A guide to Dairy and the Ketogenic Diet

You might have noticed that there are mixed opinions from keto diet experts about dairy. Some feel it ok to include, others think that it is not.

Dairy has received both good and bad press over the years in regards to both weight loss and overall health.

Here is why it can be confusing to the eat dairy on a keto diet: milk, ice cream, and non-fat dairy products don’t belong in a keto diet. Yet butter, cheese, and other types of full-fat dairy can be a good fit.

Here are the basic types of dairy:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Buttermilk
  • Butter
  • Curd
  • Cream
  • Ice Cream
  • Whey
  • Evaporated Milk
  • Condensed Milk
  • Sour Cream
  • Yogurt

In this article, we will take a closer look at dairy’s positive and adverse health effects. We will also look at some of the healthiest keto-friendly dairy choices you might want to include in your diet.
Understanding the components of dairy

To make it very simple: a dairy product is any food or beverage made from the milk of mammals.

Dairy from cow milk is by far the most common type consumed, there are also goat and sheep dairy products that are popular in some parts of the world.

When you break it down, there are four main components of dairy:

Lactose

Lactose is a disaccharide, or two-unit sugar, consisting of one molecule each of the simple sugars glucose and galactose.

The enzymes in your small intestine break down lactose into these simple sugars, which are then transported into your bloodstream.

Casein

Casein accounts for 80% of the total protein in dairy, including all nine essential amino acids. When milk is treated with the enzyme rennet to make cheese, the casein coagulates into curds, and the liquid portion containing whey is removed. Compared to whey and other proteins, casein can take longer to digest.

Whey

Whey protein makes up the remaining 20% of the protein in milk.

Most of the whey is removed during the process of making cheese. Like casein, whey contains all the essential amino acids, although it is digested much more rapidly.

Fatty Acids

There are hundreds of different fatty acids in milk, and the vast majority are saturated:

Saturated: 70% of total dairy fat, including 11% as short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and caproic acid

Monounsaturated: 25% of total dairy fat

Polyunsaturated: 5% of total dairy fat, including 2.5% naturally occurring trans fatty acids. Dairy trans fats are very different from the industrial trans fats found in margarine and other processed foods. Dairy trans fatty acids seem to have neutral or potentially even beneficial effects on health.

How much dairy is too much for ketosis?

While one cup of whole milk wont harm you (or kick you out of ketosis), it is a bit higher in carbohydrate content than preferred for those on a low carb or ketogenic diet.

For this reason, milk can contribute to the hidden carbs that you may forget to factor into your keto macronutrient goals for the day.

Some examples of the types of dairy you can eat on keto are:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Spreadable cheeses including cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, mascarpone, creme fraiche.
  • Soft Cheese including mozzarella, brie, blue, colby, monterey jack.
  • Hard Cheese including aged cheddar, parmesan, feta, swiss.

Of course, remember that there is a calorie component to cheeses and creams and that consuming a significant amount may reduce your weight loss.

As with most foods, enjoy a reasonable amount of dairy (in moderation), and you will enjoy the benefits of staying in ketosis.

Whether youre looking to lose weight, manage a chronic medical condition, or simply want to overhaul your eating habits, changing your diet for the better is one of the best ways to improve your overall health.

Dr Jerry Hizon, MD strives to demystify the complex science of nutrition, giving his patients sound nutritional guidance designed to set them up for long-term dietary success, whatever their specific goals may be.