The ketogenic diet can be a little difficult to get your head around to start with, raising questions like is milk keto-friendly?
Milk is an essential ingredient in everyday foods and drinks so it's important to know which milk you can drink on this diet, and how much you can drink each day.
Here at OriGym we’ve put together this informative guide to help you figure out which keto-friendly milk will work best for your diet.
In this guide we’ll cover the following topics:
- What is the keto diet?
- Can you have milk on keto?
- What Milk To Drink On Keto
- Milks To Avoid on Keto
- How Much Milk Can You Have?
- Which Milk is Best For Keto?
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What Is The Keto Diet?
Chances are, if you’re interested in fitness and nutrition, you’ve heard about the keto diet by now.
Short for “ketogenic”, this diet has really risen in popularity in recent years!
It actually has its roots as a therapeutic diet from the 1920s, when it was used to treat epilepsy, but fell out of use when more advanced treatments were developed.
More recent research has alluded to the efficacy of the keto diet in treating a number of diseases, including diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, cancer and reducing risk of cardiovascular diseases.
However, in the 21st century the ketogenic diet has once again found a foothold in fitness and weight loss circles. Essentially, the ketogenic diet focuses on two main aspects: drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat.
When you dramatically reduce your carbohydrate intake, your body enters into a state of ketosis. This basically means that your body is lacking in carbohydrates so it starts to burn fat instead, in order to provide energy for biological functions.
Ketosis is often confused with a dangerous condition called Ketoacidosis, and these are very different: this is when the levels of glucose in the blood are too high and the blood turns acidic. The journal of American Family Physician states that:
“DKA is caused by reduced insulin levels, decreased glucose use, and increased gluconeogenesis from elevated counter regulatory hormones, including catecholamines, glucagon, and cortisol. DKA primarily affects patients with type 1 diabetes, but also may occur in patients with type 2 diabetes, and is most often caused by omission of treatment, infection, or alcohol abuse.” (Trachtenbarg, 2005)
Ketosis produces chemicals called ketones, which it uses for fuel. Ketones occur in the liver when the body doesn’t have sufficient amounts of insulin to break down sugars and carbohydrates into energy, and the liver then turns to fat sources for energy. It is the process of turning fat into energy that produces ketones.
The ketogenic diet is a great way to diet if you don’t want to cut fatty foods out of your diet, but don’t mind missing out on eating carbohydrates.
For extra information on the keto diet, take a look at our article on whether keto works without exercise.
So, what can you eat when you’re on the ketogenic diet?
With the ketogenic diet fatty foods are encouraged, as this will give you the energy you need whilst not making you gain weight. This includes foods like meats, seafood and dairy.
Generally, ketogenic diets focus on having less than 20 grams of carbohydrate a day, however some variants of the keto diet allow for slight flexibility on this.
Foods that are high in sugar should also be avoided when on a ketogenic diet. This is because sugar is actually a carbohydrate, so it will impede your goal of achieving the state of ketosis!
The ketogenic diet can take a little bit of research and preparation to work out which foods and drinks that you’re allowed. Check out OriGym’s article on the best keto drinks for a head start.
But can you have milk on a keto diet?
You might assume that you can drink milk on keto as milk is a dairy product, and therefore higher in fat. Considering foods like cheese and butter are keto, it would make sense that milk would be suitable for the ketogenic diet, too.
However, it’s a little bit more complex than that.
Why can’t you have milk on keto? Well, milk is surprisingly high in carbohydrates, so can impact your ketosis state.
Milk also has quite a high amount of sugar in it, which contributes to carbohydrates.
A typical glass of milk has around 12 grams of carbohydrates in, which is quite a lot if you are limiting your carb intake to around 20-50 grams, as most keto diets do.
Don’t panic just yet however, you won’t have to take your coffee black if you’re on a ketogenic diet!
So what milk can you drink on keto?
Cow’s milk, which is what most people think of when we talk about “milk” is very high in carbohydrates, but there are plenty of other keto diet milk substitutes and variants.
