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Is Milk Keto-Friendly?

The human race has been drinking cow’s milk since cattle were domesticated around 10,000 years ago.

In ancient Egypt, only the rich and powerful can consume milk. Nowadays, it has become an essential ingredient in the diet of almost every human being on the planet.

The reasons milk became popular are a no-brainer. It’s delicious and a great source of macronutrients. It’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals like calcium. 

Milk has even ingrained itself in our language: “Milk of human kindness,” “mother’s milk,” “don’t cry over spilled milk.”

But cow’s milk is not perfect for everybody.

It contains lactose, a carbohydrate which many people have trouble digesting if they don’t produce the necessary enzyme (lactase) to digest it. Others have an allergy to dairy products. And those who are on a low carb or low-calorie diet may choose to stay away from certain types of milk because of carb or calorie content. 

Of course, dairy is not the only milk available. There is now a vast range of plant-based milk, but which are suitable for a keto diet?

Can You Drink Milk on Keto?

You can drink milk on keto, but you need to be cautious about it’s carb content.

While a tall glass of traditional dairy milk is virtually prohibited when you’re on keto, you can add cream to your coffee and cereal. Thanks to a handful of milk alternatives that are readily available in the grocery.

Is Non-Dairy Milk Allowed on a Keto Diet?

There is a lot of keto-friendly non-dairy milk out there, which means your milk-consuming days aren’t entirely over. Some dairy-free milk is perfect for a keto diet, though others less so.

What is true for all is that you always want to choose the unsweetened versions. Anything sweetened has added sugars and unnecessary carbs, which can kick you out of ketosis. Anything not labeled unsweetened should be looked at carefully, as some are surprisingly full of sugar.

Some excellent plant-based milk products are low-carb, lactose-free, and contain fat and dietary fiber, making them ideal for those on the keto diet. If you have the time, you can also make your milk, ensuring that what you’re drinking doesn’t have additives.

Is Whole Milk Keto-Friendly?

While whole milk has a lot going for it as far as nutrition is concerned. It has protein, vitamin D, calcium, and more. However, it’s not suitable for keto because of its carb content.

You can put a splash in your coffee, but a glass of whole milk is out as it provides 12g of carbs per cup.

Whole milk is natural, nutrient-rich, and tastes good. And while a glass of whole milk won’t take you out of ketosis, it’s a little higher in carbs.

Keto-friendly Milk Substitute

Image with Milk kefir ingredients, kefir grains, serving glass, mason jar,strainer and raw whole organic milk

Keto-friendly milk needs to be low in carbs. Luckily, there are several good options. However, you should note that only the unsweetened versions of these milk are appropriate for keto.

Additionally, carb counts will vary significantly between different brands. That’s due to their varying ingredients and formulations.

Be sure to carefully read the nutrition facts on the label to assess whether your milk is truly keto-friendly. Here is some keto-friendly milk:

Almond milk 

Almond milk is the most widely used milk on keto. It’s inexpensive, sold at most grocery stores, and relatively low in carbs at 1 gram of net carbs per cup (240 mL).

Almond Milk contains very little or no carbs at all if it is unsweetened. It is usually fortified with calcium and is naturally rich in vitamins like vitamin E.

Almond milk is an excellent choice for a keto-friendly alternative to cow’s milk, but always check to make sure it is unsweetened.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is also a good milk sub for keto, but some brands contain up to 5 grams of net carbs per 1-cup (240-mL) serving. As this is one-fifth of the daily carb allotment for keto, it should be used sparingly.

Coconut milk is much like almond milk in terms of carbs and nutrients. But this also means that you have to consider the nutrition facts, as some brands are just as carb-rich as whole milk.

Macadamia nut milk

Macadamia nut milk is more expensive than other keto-friendly milk, but it’s the lowest in carbs. One cup (240 mL) contains 1 gram of fiber and 0 net carbs.

Flax milk

Made from real flax seeds, flax milk is high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. One cup (240 mL) contains only 1 gram of net carbs.

Flax seeds are a great superfood. Plus, flax milk is naturally cholesterol-free, lactose-free, and full of omega-3 fatty acids. It also has minerals like calcium and vitamins, including vitamins A, B12, and D. It’s also low calorie (25 calories per cup).

