Most dairy products are keto-approved and even recommended on a keto diet. For example, butter is a common keto favorite and so are cream and cheese. But what about milk? After all, all dairy products are made from milk, so why don't we see this kitchen staple included in keto recipes?
There are two reasons why you don't see milk on keto food lists: it's high in sugar and it often causes digestive problems. That's definitely not the case with other dairy foods, but with milk both are common. For this, and many other reasons, keto dieters replace dairy milk with keto milk alternatives..
In this article, we talk about milk and why it’s not suitable on a keto diet. We also explain what other dairy products are good for you and give you 5 keto milk substitutes to add to your meals. We’ll also tell you the health benefits of each one and how you can make these substitutes at home.
On a keto diet, you have to limit your carb intake to below 30 grams of net carbs per day. To achieve this, it is best to stay away from carb-laden foods like bread, pasta, and pizza. Instead, go for foods that have fewer than 10 grams of carbs per serving. One cup of milk provides around 13 grams of net carbs , and that's why it doesn't fit the low-carb, keto-approved bill.
The net carbs found in milk are mostly lactose. You've probably already heard of lactose; it's the sugar in milk giving it a mildly-sweet taste. Most people can't digest lactose once they reach a certain age, and this is determined by their genetics . For example, 90% of Scandinavians are able to digest lactose compared to only 1% of Chinese people.
How well you can digest lactose depends on how much lactase your body is able to produce. Lactase is a digestive enzyme essential for breaking down lactose. Its production peaks shortly after birth and starts to decline after weaning. You can, however, boost lactase production by drinking milk regularly, but even then, you won't boost your lactase levels enough for it to make a difference .
High-fat dairy has less lactose than milk and low-fat dairy so it's safe for keto. For example, butter has 0,1 grams of lactose while cream has half the amount of lactose in milk. Full-fat yogurt is also a good keto option since it has less lactose per serving than milk. But the same is not true for low-fat yogurt as manufacturers use lactose-rich milk powder to thicken it.
Studies on yogurt show that people with lactose-intolerance digest lactose from yogurt much easier than lactose from milk . This is because probiotics (gut-benefiting bacteria) aid in the digestion of lactose. These bacteria feed on lactose which ferments the yogurt and reduces lactose content.
Full-fat cheese is another great keto option. Examples include Swiss, parmesan, and cheddar cheese as well as brie and blue cheese, for example. All are high in fat and very low in dairy. They make for a great keto snack, and you can also use them in meal-making.
Since you'll be excluding milk from your diet, you want to replace it with some keto-approved alternatives for your smoothies, hot cocoa, pies, puddings, and pancakes. Here are some tasty and healthy keto milk substitutes for you to try:
Unsweetened almond milk is the best keto milk you can get. One cup of almond milk has only 1 gram of net carbs and 3 grams of fat. It's also a good source of vitamins A and E, and some brands enrich their almond milk with vitamin D. Almond milk is also a good source of calcium for stronger bones.
This keto milk is currently also the most popular plant milk in the US. At one point, it even surpassed soy milk in sales . The popularity is partially due to rising health awareness but also skepticism towards soy and dairy, both of which are seen as hormone-disrupting and potential allergens.
Almond milk, on the other hand, is less likely to cause allergies, and there's no evidence that it has any effect on hormones . This popular keto milk is also a low-calorie food item, so you can safely enjoy it if weight loss is your keto goal.
You can buy almond milk at any local or health food store or you can make your own at home. Make almond milk by soaking, draining, and blending almond with fresh water. You then strain this mixture through a nut bag, and the resulting liquid is almond milk. It's as simple as that and much cheaper than store-bought milk.
Coconut milk is another keto milk substitute, but that you need to take moderately. Just 100 grams of coconut milk has 230 calories. The good news is that most of these calories come from fat as 25% of coconut milk is fat, the rest is mainly water. It also has a tiny bit of protein and very little carbs.
