Fruit on the Ketogenic Diet

Fruits are a type of food typically considered to be an essential part of a healthy diet. However, fruit isn't only rich in vitamins and minerals — it's full of carbohydrates and sugars. This means that if you're adhering to a ketogenic diet, it can be challenging to consume most types of fruits.

The ideal keto fruit is the high-fat, low-carb avocado. (Image: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

Eating Fruits on Ketogenic Diets

High-protein, low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets have become extremely popular for losing weight. Diets like these include the Atkins and paleo diets. The ketogenic diet is different from other similar diets as it focuses on drastically reducing your carbohydrate (and consequently, sugar) consumption while increasing your fat and protein intake.

In contrast, the Atkins diet is a low-carbohydrate diet that allows you to eat more protein and carbs than the ketogenic diet, while paleo diets focus on selecting foods that were consumed before farming became popular and don't necessarily restrict your carb intake. In general, people adhering to ketogenic diets consume only between 20 and 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.

This strict restriction in carbohydrates means that a lot of foods need to be eliminated. Foods that are normally considered healthy, like fruits, have a high carb content — and the general rule is that the higher the number of carbohydrates the less of that food you can have on a ketogenic diet. Unfortunately, this means that many otherwise healthy, high-carb fruits, like apples and bananas, must be eliminated, eaten rarely or eaten only in very small amounts.

However, the need to eliminate carbohydrate-rich foods does not mean that all fruits must be removed from your daily diet. In fact, several high-fat, low-carb fruits, like coconut and avocado, are staples of the ketogenic diet. Ultimately, finding good keto fruits just involves identifying fruits with low carb content, so that you can consume healthy, sweet foods without affecting ketosis.

Keto-Friendly Dietary Staples

The ideal keto fruit is a high-fat, low-carb fruit. The two obvious choices here are coconut and avocado. Looking at ketogenic diet plans, you'll always see fat — that's the whole point of the diet, after all. However, it's important to diversify your fats. Don't always opt for milk products; instead, try swapping your whole milk for coconut milk or trading your butter for avocado butter.

Coconut offers nutritional and medicinal properties from its fatty acid content. This means that every time you use ingredients such as coconut oil or coconut milk, you're obtaining a ton of beneficial nutrients while still adhering to your ketogenic diet. Coconut products are some of the easiest ingredients to integrate into smoothies, stews and soups. Just make sure there aren't any added sugars in any of the coconut products you use.

Avocados are just as much of a staple as coconut on the ketogenic diet as their neutral flavor allows them to be used in many types of dishes. There are many varieties of avocados to choose from, but most avocados are rich in vitamins and minerals (like B vitamins and vitamins C, E and K) and also contain beneficial antioxidants.

Avocado is also full of fats — and what's great is that these are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that benefit the heart and support weight management. A 2013 study in the Nutrition Journal showed that eating avocados can even increase feelings of fullness, which can help promote weight loss.

Other Low-Carb Fruits

Although avocado and coconut are some of the most popular keto-friendly fruits, they aren't your only options. Keto fruit options that will sate your sweet tooth while adding nutritive value range widely in sugar and carbohydrate content. Certain fruits have just over a gram of sugar per serving, while others may have 10 grams or more.

People who are consuming ketogenic diets with daily carbohydrate limits of 50 grams per day might consider small portions of certain fruits keto friendly, while those adhering to the stricter 20 grams-a-day diet would avoid the vast majority of fruits.

Many fruits have about 10 grams of sugar and about 15 grams of total carbs per serving , including Asian pear, casaba melon, cantaloupes and grapefruit. However, few people who are following ketogenic diets want to give up that many carbs to a single serving of fruit.

Certain fruits, like guava, apricot and berries have enough sugar and total carb content per serving to make them unfeasible to eat on a keto diet. However, they are so small that a moderately sized, individual fruit (a fraction of a typical portion) can easily be integrated into a ketogenic diet.

Neutrally flavored fruits like starfruit, tomatoes and rhubarb are also popular on the ketogenic diet. Starfruit and tomatoes have less than 5 grams of sugar per serving (with 9 and 6 total carbohydrates, respectively), while rhubarb has less than 1.5 grams of sugar and 5.5 total carbs.

These fruits aren't likely to satisfy your sweet tooth, but they can easily be incorporated into keto-friendly desserts or smoothies. Olives also have virtually no sugar and few carbs per serving — but these are usually served pickled and likely aren't what you're looking for in keto-friendly fruit options.

Keto-Friendly Berries

Berries are among the most popular fruits on ketogenic diets. It's easy to throw them into smoothies, integrate them into desserts or even eat half a serving as a snack. Keto-friendly berries include blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries and currants. Of course, not all berries are created equal, as their sugar and carb content may differ.