We will take you through the milk types that are suitable for a ketogenic diet, and which ones to avoid. This article will help you incorporate milk into a healthy, sustainable ketogenic diet.
Milks That Are Keto-Friendly
A common question for those starting out on the keto diet is “what milk can you have on keto?”, so, in this section we will discuss which milks are keto-friendly.
It’s important to remember that most of these won’t be dairy products, but if you’re not familiar with milk substitutes, don’t worry. Many milk alternatives taste very similar (or even nicer!) than regular cow’s milk, as well as often having some additional health benefits.
However, it’s key to recognise that not all milk substitutes and alternatives are keto-friendly just because they’re non-dairy. We will list these non-suitable milks later, so make sure you read on! For now, let’s have a look at some of the best keto diet milk options.
Heavy Cream (or Double Cream)
Carbs per 100ml: 1.6g Total Fats per 100ml: 50g
Heavy cream is a great option for a keto milk alternative. It’s still a dairy product, so it’s great if you aren’t sure you want to try a non-dairy alternative. Cream instead of milk on keto might not seem like an obvious substitute, as the two products are fairly similar, but heavy cream only has trace amounts of carbs which means it's suitable for keto.
Heavy whipping cream is already used in a lot of cooking, from making soups and rich sauces to thickening your desserts.
It makes for an ideal milk substitute because double cream is really high in fat, usually measuring at 38-40% fat content, whilst having less than 1 gram of carbohydrates.
There’s a whole cream vs milk on keto debate, and whilst its best for you to decide which will suit your tastes better, the thick decadence that heavy cream can add to your coffees and shakes is definitely something to take into consideration!
Macadamia Nut Milk
Carbs per 100g: 0.4g Total Fats per 100g: 2.4g
Macadamia nut milk is the first non-dairy milk substitute on this list.
You’re probably familiar with macadamia nuts in their solid form already: they are quite sweet, with a creamy, buttery texture and flavour. These attributes make them a great keto milk alternative.
Like many milk substitutes, macadamia nut milk is made by blending the nuts with water, then straining this mixture to extract a milky liquid.
Sometimes called milkadamia, this alternative is great for ketogenic diets as it is really low in carbohydrates. It’s not quite as high in fat as heavy cream, but still provides a great option!
Macadamia nut milk can be reasonably expensive, however, so bear this in mind.
Carbs per 100ml: 4.6g Total Fats per 100ml: less than 1g
Flax milk is another non-dairy milk on keto. It is made from flax seeds, and has an earthy taste: it’s a lot less sweet than some other non-dairy milks! This might be a positive, depending on your preferences.
Flax milk is made in a similar manner to macadamia nut milk, as you blend it with water then strain it to create a milk substitute.
Flax milk is really low in carbohydrates, but is high in fatty acids like omega-3, so it’s a good option for a ketogenic diet. Omega-3 is really good for the body, and can help fight heart disease - for another great source of omega-3s try supplementing with cod liver oil.
It is worth noting that this type of keto-friendly milk is more difficult to get a hold of, it’s not commonly stocked in regular supermarkets and only a few retailers sell it.
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Carbs per 100ml: 1.3g Total Fats per 100ml: 1.1g
Almond milk on keto is one of the most commonly used milk substitutes. It’s pretty cheap compared to other nut milk types and has really low levels of carbohydrates.
As you might have guessed, it’s similar to other nut milks in its method of production, as it is blended then strained.
Almond milk is a healthier keto milk alternative that is especially great if you are concerned about your calcium intake. Almond milk contains a high amount of Vitamin D, which is really good for strengthening your bones.
Almond milk comes in a sweetened or unsweetened form, and it is key to only use the unsweetened almond milk as a keto substitute. The sweetened form has less fat content and higher carbohydrate content, meaning it's not really a keto diet milk at all.
