Keto and Dairy

What Is Dairy?

Dairy products are essentially foods or beverages that are made from milk (or contain it). Dairy from cow’s milk is the most commonly consumed in most countries, but goat and sheep dairy are very popular as well.

Milk contains Protein, Fat, and Carbs :

  • Protein: Milk contains 3.3% total protein and all 9 essential amino acids. In cow’s milk, approximately 82% of milk protein is casein and 18% is whey.
  • Fat: Milk contains about 3.4% of total fat. It has a very complex fatty acid composition – over 400 individual fatty acids. The milk fat composition is 65% saturated, 30% monounsaturated, 5% polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Carbs: Milk contains about 4.9% carbohydrate (predominately lactose). Pasteurization has no significant effect on lactose.

Low Carb Dairy

Here is a list of low carb dairy products. I define “low carb” as no more than 3g of carbs per 100g of product. For reference – milk contains 5g of carbs per 100g.

Butter & Ghee – 0.1-0.5g carbs per 100 grams. Made from the fat and protein components of milk. It’s most commonly produced from cow’s milk, but sheep, goat, and buffalo butter can also be found. Butter contains trace amounts of lactose (a sugar found only in milk) and whey (milk is made of two proteins – casein and whey). Clarified butter is known as Ghee – it is popular around the world, and in particular – in India.

Soft Ripe Cheese – 0.5-1g carbs per 100 grams. For example- Brie, Camembert, Fromager d’Affinois, St. Marcellin, Humboldt Fog. All of these soft cheeses are among the lowest in carbs of all cheeses. There are many different soft kinds of cheese to choose from, Brie and Camembert are the most common ones and can be found at any supermarket. 

Selection of soft and hard cheeses in Kyiv. Over 90% of them are keto-friendly.

Aged Hard Cheese -1g carbs per 100 grams. For example – Cheddar, Parmigiano, Pecorino, Grana Padano , Emmental. These cheeses are rich in flavor and low in carbs and lactose. The most popular and keto-friendly, hard cheese – is without any doubt – Cheddar. Look for Cheddar without additives.

Semi-soft Cheese – 2g carbs per 100 grams. For example – Mozzarella and Burrata, Blue Cheese, Gorgonzola ,Stilton. In texture – these cheeses are midway between hard and soft cheese. They contain a little bit more carbs, but it is not significant (unless you eat a lot of cheese a day). Some people like adding these cheeses into scrambled eggs. It definitely adds a special taste.

Heavy Cream – 3g carbs per 100 grams. Made by skimming fat off the top of milk. It contains much fewer carbs than milk, but it’s far away from being “zero-carb”. It contains roughly 0.5 grams of carbs per tablespoon. Some people use heavy cream as a substitute for milk in their coffee.  Look for heavy cream without additives, which, unfortunately, many companies add to this product.

Greek Yogurt – 3g carbs per 100 grams. Different yogurts contain different amounts of carbs. In most cases, the best keto-friendly yogurt is plain greek yogurt. Other types of yogurt (especially flavored ones) may contain more carbs. Try adding a few nuts (like Pecans) to your yogurt to make it even tastier. Keep in mind nuts contain lots of carbs, so you must take their carbs into account. 

Sour Cream -3g carbs per 100 grams. Basically, cream fermented with lactic acid bacteria. It sours and thickens the cream. Look for 27% fat sour cream or fatter. Sour cream is also used in many recipes, some can be found on KetoToEat.

Is milk allowed on keto?

Milk is a natural, unprocessed food that is very rich in nutrients. However, it contains 5g of carbs per 100g. So if you drink a glass of milk a day (200g), that means you consumed 10g of carbs! That’s quite a lot. And some people can’t just stop at one glass. Two glasses and you are already at 20g of carbs. If you can limit yourself to just 1 glass of milk a day (while taking the carbs into account of course) – go ahead and drink milk. But if you are “tight” on carbs, or “addicted” to milk – it’s better to avoid it altogether. Instead, eat other dairy products that are low in carbs (or zero carbs).

Benefits of dairy products on the Keto diet

There are plenty of reasons to consume low carb dairy, even daily – while on the keto diet. Here are some of them :

Many low carb dairy products are rich in protein

Consuming enough protein daily is very important for your health. Eating low-carb dairy products is a great way to boost your daily protein consumption. For example, most hard and soft cheeses provide 18 to 24 grams of protein per 100 grams. It’s very similar to the amounts of protein you get from meat. I am not suggesting replacing meat with cheese of course (meat should always be your main dish), but adding a little bit of it to your meals can be great.

gouda cheesePin
Gouda cheese – 25g of protein per 100g !

If you are looking for the richest in protein cheese – the award goes to Parmesan (Italian cow’s milk cheese). You can grate it on meats to add flavor. It has a very unique and special taste.

Dairy Products provide important vitamins and minerals

If you are eating mainly meat, it may be hard for you to consume enough calcium daily. Dairy products contain calcium, especially hard cheeses. Parmesan provides around 1,000mg of calcium per 100 grams.  Swiss cheese and cheddar provide around 700mg of calcium as well. Adding even just 100 grams of cheese daily will boost your calcium consumption significantly. Why consume calcium supplements (which some studies show to have negative effects as well) when you can just eat delicious cheese!