Soy milk

Soy Milk is another milk option that, in its unsweetened form, is very keto-friendly. Like all plant-based milk, soy milk is naturally free of cholesterol, and it is an excellent source of calcium and potassium.

Unsweetened soy milk holds 1 gram of fiber and 3 net carbs per cup (240 mL). Plus, it provides 7 grams of protein.

Cashew milk

Cashew milk contains only 2 grams of net carbs per cup (240 mL).

Pea milk

As a legume, peas are naturally high in protein, and pea milk possesses 8 grams of protein and 2 grams of net carbs per 1 cup (240 mL).

Half-and-half

Half-and-half is a combination of whole cow’s milk and heavy cream. It contains only 1 gram of net carbs per ounce (30 mL) and is a good substitute for cow’s milk in coffee and cooking.

Heavy cream

Heavy cream is the fatty portion separated from fresh cow’s milk to make butter or whipped cream. It’s high in fat and calories but contains only 1 gram of net carbs per ounce (30 mL).

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is full of vitamins and minerals, including omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B12, and D.

While hemp milk maybe a little more challenging to find in the supermarket, it’s a great and nutrient-dense keto-friendly option.

A cup of unsweetened hemp milk carries 1.3g of carbs and approximately 86 calories. It is higher in fat than other alternatives on this list.

Hemp milk also contains 4.7g of protein, which puts it as the second-best milk alternative for protein content behind soy milk.

Kinds of milk to avoid on keto

Keto dieters should avoid kinds of milk that contain moderate to excessive amounts of carbs.

For instance, all sweetened milk (including sweetened versions of keto-friendly milk) should be avoided. That’s because they are high in carbs from added sugar.

Here is some other milk that you should avoid while on keto:

Cow’s milk

The typical keto diet includes many dairies loaded with protein and fat, but one cup of milk contains a 12g of carbs.

That’s not ideal for a keto diet where many are limiting carb intake to between 20-50g per day.

A splash in your coffee? Sure. But a glass to drink with a meal? Nope!

Whole milk, 2%, 1%, and nonfat all have a similar amount of carbohydrate, but those with more fat content have slightly fewer carbs.

Even lactose-free milk has around 12g per cup because it merely contains added lactase. They are easier to digest, sure, but it still retains the same amount of carbohydrates.

Cow’s milk contains lactose or milk sugar. This includes evaporated milk, ultra-filtered milk, and raw cow’s milk. One cup (244 mL) of 2% milk contains 12 grams of net carbs.

Oat milk

Oat milk is made from real oats, which are naturally high in carbs. This makes oat milk inappropriate for keto. One cup (240 mL) provides 17 grams of net carbs.

Rice milk

The same with oats, rice is naturally high in carbs. One cup (240 mL) contains 21 grams of net carbs.

Sweetened condensed milk

Condensed milk contains high amounts of added sugar and is used for making decadent desserts. But because of its high sugar content, you shouldn’t use it while on keto. One cup (240 mL) contains a whopping 165 grams of net carbs.

Goat’s milk

Like cow’s milk, goat’s milk carries natural sugars that make it too high in carbs to be keto-friendly. One cup (240 mL) provides 11 grams of net carbs.

Neither goat’s milk nor sheep’s milk is any better when it comes to carbs compared to cow’s milk. They may have different purported health benefits, but none are keto-friendly due to carb content.

Essentially, if it’s meant to help a baby animal grow, it will not help you stay in ketosis.

Best Keto Milk Substitutes for Non-dairy and Dairy Options

Other dairy milk contains many of the same health benefits and all the carbs.

Meanwhile, the different percentages and types (nonfat ) refer to the fat content. There are around 12g of carbs in all forms of cow’s milk, and other milk is very similar.

A 1% fat milk lowers the fat content to 2.4g overall. On the other hand, nonfat or skim milk is virtually fat-free. Again, low-fat milk should contain the same protein content as whole milk, its just the different fat percentage.

In general, the best alternatives will be either a high-fat dairy product or unsweetened plant-based milk made from nuts, seeds, peas, or soy. In both situations, the product should have the same consistency as milk with a small fraction of the net carbs.

Keto-friendly, dairy-based milk substitutes

  • Heavy cream or heavy whipping cream: This will be the highest fat dairy alternative for the keto lifestyle.
  • Half and half: Being a mix of half milk and half cream, this is also a good alternative for whole milk. Do remember that it will be a bit lower in fat than heavy cream.