Carbs per 100ml: 1g Total Fats per 100ml: 1.8g
Soy milk, or soya milk, is another non-dairy milk form. This keto milk alternative is made from soybeans, which have a whole range of culinary uses, including making soy sauce and tofu.
Soybeans are soaked in water, then ground up and boiled to produce soy milk.
With a mild yet sweeter taste, soy milk is a keto-friendly option that tastes the closest to traditional cow’s milk, so a great option if you’re just entering the world of nut milks.
Again, soy milk comes in both sweetened and unsweetened forms: sweetened soy milk has around 6 grams of carbohydrates per serving so while it is still keto-friendly, you’ll have to keep an eye on your intake.
Soy milk contains around 4 grams of carbohydrates, so maybe a little higher than some other milk alternatives, but it’s still a good option!
Carbs per 100ml: 2.7g Total Fats per 100ml: 0.9g
Coconut milk is another cow’s milk alternative that many people will be familiar with already, as it is often used in cooking in making desserts or sweet, rich curries and stews.
But can you have coconut milk on keto?
Fortunately, coconut milk is also a great option if you’re following a ketogenic diet.
Coconut milk is made from the coconut meat or flesh (the white substance inside a mature coconut). The flesh is removed and shredded, then boiled in water. The cream that then rises to the top of the water is skimmed off, and the remaining liquid is then strained - this is the coconut milk.
Coconut milk for keto is a good option because it is really high in fats which is great for ketosis. However, try and avoid sweetened coconut milk however as this will contain too much sugar and will be more likely to disrupt your ketosis.
Another coconut drink that can be part of your keto diet is coconut water - check out all the benefits, nutrition, and side effects of coconut water here.
Carbs per 100ml: 0.1g Fats per 100ml: 2g
While milk probably isn’t the first product that comes to mind when you think of peas, pea milk is actually another great option, plus it’s a great option if you're looking for a lactose free milk to drink on keto, too!
This keto diet milk has little carbohydrate content and other nutritional benefits.
Pea milk, sometimes called pea protein milk, is made from yellow split peas and tends to have a very similar taste to standard cow’s milk, which is a big part of its appeal.
Pea milk also has plenty of calcium, so it’s great if you’re worried about missing out on some of the benefits of cow’s milk!
Make sure you are using unsweetened pea milk to make the most of its ketogenic benefits, as otherwise you’ll have to adjust your carbohydrates to accommodate for the pea milk.
Pea protein also comes in powder forms - for some great products read through our list of the best pea protein powders. For some more advice on this supplement then have a look at our guide on the benefits, side effects, and nutrition of pea protein.
Carbs per 100ml: 0.9g Total Fats per 100ml: 2.7g
Unlike lots of other milk alternatives, hemp milk on keto isn’t made from nuts, making it a good option for people who suffer from allergies.
Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds, and follows a similar process to other seed and nut-based milks, where the seeds are crushed up, blended with water and then strained to create a milky liquid.
Hemp milk has higher levels of protein than other types of milk on keto, and also has good levels of calcium and other vitamins in.
This kind of keto milk alternative has a more earthy and nutty taste to it, which may take a little getting used to.
For some more information on other ketogenic foods, take a look at some of OriGym’s other articles:
- 9 Benefits of Eggplant: Why You Need This In Your Diet
- 17 Benefits of Blueberries That Will Boost Your Health in 2020
- 11 Healthiest Nuts
Milks to Avoid when on a Ketogenic Diet
So, those were some of the best milks you can drink when on a ketogenic diet, but which milks and milk alternatives should you be avoiding and why can’t you have milk on keto?
Is whole milk keto-friendly? What about skimmed and semi-skimmed milk for the keto diet?
The following list will let you know which milks you should steer clear of when you’re trying to achieve ketosis.
Whole Milk - Carbs per 100ml: 4.7g Total Fat per 100ml: 3.7g
Semi-Skimmed - Carbs per 100ml: 4.8g Total Fat per 100ml: 3.6g
Skimmed - Carbs per 100ml: 5g Total Fat per 100ml: 0.1g
Firstly, when people ask “is milk keto friendly” the majority will be talking about everyday cow’s milk.