Cheese also provides vitamin A, vitamin K2, vitamins B6 and B12, and zinc.

Soft cheese – rich in calcium, vitamin K2, vitamin A.

Dairy products are rich in saturated fat

Saturated fat is crucial for your health. In the past, doctors recommended avoiding eating butter and fat cheeses because they believed that the saturated fat they contain is unhealthy. But now we know it’s completely untrue.

Full-fat dairy products also provide generous amounts of conjugated linoleic acid, a trans fat. The consumption of linoleic acid is vital to good health. In rats, a diet deficient in linoleate (the salt form) has been shown to cause hair loss, skin scaling, and improper wound healing.

A systematic review conducted in 2017 of 52 clinical trials concluded that eating dairy products may help lower inflammatory levels and combat diabetes and obesity.

Dairy products improve digestion for some

The most common complaint regarding diary products is digestion problems, especially among people who are lactose intolerant. But did you know that for some people – dairy products improve digestion? This fact is almost never talked about. For some – finding the right balance, the right amount of dairy to eat a day – will improve their digestion.

Reasons not to eat dairy on the Keto diet

Here are some of the most common reasons to avoid eating dairy on the keto diet, or at least – limit the amount of dairy you consume daily.

Dairy may worsen acne

Dairy products have been shown to raise the levels of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1). This hormone is well known to increase sebum production and has been found to play a large role in acne. Many studies in teens and young adults have found that consumption of dairy (all types – including yogurt and cheese) can worsen or even cause acne among those who are prone to it.

If you are dealing with acne currently, or know that you are prone to it, definitely try eliminating dairy for a month. And that includes hard “zero-carb” cheeses, which many keto eaters praise. Online you can find endless stories of people who got rid of their acne by just eliminating dairy. If you don’t see any improvement after a month- put dairy back on the menu (unless you have improvements in other areas like digestion and bloating for example).

Dairy may cause a weight loss stall

It’s no secret that cheese and cream are super tasty. The problem is, it’s very easy to overconsume them. While most people will find that they can’t “overeat” meat, many will discover that’s not the case with dairy. Dairy products are addictive, period. And if you think you have the “self-control” to not overeat them… think again.

If you’re on a keto diet to lose weight – and you want to maximize your chances to succeed at it – definitely eliminate all dairy products. Or at the very least – limit them (and of course – consume low-carb dairy products).

Dairy may cause digestion problems

Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products. Lactose intolerance is a very common condition – it’s caused by a decreased ability to digest lactose. Symptoms include stomach pains, bloating, gas, nausea, and in some cases even diarrhea. Symptoms start 30 to 2 hours after eating dairy.

Lactose is broken down into glucose and galactose by the “lactase” enzyme. People with lactose intolerance lack this enzyme (or sufficient amounts of it) in the small intestines. Usually, people with lactose intolerance can still eat and tolerate low-lactose dairy products like hard cheeses.

People with lactose intolerance, who still want to consume dairy, may try consuming sheep and goat dairy products – which contain A2 beta-casein, as opposed to cow’s milk which contains A1 beta-casein (the most common type of protein found in cows’ milk).

It’s also worth mentioning that for some people – dairy improves digestion. This is not a commonly talked about subject, and not much information can be found about this. But for me personally – dairy dramatically improves my digestion.

Lactose intolerance quick facts

  • Lactose intolerance is thought to affect approximately 75% of the world’s population.
  • The lactase enzyme is crucial to break lactose down into 2 sugars:  glucose and galactose.
  • Lactose intolerance symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea.
  • Lactose intolerance is not considered an allergy. In fact, it is not an immune response.

Lactose levels in dairy products

Milk is very high in lactose, especially reduced-fat milk. Cheese, on the other hand, contains much less lactose. People who are lactose intolerant will find cheeses much easier to digest than milk. Butter, which many eat on the keto diet as a fat supplement, is very low in lactose as well.

Milk4.8% lactose (if reduced-fat milk – 5.3%)
Yogurt4.5% lactose (if reduced-fat yogurt – 6%)
Cheddar cheese0.07% lactose
Butter0.6% lactose
Cottage cheese0.33% lactose

Making Dairy products at home

The optimal keto diet doesn’t contain any processed foods. And while you can find an endless selection of cheeses and yogurts without any additives, why not make cheese and other dairy products at home? Online (and on our website) you can find endless recipes showing how to make all types of low-carb cheeses. Some cheeses are easy and quick to make, while others take some skill and time. In most cases, the taste of the cheese you make at home will be different (and better) than the cheese bought at the supermarket. You can control the amounts of species and salt you use, and customize the cheese.


To sum things up, it’s clear that dairy products have many benefits: they are rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, and their fat profile is great. But some people may find that dairy products mess up their digestion, stall their weight loss or worsen their acne. For those – it’s highly recommended to try and limit, or better yet – eliminate dairy from their diet. Many dairy products are low in carbs and can be eaten on the keto diet. If you experience no bad side effects from dairy or know for sure you don’t have lactose intolerance – there is no reason to avoid them.

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