It's one of the burning questions of our time: can you eat fruit on keto?
We get asked this a lot. And there’s quite a bit of conflicting information out there about which ingredients and recipes can be considered “keto” or “keto-friendly” and which cannot. People want to know if certain foods are strictly off-limits on a keto diet but, as you might have expected, the answer is full of nuance.
Let’s start with a few simple truths:
- There is no such thing as keto or non-keto food.
- There are no “bad” keto foods—but some are better for a low-carb diet.
No Such Thing As Keto Or Non-Keto?
The ketogenic diet, at its core, is a macro restriction diet. It is based on counting and limiting grams of carbs per day, not restricting food types—as, say, the carnivore or vegan diets do. Instead, keto is all about attaining health benefits by determining your optimal macro breakdown. Typically, this means the majority of your calories should come from fat (about 70-75%), a moderate amount from protein (about 20%), and a small percentage from carbohydrates (about 5-10%).
For a better understanding of the different diets, including those built on macro counting or food restriction, check out this article on the four main types.
Because keto is a macro counting diet, there is a daily carb allowance—albeit a small one. That means you'll generally have at least some flexibility when it comes to including higher-carb foods in your meal plan. To what extent you do this will depend on a range of factors, including the following:
- Your tolerance for carbs;
- Your size, age, gender, and health history;
- Your activity level;
- Your goals;
- Your carb cycling plan;
- What the rest of your diet looks like.
Making Good Keto Choices
At the beginning of your ketogenic journey particularly, we advocate tracking grams of carbs and paying close attention to your macros. The aim, of course, is to minimize carbs—especially the processed ones that spike your blood sugar and insulin levels, contributing to high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. The question in your mind should always be, "How does this fit with my goals?" than "Is this keto?" Because it's exactly these kinds of choices that will help you achieve your health goals.
Are Twinkies keto? Not really. And they're not something you should be eating regularly, either. But if you’re paying attention to your diet and consistently getting the nourishment you need from healthy sources, you may find a way to incorporate the occasional treat with sugar. Fruits that are naturally sweet might be a better choice, though.
Are sweet potatoes keto? Some people believe they aren't, because of the grams of carbs they contain. (One sweet potato has about 26 grams of carbs.) However, it would be arbitrary to lump sweet potatoes into the same "non-keto" group as twinkies, donuts and sugary cereals. In fact, they're a great source of fiber—which will factor in when counting grams of net carbs. They're also vitamin and mineral-rich, which could make them a great addition to your keto diet in the right amounts.
Are strawberries keto? Fruit is another natural and healthy source of vitamins and minerals; however, nature's candy can also contain quite a bit of natural sugar. If you're looking purely at carbs, strawberries might be a no. But from a more holistic perspective, an occasional medium-sized portion of these antioxidant-loaded berries might be just the way to complement your keto diet and give your body what it needs.
Taking A Holistic Approach
Everything you ingest should be looked at holistically, incorporating macros as well as nutritional information into your decision-making. All carbs are not equal. Some carb sources are full of chemicals and ingredients that will throw off your digestion, mental clarity, and health. Others are high in fiber and will keep you full while enriching your body with vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols.
If you’re active and healthy and aiming for a whole-foods keto diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants, blueberries may be a great addition to your post-workout breakfast. If you're an athlete doing two hours a day or more of intense training, you may be able to tolerate a relatively high amount of carbs and still mainly burn fat for fuel.
As Robb Wolf notes in his book, Wired to Eat, we all have individual responses to different carb sources. What may be a healthy carb option for one person (say, sweet potatoes or fruit) could cause insulin spikes in another.
Speaking of insulin: because it lowers the production of ketones, controlling levels of this hormone in your body is important whether or not you have diabetes. Too much could kick you out of ketosis.
In short, we all react differently to what we eat. What may be a perfect keto plate for one person won’t be the same for another.