Cow’s milk contains a high quantity of lactose, which is a type of sugar, giving the milk higher levels of carbohydrates.
A single glass of cow’s milk could be as much as one third of your entire daily allowance for carbohydrates!
There are plenty of other ways to incorporate calcium into your diet, with most of the keto milk alternatives listed above offering some levels of calcium, as well as other nutrients.
This refers to all forms of cow’s milk: full fat, skimmed and semi-skimmed milk are not the best types of milk for keto diets.
However, if you need to use cow’s milk for whatever reason, then full fat milk for keto is best as it contains higher levels of fat.
Carbs per 100ml: 8.7g Total Fats per 100ml: 1.2g
Is oat milk keto-friendly? Unfortunately, oat milk for keto isn’t a good option.
Oats are really high in carbohydrates, which means oat milk will impede your body from achieving ketosis.
One glass of oat milk contains around 17 grams of carbohydrates, which would be over half of your daily allowance in one drink!
Oat milk is a popular milk alternative, but unlike similar products like almond or pea milk, it’s too high in carbohydrates.
Carbs per 100ml: 9.9g Total Fats per 100ml: 1g
Rice milk has a similar issue to oat milk.
Rice is high in carbohydrates, which means that any product made from it will also be high in carbohydrates.
This includes rice milk, and so it is not suitable for a ketogenic diet. One serving of rice milk contains even more carbohydrates than oat milk, with around 21 grams of carbohydrates in a single cup!
Sweetened Condensed Milk
Carbs per 100g: 55g Total Fats per 100g: 8g
Condensed milk is a type of milk that has had most of the water removed from it. It’s a very sweet, thick liquid that is often used in desserts.
However, the high level of sugar makes it really unsuitable for a ketogenic diet.
In one serving of condensed milk, there can be around 160 grams of carbohydrates. That’s a lot for a normal diet, let alone the keto diet.
However, being keto doesn’t mean you need to miss out on desserts completely: there are ways of making your own keto condensed milk without all the carbs and sugar.
If you need some inspiration or some great recipes then check out our reviews on the 15 best keto cookbooks.
Lactose Free Milk
Carbs per 100ml: 2.6g Total Fats per 100ml: 3.6g
So, this one is a little bit complicated. The reason you can’t have cow’s milk on the keto diet is because of the high levels of carbohydrates in lactose: it would make sense that lactose free milk would be fine, right?
Lactose free milk is created by adding certain enzymes to the milk, which breaks down the lactose. Whilst the lactose is broken down and removed, the carbohydrates present in lactose are still present.
And, as we all know, carbohydrates will disrupt your ketosis state, so lactose free milk for keto is not an option, unfortunately.
However, some of the options on the best milk for keto list above are also lactose free, so check the ingredients on some of those instead.
Sweetened Versions of Other Milks
As we mentioned with the keto-friendly milk substitutes above, many will come in sweetened versions, such as Sweetened Almond Milk or Sweetened Pea Milk.
The sweetness is achieved through adding sugar, which of course bumps up the carbohydrate content and makes the milk unsuitable for a ketogenic diet.
Some of the keto milk alternatives do taste sweeter than others, such as macadamia nut milk or coconut milk, so if the sweetness of normal milk is what you’re after then one of these will be better.
How Much Milk Can You Have?
Well, there’s not really an easy answer to that question as it all depends which keto diet milk you want to drink.
With low carbohydrate, keto-friendly milk substitutes, like almond milk or heavy cream, you can essentially drink as much as you would like because it is so low on carbohydrates.
It’s important to remember that ketogenic diets don’t totally ban carbohydrate intake, just drastically reduce it.
So, what milk can you drink on keto?
In theory, you could continue to drink a glass of cow’s milk a day and still be within your keto carbohydrate allowance. However, it would take up a lot of this allowance and you might have to go without something else.
