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Nuts are one of the foods I recommend eating on the keto diet. But not all nuts are created equal. Some can be super high in carbs (making them bad for keto, which is a low-carb diet), while others can be high-fat superfoods. In this article, I will help you clear the confusion and discover the very best nuts for keto.
I will cover:
- The benefits of eating nuts on keto.
- The healthiest keto nuts, ranked best to worst.
- How many nuts are too many nuts?
- How to watch out for nut sensitivities.
- Why germinating your nuts may be a good option.
- The bottom line on healthy nut consumption.
Reasons to eat nuts on the keto diet
I consider many nuts to be ketosis-approved sources of fat. They are a keto-friendly food, and they can really help you reap the benefits of this diet. Whether you are hoping to see weight loss, prevent heart disease, or keep your blood sugar down, they are a great option to include in your daily meals.
Here are some reasons that nuts can be such great keto food.
- They are a high-fat option. On keto, you need to eat a lot of healthy, high-quality fats. Keto nuts can help you get enough.
- They can be low in carbs. If you choose the right keto nuts that are low in carbs, they are perfect for keeping your total carb intake down.
- They are satisfying. Nuts are a satisfying snack that makes you feel full. Mixing them into your favorite recipes and with your favorite flavors makes them even more satisfying.
- They help tide you over between meals. Being a good source of fat, nuts can be really helpful in helping you stay full between meals. This helps out a lot, especially if you are doing intermittent fasting.
- They are tasty. Pecans are one of my favorite foods because they taste so good! Nuts and nut butter are really delicious.
- They are versatile. You can eat nuts straight out of your palm, put them on salads, use them as a condiment, or cook them into recipes. There are so many options.
I love including nuts in my diet, and I think that many of them are great keto-friendly options.
But it matters which kinds of nuts you choose. Not all nuts are perfect ketogenic diet foods. So let's get into it further and determine what the best nuts are to eat on the keto diet.
What kinds of nuts are best for keto?
When looking at nuts, the major thing to consider is their carb and fat content.
Below, I have listed the best keto nuts in order of most keto-friendly to least.
I didn't just look at total carb content when rating nuts best to worst. In making my recommendations, I took the total carb content in 1 cup of the nut and then subtracted the fiber content to get net carbs. I then looked at net grams of carbs alongside grams of fat.
The best nuts are those with the highest fat content and the lowest carbs.
So what comes out on top? While it might surprise you, pecans are the #1 keto nut.
Pecans are the absolute best nuts to consume because they have the lowest net carbs by far, only 4 g. This is great news, as pecans are my favorite nut and are so tasty. Pecans are a great salad topping. If you are looking for a real treat, try this recipe for candied pecans (it's sugar-free!).
Net carbs: 4 g Fat: 71 g
2. Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are low carb and high fat. They also have a long list of health benefits. One reason is because they are high in selenium. Selenium is a trace mineral that is necessary for enzymes, thyroid hormones, mercury detoxification, liver repair, and more. These are great keto nuts to help you stay healthy.
Net carbs: 6 g Fat: 88 g
Walnuts are a common favorite and are one of the really low-carb nuts. They are great chopped and put in salads, or put in healthy keto diet baked goods. They also are a great addition to our spiced nut mix recipe.
Net carbs: 6 g Fat: 52 g
4. Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts are an exceptionally healthy nut. While they have 7 g of carbs (more than pecans, Brazil nuts, or walnuts), their advantage comes in the amount of fat they have. One cup of these nuts has 102 g of fat. This large amount of fat can help offset the small insulin response from the slightly higher carb content.
Net carbs: 7 g Fat: 102 g
Almonds are very versatile. I love baking with almond flour, for example. I think it is the best flour for baking, because it is low-carb, has protein, and is high fat. And it is gluten-free. For example, almond meal makes it into many of our Healthy Junk Food Recipes such as Almond Cookies and Pumpkin Muffins.
Net carbs: 9 g Fat: 45 g
6. Pine nuts
The carb content in pine nuts goes up a bit, to 13 g. But this is balanced out with their high-fat content of 92 g. Due to that amount of healthy fat, they are really good to eat on the ketogenic diet. Pine nuts can be a gourmet addition to your recipes.
Net carbs: 13 g Fat: 92 g
7. Almond butter
Almond butter has a fairly high carb content. But check out its level of fat: 139 g! That is really great for keto. I prefer almond butter to peanut butter, as it has less carbs and more fat. Almond butter can be eaten straight with a spoon, making it an excellent snack.
Net carbs: 21 g Fat: 139 g
Pistachios are a little lower on this list because they aren't super low in carbs and aren't exceptionally high in fat. But a little bit of these sometimes is still okay. One of their advantages is that you've got to shell them to eat them. And I find that that added work slows you down a bit and can stop you from gorging too quickly.
Net carbs: 21 g Fat: 56 g
9. Peanut butter
As I mentioned above, I prefer almond butter to peanut butter because it has a more favorable ratio of fat to carbs. However, peanut butter is still a good keto diet option. Just make sure that your peanut butter has no added sugars (as many brands do), or else you will be spiking your blood sugar and insulin without even realizing it. Looking for a tasty treat? Learn how to make your own healthy peanut butter cups.