Dairy-free, vegan milk substitutes for keto

  • Unsweetened coconut milk: Pure coconut milk is the highest-fat and vegan-friendly milk substitute.
  • Unsweetened nut milk: You can find a vegan keto milk replacement made from virtually any nut. “Milk” produced from walnuts, cashews, almonds, macadamias, and even hazelnuts can be bought online or off the shelves. Look for the products with the shortest ingredients list and less than 2 grams of net carbs per cup.
  • Unsweetened seed milk: Flax milk and hemp milk are the two easy-to-find keto alternatives for anyone with nut and dairy allergies. Read the ingredients label carefully, as these products do contain other carb-rich ingredients. Look for the flax or hemp milk products with fewer than 2 grams of net carbs per cup.
  • Unsweetened soy milk: Though most soy milk products are far from low-carb, some keto-friendly alternatives are available. Look for unsweetened organic soy milk and carefully read the nutrition label. It should have no more than 2 grams of net carbs per cup.
  • Unsweetened pea protein milk: Whether it’s called pea milk or plant protein milk, the highlighted ingredient will be pea protein. This is great for anyone who wants a dairy-free keto milk substitute, nut-free, vegan-friendly, and high in protein. Unfortunately, not all pea milk products are keto-friendly, so read the label thoroughly.

If you’re not avoiding dairy, then you can drink a mixture of nut milk and heavy cream for a fuller milk substitute.

Mix heavy whipping cream with a nut or seed milk of your choice. A delicious way to do this is to use about 80% nut or seed milk and 20% heavy cream.

Replacing Milk With Keto-friendly Substitute

Regardless of the milk option you choose, use a 1:1 substitution ratio when replacing the milk for most recipes.

For example, if a recipe calls for two tablespoons of milk, use two tablespoons of your preferred alternative.

As with most keto-friendly replacements, however, there are a few things to keep in mind for an optimal result:

  • Ensure your keto milk replacement is homogenous (i.e., it shouldn’t have any particles or separation between water and fat).
  • Study the flavor and fat content of your milk alternative. In general, high-fat milk is creamy and satiating, while the low-fat options will tend to water down some of the recipe’s flavors.
  • Try to mirror what the recipe calls for. If the recipe asks for low-fat milk, use half and half, light coconut milk, or any other lower-fat keto milk alternative. Conversely, when the recipe asks for whole milk, try using heavy cream, full-fat coconut milk, or high-fat nut milk.
  • Consider the differences in macronutrients for accurate tracking. The fat, protein, and carb content of milk vs. your milk substitute will differ significantly. Make sure you take this into account to increase your chances of success with keto.

When Should You Avoid Having Milk on Keto?

There are three things to look out for when drinking milk on a keto diet: Carbohydrates, saturated fat, and lactose.

There are 12g of carbs for every glass of whole milk. If you are on keto or another low-carb diet, 12g of carbs can be too much.

Sure, you are granted some carbs on a keto diet, but not when a food or drink takes up one-third of your daily allowance. You may be better off getting your carbohydrates from other sources like fresh veggies and seeds.

The carbs in milk are the main reason many people on keto diets leave it on the shelf. It’s also worth avoiding oat milk and rice milk since they both have even more carbohydrates per cup, at 16g and 22g, respectively.

Final Thoughts

So, is milk keto? Can you drink milk on keto? Of course, you can include cow’s milk into your keto diet, so long as you take the carbs per serving into consideration.

There are lots of beneficial aspects of cow’s milk. However, you can also get your vitamins, minerals, and protein in plant-based kinds of milk, and in the meat and cheeses you’ll eat as part of your keto diet.

Can you drink milk on keto? You can if you want. But it would be best to make it a cup of a milk option such as almond, soy, coconut, or any of the others we discussed above.

Many milk replacements have the calcium and some of the nutrients with few or none of the carbs. You might be better off overlooking cow’s milk if you are on a keto diet and getting what carbs you want from better sources. Luckily, there are plenty of keto-friendly milk options.

Your best choices are unsweetened, plant-based milk alternatives, except rice and oat milk. Half-and-half and heavy cream are reliable options as well.

Avoid cow and goat milk because they contain natural sugar, and avoid sweetened milk, as they’re high in added sugar.

Thankfully, milk doesn’t have to be a thing of the past just because you’re following a keto diet.

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