Things that are on the “yes” list for the keto diet: butter, bacon, avocados, “fat bombs,” MCT oil, grass-fed beef. Things that are on the “no” list…well, basically everything else.
Okay, maybe that’s an over-simplification. But the keto diet (arguably one of the biggest food trends of the past year) is famously restrictive thanks to its focus on eating lots of fat and very few carbs. Which leaves people who love carby foods like bread and pasta out in the cold.
But having one little orange or apple isn’t that big a deal on keto, right? Not necessarily, according to Rachel Gargiulo, a certified nutrition consultant at Nourishing Journey in Baltimore, Maryland. “Carbs are usually the body’s preferred substance for producing and using energy,” she says. “However, when adhering to a keto diet, the body switches from using carbs, in the form of glucose, to using fat reserves instead.” This process is called ketosis and it’s linked with all kinds of benefits (from weight management to improved mood).
But staying in ketosis depends on you limiting your carb intake—which is where fruit can get kind of tricky. Generally, most keto plans call for eating 30 grams of carbs per day max. For context, eating just one mango (which has over 50 grams of carbs per fruit and roughly 45 grams of sugar) puts you well over your day’s carb limit. And those extra 20 grams of carbs make a difference. “Entering ketosis usually takes anywhere from three days to a week. Eating too many carbs in one day will bump you out of ketosis,” says Gargiulo.
However, fruits are filled with important nutrients—vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants—that make them well-worth keeping in your diet. Rather than ditching them for good (or being filled with fear every time you see a banana), Gargiulo suggests introducing low-carb fruits one at a time to see how it impacts your body’s ability to stay in ketosis, since she says it can be a bit different for everyone. As for knowing exactly what keto-friendly fruits are out there, Gargiulo shares some of the best options below.
Keep reading for the five best keto-friendly fruit options if you’re craving something sweet.
If you’ve been hardcore keto for a while, you might freak out at the carb counts you’re about to see on this list. But remember: Most fruits also contain fiber, an important nutrient that helps with digestion and prevents blood sugar spikes. (So, not the same as the carbs you’d get in a cookie or a piece of bread.) These fruits in particular are also low in sugar per serving compared to most other fruits.
So while fruit is perhaps not something you can have a bowl full of every day while on keto (because 30 grams of carbs adds up quickly!) it’s certainly something you can enjoy in small amounts from time to time. Here are some of the best keto-friendly options, according to Gargiulo:
1. Berries. Gargiulo recommends berries, and raspberries in particular, if you’re looking for keto-friendly fruit. Berries are generally low in carbohydrates and high in fiber. They are also a healthy addition to just about any eating plan due to their high levels of antioxidants and associated health benefits. For reference, here are the carb and sugar contents in a few popular berry options (nutrient composition is for a cup of raw fruit):
- Raspberries: 15 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 5 g sugar
- Blackberries: 14 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 7 g sugar
- Strawberries: 13 g total carbs, 3 g fiber, 8 g sugar
- Blueberries: 21 g total carbs, 4 g fiber, 15 g sugar
2. Peaches. Peaches are another lower-carb fruit option if eaten in small portions. One small yellow peach has about 12 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of sugar. The juicy summer treat also contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals like potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin C.
3. Apricots. If you’re searching for a keto-friendly fruit with a sweet-but-tart flavor profile, apricots are here for you. One raw apricot contains just 4 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fiber, and 3 grams of sugar. But FYI: The carb count in dried apricots is significantly higher per serving (about 29 grams per five pieces of fruit), so stick to the fresh stuff while you’re on keto.
4. Melons. Gargiulo says that most melons fall within the keto-friendly fruit spectrum. Melons also have high water content, which helps to provide some extra hydration. Here’s what you get from a cup of these types of melons:
- Watermelon: 11 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 9 g sugar
- Honeydew: 15 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 14 g sugar
- Cantaloupe: 13 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 12 g sugar
5. Lemons and limes. If you want to add a splash of citrus flavor to everything from ketogenic pad Thai to vegan pesto, take heart—Gargiulo says you can feel free to use liberal amounts of fresh lemon and lime juice in your cooking while still staying true to the keto plan. One ounce of lemon juice has just 2 grams of carbs and just under 1 gram of sugar, and the macronutrient composition of lime juice is similar (3 grams of carbs and 1 gram of sugar per ounce).
So if the idea of going low-carb ever feels super daunting, just remember that you totally can eat fruit. Your bod (and taste buds) will thank you after long weeks of avocados and cauliflower rice.
This story was originally published on January 8, 2019; updated on March 2, 2020.
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