Strawberries and currants have fairly high sugar content in the 7 to 9 gram-per-cup serving range. Cranberries and raspberries, on the other hand, only have between 4.5 and 5.5 grams. You should be aware that it's not just about sugar, though — the total carbs in raspberries come out to 14.7 grams per serving, while cranberries have 13.4 grams per serving. Despite this, it's easy to have half a serving of any of these berries as part of a dessert or morning smoothie and still be within keto diet parameters.

Keto-Friendly Citrus

Citrus fruits can be keto-diet friendly, which is great since they're packed full of flavor. Citrus fruits like lemons and limes often need only the tiniest squeeze in a recipe to pack a powerful punch. This means that you get all of the flavors, none of the calories and virtually no sugar or carbs.

Limes and lemons have very little sugar: just 1.1 grams and 1.5 grams per fruit, respectively. Citrus fruits like these can be used in keto-friendly foods like cauliflower hummus, mayonnaise and smoothies. A quick twist in any meat or fish recipe will greatly enhance most meals. Lemons and limes are also a source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which have been linked to various health benefits.

Other popular citrus fruits, like oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, have higher sugar content. Oranges, for example, have about 17 grams of sugar and 21.3 grams of total carbs in each fruit. While this doesn't mean you can't have a small piece of fruit like this on occasion, too much will easily knock you out of ketosis and interfere with your ketogenic diet.

Fruits to Avoid

Most fruits are high in carbs and a natural source of sugar. This means that delicious, sweet fruits like mangoes, pomegranates, lychee, pears, kiwi, bananas and even apples may not make great choices if you're trying to stick with a ketogenic diet. Not being able to have apples on the keto diet may surprise you — after all, apples have such a good reputation for being healthy!

Unfortunately, all of these fruits are high in carbs and sugar. To put this into context, if you were to eat a whole mango, you'd be consuming more than 30 grams of sugar and 50 grams of carbs. Bananas are also high sugar and carbs — very unfortunate since they're so useful for smoothies. If you're looking for that creamy texture, you can always replace them with the keto-friendly avocado as an alternative.

Dried fruits also have a substantial amount of sugar. This means that you want to stay away from raisins, sultanas, currants and other dried fruits like dates, prunes and dried apricots. A cup of raisins can have about 100 grams of sugar: definitely not keto friendly!

Fruit Juices and Ketogenic Diets

One of the foods that people must completely eliminate while adhering to ketogenic diets is fruit juice. This is because fruit juices are a concentrated source of carbohydrates and sugar, and some may have added sugars. If you think there's already a lot of sugar in that mango or apple, don't even consider going near most commercially produced juices.

According to Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, fruit juices and other from-concentrate products can increase your blood sugar and your calorie consumption. This means that juices are very keto unfriendly. You also want to be careful about making your own juice at home, even from vegetables. Juicing your fruits and vegetables concentrates the carbs and sugar and may be too much on your low-carb diet.

Sweet, Keto-Friendly Alternative Foods

Alternative ways to obtain your sweet fix in a healthy, keto-friendly way can be to use sweet vegetables. For example, beets, which have a wide variety of health benefits, have only 5.5 grams of sugar per 2-inch beet and 7.8 grams of carbs. Kohlrabi is another vegetable considered to be sweet and it has just 3.5 grams of sugar and 8.4 grams of carbs per cup. You can easily sweeten these vegetables even more by using keto-friendly cooking methods or use them in smoothies.

An alternative way to get your sweet fix in a keto-friendly diet is through fruit shakes or milkshakes. You can make your own shakes and use alternative, keto-friendly sweeteners or purchase premade shake mixes. The Atkins diet shakes, for instance, are low-carbohydrate, protein-rich shakes available in a variety of sweet flavors (anything from French vanilla to strawberry).

Certain shakes, like Atkins Plus Shakes, are suitable for meal replacement. This means you can drink one and even throw in a few extra fruits while getting all of your recommended daily nutrients. Occasionally having products like these can help you get your sweet fix while staying within the restrictions of the ketogenic diet.

Keto-Friendly Alternative Sweeteners

Keto-friendly sweeteners that can enhance your low sugar, low carb fruits and vegetables exist in abundance. These include sweeteners like:

  • Stevia, a plant extract taken from the South American plant Stevia rebaudiana, a type of sunflower.
  • Erythritol, a noncaloric sweetener known for having no side effects compared to other alternative sweeteners.
  • Xylitol, a natural sweetener produced from plants or yeasts.
  • Monk fruit powder, an extract of the monk fruit plant that can help regulate insulin in the body.

Any of these sweeteners can help you stick with your ketogenic diet, keep your carbohydrates and sugars low and still obtain your sweet fix. Many are indigestible, which means they don't become carbohydrates at all, and your body just excretes them as waste. Just make sure that if you opt to use fruit powders like lucuma and monk fruit powder, no extra sugars have been added.

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