Net carbs: 35 g Fat: 130 g
10. Cashews (not recommended)
Cashews are a high-carb nut, and so I do not recommend them. They are the worst nuts and should be avoided. A couple of cashews here and there might be okay, but you've got to be really careful not to eat too many of them or they will get in the way of ketosis.
Net carbs: 35 g Fat: 62 g
Note: Remember that the calculations for carb and fat content above are for 1 cup of nuts. That is much more than you will ever be eating in one sitting.
Takeaways from this list:
If you are going to eat nuts, I recommend those up high like pecans, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and macadamia nuts. Cashews are the worst keto nut. The other nuts are okay but eat them less often because they have a higher carb content. And if you are going to do a nut butter, I would choose almond butter rather than peanut butter.
How many nuts are too many nuts?
One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting out on the ketogenic diet is eating too many nuts. It's one of the top 5 weight loss mistakes people make.
It is easy to go overboard with nuts. It starts out with just one or two, and before long you've binged on a whole container or jar of nut butter. Especially if they are salty or sweet, a quick snack can turn into a binge.
So how many nuts should you be eating?
My rule of thumb is to stick to 1/4 C of nuts per meal or 1 tablespoon of nut butter per meal.
There are several problems with eating too many nuts. You can end up feeling bloated, gassy, etc. But why?
There are two main reasons:
1. Your bile production can't keep up with your fat intake. If you eat too much fat when first starting out on the ketogenic diet, your bile production won't be able to keep up. Your body isn't used to having to digest that much fat all the time. That's why too many nuts will irritate the digestive system, especially the gallbladder. You've got to increase fats slowly so that you can become keto adapted.
2. Nuts have "anti-nutrients" in them. These are things in nuts that can irritate the digestive system and that some people are sensitive to. I explain more about this below.
Learn more about why you don't want to overdo it with nuts in this video.
Nuts can be hard on the digestive system for some people. If you are one of them, you'll want to limit your intake of nuts.
Watch out for sensitivities
Certain things in nuts can irritate the digestive system in some people. There are two groups of people who may want to pay careful attention to their nut intake.
1. People with gallbladder issues or irritation
Something called lectins, which are found in nuts can be very irritating to a portion of the population. These "anti-nutrients" can irritate the gallbladder and affect a nerve that runs from near the gallbladder up over the right shoulder. This can cause bloating, pain, and discomfort all along that nerve. If you have right-sided symptoms, lectins in nuts may be the culprit.
Some nuts have a lot of lectins, while other nuts have small amounts.
Nuts high in lectins:
- Pine nuts
Nuts low in lectins:
- Macadamia nuts
- Brazil nuts
If you have right-sided symptoms or gallbladder issues, choosing those nuts that are lower in lectins (or avoiding nuts completely) might be best for you. Learn more here.
2. People prone to kidney stones
Nuts also contain something called oxalates. These are chemical compounds found in certain foods that combine with calcium and create irritation in the kidney. They can also form kidney stones.
Again, some nuts have more of this than others.
Nuts with the most oxalates:
- Pine nuts
Nuts with lower levels of oxalates:
- Macadamia nuts
If you have kidney stone issues, then avoiding nuts high in oxalates is a good idea. Learn more about nuts, oxalates, and kidney stones here.
Germination: a useful technique
You can help remove the "anti-nutrients" listed above, as well as phytic acid (something that blocks mineral absorption). by germinating your nuts before eating them.
Germination makes nuts more digestible, and it also releases a tremendous amount of nutrition.
If you'd like to learn exactly how to germinate your nuts before eating (an easy process that just requires soaking them in water overnight and then dehydrating them at a low temperature), watch this video.
The bottom line on nuts
Nuts are a great food choice for a low-carb diet like keto. I love eating nuts and including them in my recipes.
You've just got to be sure to be healthy with your choices and your habits.
To review, here are the best nuts in order:
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
- Almond butter
- Peanut butter
- Cashews (not recommended).
To keep your total carb intake low on keto, I recommend those nuts higher up on the list, which are good sources of healthy fats.
Here are some quick tips for staying healthy with your nut consumption on the keto diet.
- Choose the lowest-carb, highest-fat options. Check out the list above and choose those higher up on the list.
- Watch out for added ingredients. Mixed nuts can contain things like MSG, and nut butter often has added sugars or hydrogenated oils. Read the labels carefully.
- Be careful with portions. When it comes to eating nuts, portions are important. It is really easy to overdo it and eat way too much in one sitting. Measure out 1/4 C of nuts or 1 T of nut butter ahead of time so that you don't eat mindlessly.
- If you are sensitive, be careful. If nuts irritate you or cause unpleasant symptoms, then choose your nuts carefully using the information above. In some cases, you may just need to leave them out of your diet completely.
- Try germination. This is a great way to make your favorite keto nuts easier to digest and even more nutritious.
- Experiment with different recipes. Nuts are really versatile when it comes to cooking and baking. Try our favorite spiced nut mix or these keto-friendly pancakes that use almond flour.
- Mix it up. You've likely got a favorite nut already. But a varied diet is a healthy one. Try those you might not eat very often, like Brazil nuts or macadamia nuts. There are some really healthy and different choices out there that can help bring a variety to your diet.
Do you eat nuts? Which are your favorites? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.