Keto-Friendly Fruits & Nuts? Here Are Some Healthy Carb Sources
Generally speaking, there are a number of carb sources that many tolerate as part of a largely ketogenic diet. Again, it’s up to you to determine how these can fit into your macros and help you perfect your diet plan. Always consider how each choice will help you best achieve individual goals such as optimal energy and performance levels, mental clarity and focus, weight loss, or ideal body composition.
To get you started, here's a list of carb sources that can make good keto snacks or be included in your keto recipes and meal plan:
- Berries. When it comes to fruit, berries sit right at the top of the nutrition pyramid. Raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are low-glycemic, full of fiber, and chock full of polyphenols and antioxidants.
- Olives. They’re salty, delicious, high in fiber, and full of healthy fats.
- Nuts and seeds. Macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, and pili nuts are great, but almonds, cashews, and other nuts and seeds in moderation can work too.
- Coconut. Another great source of healthy fat, coconut is a versatile ingredient for keto meals and snacks as you can use the oil, milk, and meat.
- High-fat Greek yogurt or cheese. The right kind of dairy, if tolerable, might be a good option for you.
- Avocado. Don‘t forget that everyone’s favorite keto fruit contains carbs too! But avocados also have plenty of fiber and healthy fat. Add a dash of lemon and we're in heaven!
- Dark chocolate. There are plenty of “keto-friendly” chocolate bars out there, sweetened with stevia or erythritol, but even traditional dark chocolate that is low in sugar and made with high-quality ingredients like organic cacao and cacao butter can pack some delicious fat and polyphenols and kill cravings. We generally go for at least 70 percent, and you can even find up to 99 percent dark chocolate.
- Sugar-free nut butter. Granted, it's easier to overeat than nuts and generally contains a higher carb counts per volume, but nut butter is also a delicious and easy high-fat treat that may find a place in your diet plan.
- Cruciferous vegetables. Think brussels sprouts and cauliflower, if tolerable.
- Lots of dark leafy greens. A giant salad is a delicious vehicle for fat and protein and can deliver a few healthy carbs as well.
- Protein or meal replacement bars. If made with zero-carb sugar alcohols and fibers and tolerable for you, these bars can be great on-the-go snacks for easy keto.
Don’t Forget Grams Of Net Carbs
As broken down in our article on the net vs. total carbs debate, tracking grams of net carbs—while it may be a bit more work—provides a more accurate representation of how many carbs your body is actually processing and using from what you eat.
You may think, for example, that your favorite keto cookie isn’t that keto-friendly because it contains 25 grams of carbs per serving. But if you read the ingredient label more closely, you may find that 10 of those grams of carbs come from fiber, which will pass through your body undigested. Perhaps another 10 grams come from allulose—a low-calorie sweetener that your body also doesn’t digest. Factor this in and you might see that you're only taking in 5 grams of net carbs per serving. Our delicious blueberry muffin keto bars for instance only contain 1g net carb!
With net carbs in mind, you might even be able to make some tasty low-carb versions of your favorite treats! Determining which keto sugar alcohols or fibers your body tolerates best and incorporating them into your baking and cooking can lower the carb content of the sweets you love—making them part of a sustainable and enjoyable keto diet.
Check out our article about the different keto-friendly sugars and fibers.
In short, grams of net carbs should be factored in and can make a significant difference when deciding which foods and recipes are reasonable for you.
- Not all foods are ideal for a healthy diet. Food-like products that are high in processed sugar, refined carbs, and other harmful ingredients aren’t great to incorporate in any diet on a regular basis.
- But: there is no such thing as keto and non-keto foods. Different foods can simply be better or worse for your particular situation and set of goals.
- Most foods aren’t bad or good, they just have different consequences. Knowing what consequences they have for you can help you make informed dietary choices.
- Pay attention to net vs. total carbs to know how many you're actually processing and digesting.
- All carbs are not created equal. Carb sources that can generally be considered more nutritious and less harmful in most standard ketogenic diets (either in moderation, during carb refeeds, or around your workouts) include berries and some fruit, yams and sweet potato, and high-quality dark chocolate, to name a few.