Studies on coconut fats show that it has unique properties not seen in other saturated fats. For example, one animal study shows that coconut fats normalize glucose metabolism and reduce inflammation . Another study found that coconut fats increase good (HDL) cholesterol and boost weight loss .
The saturated fats in this popular keto milk are mainly medium-chain triglycerides. These are, among other things, well-known for their antimicrobial properties. One study shows that the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut milk kills harmful bacteria in the gut .
Medium-chain triglycerides are also valuable for your keto diet because they provide immediate energy. You can buy coconut milk in cartons, but it's best to go with canned milk as this one contains more fat. You can also make coconut milk from home by soaking shredded coconut in hot water, blending it, and draining through a nut bag.
Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant, also known as marijuana. It is grown for industrial uses and is different from the cannabis plant grown as a recreational drug. Industrial hemp seeds contain less of the psychoactive THC compound and quite a bit of nutrients.
Making hemp milk from seeds is the same with any other nut or seed milk. The seeds are soaked, blended, and strained. One cup provides 5 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fat, and 5 grams of protein. It's also a good source of iron and calcium.
The high protein content of hemp milk makes this keto milk nutritionally similar to cow's milk. The extra protein in addition to moderate amounts of fat also makes hemp milk quite filling. Studies show that hempseed is an excellent source omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids . Both are essential fatty acids that you absolutely must have in your diet.
The balance of omega fatty acids in hemp milk makes it particularly good for cardiovascular and brain health. The milk is quite watery, though. Its taste is subtly sweet and a tad bit nutty. It is also a low-calorie drink that you can use to boost weight loss.
If you're looking for a keto milk substitute that's also vegan, nut-free, and gluten-free, then pea milk is for you. It tastes nothing like peas and is not green, we promise. Pea milk is made differently from nut milks. Yellow peas are ground into a flour from which pea protein is extracted. Then, this protein is purified and blended with water, sunflower oil, and essential nutrients.
Pea milk has the same amount of protein as cow's milk but fewer calories. There aren't that many studies on pea milk because the product is fairly new on the market. However, there are plenty of studies on pea protein. One study on pea protein found that it promotes muscle thickness . Another one shows that pea protein lowers blood cholesterol and triglycerides .
When buying pea milk, make sure to find unsweetened varieties. There aren't that many brands of pea milk on the market, so you'll likely only find it on Amazon and other online stores. If you're interested in reaping the health benefits of pea protein, you can also buy pea protein powder to add to your pre-workout shakes.
Many dairy alternatives tend to be on the pricier side, especially when store-bought. That's not the case with flax milk. You can buy it for fraction of the price of other dairy substitutes. It is also low in carbs and high in fat, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. The only downside is that it contains no protein.
Studies on flaxseed show that its high omega-3 content along with plenty of lignans and fiber make it a medicinal food . Omega-3s lower inflammation and support normal brain functioning. Lignans are antioxidant compounds and estrogen-like chemicals. Studies on lignans show that they protect against breast cancer .
Most store-bought flaxseed milk has preservatives in it. It's important for flax milk to contain some amount of preservatives due to its high omega-3 fatty acid content. These fatty acids are particularly prone to rancidity, which reduces their health benefits.
Milk is not your best choice while on following a keto diet. It's too high in sugars and it's difficult to digest for most people. That's why most keto dieters go for plant-based alternatives like almond and coconut milk.
When buying keto milk substitutes, aim for low-carb, high-fat varieties whenever possible. Depending on how many calories you plan to take in, the only milk you'd have to be careful with is coconut milk. It's very high in calories but luckily, most come from fat.
Keto milk alternatives can help you meet your macros and protect your health. With so many choices out there, there's a milk substitute for everyone. However, keep in mind that not ever plant milk is necessarily a keto milk. For it to pass as keto milk, it needs to be low enough in calories.
Our top 5 keto milk substitutes fit the bill when it comes to macronutrient ratios. Choose one of these substituted depending on your preferences and reap all the health benefits that come with replacing cow's milk for plant-based keto milk.