It makes more sense to use one of these keto milk alternatives with a lot less carbohydrates in!
However, there are also different types of ketogenic diets which might affect how much milk you can have, or the type of milk that you drink.
Some of those include:
The Standard Ketogenic Diet (also known as SKD)
This is the most common and general form of keto diet, and is the one we’ve been referring to throughout this article. The Standard Ketogenic Diet limits you to around 20-30 grams of carbohydrates a day; also calculated as 70% fat, 20% protein, and only 10% carbohydrates of your daily food intake. For this diet, it would definitely be best to stick to a keto milk alternative like cream or almond milk!
A Targeted Keto Diet (also known as TKD)
This is a slightly more complex version of the diet: it’s usually recommended for athletes and dedicated gym-goers. In this variation you follow the ketogenic lifestyle until around an hour before exercise - at this point, you’re allowed to consume around 20-25 grams of carbohydrates, in order to fuel your workout. If you really wanted, this could be a glass of cow’s milk! However, most people opt for something a little bit more substantial.
OriGym’s list of the best electrolyte drinks has some great keto options for post-workout hydration too.
A High Protein Ketogenic Diet
Another common variation: the amount of carbs is reduced slightly when compared to the SKD, and the amount of fats and protein you consume is also calculated differently. Compared to the standard diet, where you consume around 20% protein, and 70% fat, the high protein ketogenic diet allows you to consume 35% protein, 60% fat, and only 5% carbs. A high protein milk would probably be best for this keto diet, like hemp milk.
So deciding what milk on keto is the right choice will depend on which type of diet you’re following.
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Which Milk Is Best For Keto?
Now we’ve got an answer to the question “is milk keto-friendly?”, we can advise on which is best for your diet.
Once again, the best milk for keto will depend on which variation of the diet that you are following, along with your personal tastes and allowances.
Whilst there isn’t a simple answer to this question, there are a few tips to help you figure out which will be best for you.
Obviously a very important factor, if you don’t like the milk then there’s no point in having it! However, trying multiple milks can soon become expensive; whilst most will have a similar mild, creamy taste, some will have stronger or more different flavours so it’s best to do some research on particular keto-friendly milks beforehand to see if they have any predominant flavours. For example, hemp milk is described as having more of an earthy flavour, while macadamia nut milk is considered sweeter than others.
Unfortunately some of these nut milks and keto milk alternatives do have a higher price tag than standard cow’s milk, which can soon make an impact on your weekly shopping bill. For some of the more common substitutes, such as keto diet almond milk and soy milk, many supermarkets stock their own brand products at a cheaper price. However, for more unusual milk, such as flax milk or macadamia nut milk, these can have limited availability as well as a higher price point.
#3 Nutritional Profile
The various ingredients and sources of milk in these products means that the nutritional values are different. Not only are the key keto factors different: fat, protein, and carbs, but there is also a difference with their further micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. For example, almond milk contains approximately 25-40% of recommended daily calcium per serving, while soy milk is often fortified with additional vitamins, such as vitamin A, D, and a number of B vitamins. So when you’re deciding what milk on the keto diet is best for you, make sure you’re checking out the additional nutritional information!
Hopefully now you’re feeling more knowledgeable about the ketogenic diet, and what milk you can have on keto without disrupting the all important ketosis.
If your goal is to lose weight, these low sugar and low carb options will be a small but noticeable help in achieving your goal!
Before you go, why not take a look at OriGym’s level 4 advanced sports nutrition course? You’ll boost your health and fitness knowledge in no time! You can also download our latest course prospectus for information on all our other courses and diplomas.
- Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J.S. and Grimaldi, K.A. (2013). Beyond Weight loss: a Review of the Therapeutic Uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) Diets. European journal of clinical nutrition, [online] 67(8), pp.789–96.
- TRACHTENBARG, D.E. (2005). Diabetic Ketoacidosis. American Family Physician, 71(9), pp.1705–1714.