The Ketogenic Diet and the Dairy

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

If you are wondering whether you can eat dairy on keto or not, let me tell you which products you can and can’t eat. This way, you can plan your meals better. Read on to find out more.

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Dairy on Keto: What to Eat and Not Eat 

How Much Sugar Does Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Products Have?

You may ask yourself this question, especially if you love consuming high-fat dairy products: “Can I have dairy on a keto diet?” We are going to find out how keto and dairy should fit into your diet plan. I'm not going to talk about lactose intolerance or milk allergies. I’m focusing on whether you should consume dairy on keto or not, and will specifically discuss the sugar content for each dairy product per cup (8 oz). 

1. Yogurt

Strawberry flavored yogurt with fresh berries | The Ketogenic Diet & Dairy (Milk, Yogurt, & Cheese) | Dairy on Keto | can you eat dairy on keto


First, let's talk about yogurt starting with how manufacturers make them. Cow’s milk or heavy cream is the basic ingredient in making yogurt. Makers of yogurt ferment the ingredient with lactic bacteria starters, specifically Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. They add these bacteria to the heated and pasteurized milk and incubate the milk at a temperature that allows maximum activity of the bacteria. 

Upon the bacteria's activity, the microorganism converts milk sugar into lactic acid, which creates its tangy taste and thickens the milk's texture. After a certain period of fermentation, the yogurt is left to cool, and then the fruit flavors and sweeteners are added. Other yogurt makers use stabilizers like gelatin.   

Different Types of Yogurt and Their Sugar Content 

Fat-free yogurt with fruit, which is usually not just with the fruit but also the jelly of the fruit and all the sugar, has 47 g of sugar. That's like drinking one can of soda, which has a lot of sugar. Fat-free plain yogurt has 19 g, which is an incredible amount.

Fat-free Greek yogurt has 9 g, which is a little bit better than the previous types, but still too high. Whole-milk plain yogurt has 11 g, which is still too high. Now, look at fat-free plain versus whole-milk plain variants. Apparently, fat-free has a higher amount of sugar. This means whole-milk plain is better than fat-free plain.

Fat-free vanilla yogurt has 34 g, which is way too high. Goat's milk kefir yogurt has 7 g. So, if you were forced to consume yogurt, goat's milk kefir is the best and fat-free Greek is next. 

Blueberry kefir yogurt has 20 g. Low-fat plain kefir yogurt has 12 g, and low-fat plain kefir yogurt (lactose-free) has 11 g. I don't understand why low-fat plain kefir (lactose-free) is high in sugar when lactose is already the sugar and it doesn’t have lactose at all. So, is yogurt good for keto? The answer is no.  

RELATED: Non Dairy Sources Of Calcium On Keto

2. Milk

Glass of milk | The Ketogenic Diet & Dairy (Milk, Yogurt, & Cheese) | Dairy on Keto | is dairy ok on keto


Let's go to milk. How farmers feed the cows significantly affects the quality of the milk in terms of nutrients. Cows fed with fresh grass are a great source of milk because they contain more nutrients than those fed with grain or hay. After the farmers get the milk from cows, the milk is stored in cold temperature for no more than 48 hours. 

People then transport the milk after 48 hours for lab testing. Testers look at the content of the milk, if it has antibiotics or if the milk had been stored correctly. Once it passes lab tests, it goes into pasteurization and other processes. When everything is set, manufacturers pack them into bottles for store delivery. 

Sugar Content in Milk

Two percent milk has 12 g of sugar, which is too high. A half-and-half for your coffee has 0.36 g, while whole cream (heavy whipping cream) has 0.1 g. Having half-and-half is not that bad.

So, can you do the half-and-half or whole cream while on a keto diet? The answer is yes. I would get organic and grass-fed if possible. The 2% milk should be a no in your keto diet. 

3. Cheese

Wooden board with different kinds of delicious cheese on table | The Ketogenic Diet & Dairy (Milk, Yogurt, & Cheese) | Dairy on Keto | can i have dairy on keto


Let's talk about cheese. Before I discuss the sugar content in several types of cheese, let me briefly tell you how manufacturers make them. Cheese is a fermentation product that has bacteria eating up milk sugar. A lot of that lactose is lost with whey, but the sugar content varies on the types of cheese because manufacturers process them differently. 

Cheese makers then add salt to the cheese to help form the rind, inhibit bacterial growth, keep unwanted organisms from the cheese, improve flavor, and slow down enzymatic activity. The last stage is to let the cheese age. During this phase, the rind develops. Aging of the cheese needs to be in a controlled environment with a certain humidity range and temperature to make the process successful.    

Different Types of Cheese and Their Sugar Content

Cream cheese has 0.45 g of sugar, which is totally fine. Pepper jack and cheddar cheese have zero grams, which is awesome. In fact, what’s interesting about cheese is the older it is, the less sugar it has. 

Mozzarella cheese has 1.4 g, which is not bad. Processed cheese, however, has 19 g. These are types of cheese that are individually wrapped, which most people consume. Cottage cheese has 6 g, which is already high. 

So, which types of cheese should be in your keto diet? Cream cheese, pepper jack, cheddar, and mozzarella are good, but processed and cottage cheese should be a no. You might be allergic to cheese but that is a totally different story. When you consume cheese, get those that are organic and grass-fed because they are ideal.

To sum things up, you can definitely work both dairy and keto into your diet plan, given you take those products I recommend. Sugar makes you fat and doesn’t make you lose weight, and if you are not careful with your sugar intake with dairy, it can eventually break ketosis. So, start adding keto-friendly dairy products to your low-carb ketogenic diet now and enjoy your every meal.

Are you thinking about having dairy in your keto meal plan now? Which of the dairy products I recommend above do you usually consume? Tell us in the comments section below!

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment. 

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