Nuts are full of fats and protein. Therefore, they should be the perfect food for a ketogenic diet, right?
Not so fast.
Nuts could be holding you back from ketosis, so it’s important to understand which nuts are best for a nutrient dense, gut-friendly, keto diet. Maybe you’ve heard some conflicting information about nuts and aren’t sure if they fit into a low-carb diet. This guide will help set the record straight.
To help you understand how the carbs in almonds and other nuts can affect your low-carb lifestyle, take a look at this list of pros and cons. Soon, you’ll know which are the best nuts for keto, and which ones you should avoid.
Low-Carb Nuts: When They Fit Into a Keto Diet
Nuts are packed with health benefits. They contain a good dose of vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, selenium, and manganese. Depending upon the types of nuts you choose, you’ll find hidden benefits.
They’re also loaded with healthy polyunsaturated fats and protein, they’re convenient, and they make for a nutritious snack option. Here’s a look at the pros to enjoying nuts on a ketogenic diet.
Nuts Are High in Healthy Fats
Nuts are a high-fat, low-carb food, making them ideal for the keto diet. For example, just a serving (which is an average handful — around one ounce) of almonds has 14 grams of total fat, and the same amount of macadamia nuts provides you with 21 grams[*][*].
If you’re looking for a high-fat, satiating snack, you can keep a few handfuls of nuts stored in your purse or desk. Or, you can crumble them up and place them atop your morning smoothie or lunch salads.
Keeping these keto-friendly, healthy snacks on hand can prevent you from getting overly hungry midday. This in turn will help keep your blood sugar levels stable, burn body fat, and support your weight loss goals.
Most Nuts Are Low in Carbohydrates
In general, and when eaten in moderate quantities, nuts are low in carbs and great for a ketogenic diet. But make no mistake: This doesn’t give you the green light to eat peanut butter by the spoonful.
Generally speaking, in proportion to their fat content, nuts are pretty low in carbs. Take the carbs in almonds, for instance. An ounce of almonds has 2.9 grams of net carbs (total carbs minus dietary fiber), while an ounce of macadamia nuts has 1.5 grams[*][*].
What does an ounce of nuts look like? For reference, 28 almonds is one ounce. It’s approximately a small handful, or the size of a golf ball.
While many nuts are typically low in carbs, they aren’t all created equal. Here are the net carb counts in a 1 oz portion of commonly eaten nuts:
- Pecans: 1.1 grams
- Brazil nuts: 1.3 grams
- Macadamia nuts: 1.5 grams
- Walnuts: 1.9 grams
- Coconut: 2 grams
- Hazelnuts: 2.3 grams
- Pine nuts: 2.7 grams
- Almonds: 2.9 grams
- Peanuts: 3.8 grams
- Pistachios: 5.8 grams
- Cashews: 8.4 grams
- Chestnuts: 13.6 grams
On a low-carb diet, you’ll want to avoid those with the highest carb content — pistachios, cashews, chestnuts — to keep you in a fat burning state. In addition, you’ll want to focus on nuts with a lower carb count — pecans, Brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts — in your keto meal plan.
To make sure you don’t overeat nuts, use the Perfect Keto Calculator to find your individual levels of fat, carbs, and protein.
Nuts Are Convenient
It can be extremely difficult to find healthy, keto snack options. Whenever you’re in a pinch, it seems that every gas station or corner store is stocked with chips, pretzels, and granola bars.
Luckily, many convenient stores carry grab-n-go, packaged almonds, peanuts, and nut butter. Always look for raw nuts or seeds if possible. If none are available, search for roasted nuts or seeds with just nuts, olive oil, and salt listed in the ingredients. (Avoid sweetened or honey roasted varieties.)
You can easily snag a small, individual-sized portion when you find yourself in need of a midday snack, or you can portion out quantities and store them in your car, at work, or in your purse.
Nuts Are Anti-Inflammatory
Nuts are loaded with nutrients — many of which can help reduce inflammation in your body. The polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, magnesium, and L-arginine (an amino acid) found in nuts have been shown to reduce inflammation. This, in turn, can help reduce your risk of developing a variety of diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease[*].
When Carbs in Almonds and Other Nuts Don’t Work on Keto
By now you’re probably thinking, “Nuts sound like the perfect, healthy snack option!” But nuts can be extremely high in calories, high in nutrients, and — in some cases — high in carbs. Here are a few reasons why you don’t want to go nuts on nuts (pun intended).
Nuts Are High in Calories
If you’re reading those numbers thinking they sound appropriate for a midday snack, take another glance at a portion size. A single serving size of nuts barely covers the palm of your hand, making these snacks quite easy to overeat.
If you accidentally consume a cup of nuts (which happens more times than not), you’re looking at consuming upwards of 800 calories.
Some Nuts Are High in Carbs
While nuts and seeds are praised for their protein and fat content, they do contain traces of carbs. Some varieties, such as cashews, chestnuts, pistachios, and sunflower seeds, have far more carbs than you’d predict.
Chestnuts, as an example, contain more carbohydrates than they do fat or protein, weighing in at over 12 grams of total carbs[*].
Pumpkin seeds, while they look like a light snack option, contain an incredible 15 grams of carbs in a one ounce serving[*].
Nuts Contain Anti-Nutrients
Despite the beneficial nutrients that nuts contain, they also have a lot of phytic acid, which is commonly called an “anti-nutrient.” This compound can prevent mineral absorption of calcium, zinc, and iron[*].
It can also make nuts hard to digest for some people. For this reason, you might want to only eat nuts that are roasted, soaked, or sprouted.
Keto Nuts: When They Work in a Low-Carb Lifestyle
Nuts can be used as a convenient tool for a nutrient dense, gut-friendly, ketogenic diet. But they are a double-edged sword that can be one of the things that silently hold you back.
Whether or not you include nuts as part of your ketogenic diet is your personal choice. Be aware of calories and carbs in almonds and other nuts. Eat them in moderation and focus on high-fat, low-carb nuts like pecans, Brazil nuts, or macadamia nuts.
If you’re looking for a nut butter, search for sugar-free, natural nut butter made with just oil, nuts, and salt.
Nuts play an important role in the ketogenic diet, but if you have an allergy or notice they’re causing you issues like weight gain, digestive issues, or taking you out of ketosis, cutting them out might be the best option.
The bottom line is that you find what works best for you over the long-term so you can sustain a healthy, happy lifestyle.