
The TKD allows you to consume up to 50 grams of carbs before or after exercising, while the CKD permits a higher carb intake one to two days a week. You can adjust your milk consumption with that in mind.
Any grain-based milk or cow’s milk that is sweetened using traditional sweeteners (cane sugar, cane syrup, fructose, etc.) should be avoided. To be sure, always check the nutrition facts label on the package of a milk beverage.
These milks contain a lot of carbs and may knock you out of ketosis:
- Unsweetened cow’s milk (as much as possible): Cow’s milk may not be the best choice, but it can still be an option if you plan on working out or are taking it on a higher-carb day. One cup contains 12 grams of net carbs (*).
- Chocolate milk: Traditional chocolate milk is sweetened with sugar and may contain other ingredients that promote weight gain. One cup contains 24 grams of net carbs (*).
- Condensed milk: Used in baking cookies and desserts, condensed milk is certainly not keto-friendly. One cup contains 166 grams of net carbs (*).
- Oat milk: Oat milk comes from rolled oats and water. One cup contains 17 grams of net carbs (*).
- Rice milk: Although it’s dairy-free and suitable for people with nut allergies, it has a high carb content. One cup contains 21 grams of net carbs (*).
- Goat milk: Like cow’s milk, you need to watch your carb intake if you choose to consume goat milk. One cup contains 11 grams of net carbs (*).
You’ll be surprised that a lot of plant-based milks are actually keto-friendly. Almond milk is the most popular in the keto community, but there are others that also taste delicious and creamy, and provide zero or only 1 gram of net carbs.
The best milk on keto includes the following:
- Heavy cream: Also called whipping cream, heavy cream is high in fat and can be used in sweet or savory dishes, as well as for making milk. One-half cup contains 3 grams of net carbs (*).
- Coconut milk: If you love the taste of coconut, this keto-friendly milk can be a healthy substitute. One cup contains 1 gram of net carbs (*).
- Almond milk: Made from almonds blended with water, almond milk is low in calories and is often enriched with vitamins and minerals. One cup contains 2 grams of net carbs (*).
- Pistachio milk: This milk comes from pistachios. Although it can be expensive, it has a smooth and rich taste you’ll enjoy. One cup contains 2 grams of net carbs (*).
- Cashew milk: Here’s another plant milk that can offer a variety of nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, and calcium. One cup contains 1 gram of net carbs (*).
- Macadamia milk: There’s a high amount of monounsaturated fats in macadamia milk, making it helpful for weight loss and increasing good cholesterol. One cup contains 0 grams of net carbs (*).
- Pea milk: An alternative to cow’s milk, pea milk tastes nutty and creamy. Beware of pea milk products that contain sunflower oil and added sugar. One cup contains 0 grams of net carbs (*).
- Half-and-Half: This type of milk is a combination of whole milk and cream. One cup contains 5 grams of net carbs (*).
- Hemp milk: Boasting an earthy and creamy consistency, hemp milk makes a wonderful ingredient for coffee and smoothies. One cup contains 1 gram of net carbs (*).
Thankfully, the keto diet offers some milk substitutes for anyone craving a glass of milk. The best keto-friendly milk options have the fewest carbs per serving, such as heavy cream, coconut milk, half-and-half, pea milk, almond milk, and other nut milks.
If you want to have cow’s milk, it’s probably best to have it only if you’re following the Targeted Keto Diet (TKD) or Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD) — around your workout times or during your higher carb days. Apart from that, make sure to track those carbs from cow’s milk.
One final note: Remember to check the number of carbs per serving on the nutrition facts label when buying milk at the grocery.