Which Nuts are Keto Friendly?
The new year prompts many people to refocus on diet quality as part of resolutions to improve their health. This commonly involves reducing calorie intake by searching for foods that are lower in fat. However, those following a ketogenic diet are unique in that they deliberately take most of their daily energy from fat. This does not mean that this group should ignore advice on which foods they should eat as their fat sources. Unsaturated fat is widely agreed to be the healthiest type for cardiovascular health, and contrary to older beliefs should be included in a healthy diet whether one is following a ‘keto’ diet or not.
The keto diet requires one to limit their intake of carbohydrates to a very low amount, usually to no more than 10% of their daily energy intake. For someone eating 2,000kcal per day, this amounts to just 50g of carbohydrates. Additionally, it is generally recommended that this diet includes around 20% of energy intake to be protein; this is 100g per day for a 2,000kcal intake. Most nuts fit excellently into these requirements and provide additional nutrients.
Walnuts are a tree nut with a total oil content of around 62.6%-70.3% of the kernel’s dry matter. This high fat content makes them a concentrated source of energy, with most of the fat being unsaturated and therefore good for heart health. They contain just 1.1-2.8g of starch per 100g of kernel, making them easy to include in a ketogenic diet without approaching the limit of 50g of carbohydrate per day.
Cashews are also a tree nut but contain slightly more carbohydrate and less fat than many other nuts. Fat content makes up only around 48.3% of the total weight, with carbohydrate making up around 20.5g per 100g. However, consuming 50g of carbohydrate from this nut would involve eating over 1,000kcal worth of energy. In the context of a diet generally low in carbohydrates, cashews can easily be included in a keto diet.
Almonds also have a high fat content at 39.7-43.7g per 100g of kernel, and a low carbohydrate content of around 13.6g per 100g. This makes them easily suitable for a ketogenic diet, as long as the other foods eaten throughout the day also have a low carbohydrate content.
Pistachios contain around 44.8g of fat per 100g of kernel, and 16.6g of net carbohydrate. While slightly higher than almonds and walnuts, they are still considered to be mainly a fat source rather than carbohydrate, so should be included in a keto diet.
Peanuts are unique from the others included in this list, in that they are a ground nut rather than tree nut. They are composed of around 49.2% fat, with an additional high protein content of around 25.8%. Containing only 16.1% carbohydrates, they are valuable to a ketogenic diet as a source of protein as well as fat.
Almost every nut is suitable for a keto diet, providing unsaturated fat along with insoluble fibre and vitamins such as potassium, selenium and vitamin K. Exploratory studies have suggested that many nuts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, also improving glycaemic control and blood cholesterol profiles. The exact composition of nuts varies depending on variety, maturity and growing conditions, so ensure they are eaten with other low carbohydrate foods if following a ketogenic diet. Try including nuts in meals while on a keto diet for both their health benefits and excellent taste.
O’Neill, B. and Raggi, P., 2020. The ketogenic diet: Pros and cons. Atherosclerosis, 292, pp.119-126.