Yes in moderation, most nuts are high in fat and low in carbohydrates and should be a staple of every ketogenic diet.
1. Macadamia nuts
Here’s our list of the top 5 keto-friendly nuts, ranked by the number of carbs per cup.
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
|Nuts (1 cup)||Net Carbohydrates (grams)||Omega 6 : Omega 3 ratio||Total fat (grams)|
When we recommend the best nuts for keto there is more to it than just the carbohydrate count. The above-listed nuts are all fairly low in carbohydrates, but there is a wide discrepancy in the types of fat that each contains.
When the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid intake gets out of whack, you could have health problems. Most people eat too many omega 6 fats, and not enough omega 3 fats.
Excess omega 6 fats in the diet can lead to inflammation. Conversely, an abundance of omega 3 fats can improve cardiovascular health and reduce inflammation. Low carb nuts are healthy as long as you don’t go overboard and eat the right type.
Keto friendly nuts ranked by healthy fats:
- Macadamia Nuts
- Brazil nuts
Due to the unhealthy levels of omega 6 fatty acids, I do not consider hazelnuts and brazil nuts as keto-friendly. So for this article, I will focus on what I consider the best nuts for keto: Macadamia nuts, walnuts, and pecans.
So, we’ve established that nuts are OK to eat on keto, but if you want a complete keto diet food list I recommend this source.
One of the most frequently asked keto questions we get from beginners is, “what snacks can you eat on keto?” Well, nuts and cheese are the perfect low-carb/high-fat snack.
We have included macadamia nuts on our list of the most healthy superfoods on the planet. Macadamia nuts are #1 because they are not only the fattiest nut, but they have by far the highest amount of Palmitoleic acid in them.
In fact, macadamia nuts have the highest level of Palmitoleic acid of any food on earth. They even have more than whale blubber. They have 15,000 mg per 100 grams. Whale blubber is #2 and it has 6,800 mg.
Macadamia nuts make you feel full (satiety) and improve insulin sensitivity
This study published on PubMed shows palmitoleic acid reduces insulin resistance and hepatic lipid accumulation (fatty liver).
If you’re interested in how the ketogenic diet can improve the conditions of type 2 diabetes and fatty liver I recommend these articles as additional reading.
Macadamia nuts also contain monounsaturated omega 9 fatty acids. 85% of the fat found in mac nuts are in the form of monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are what make olives and avocados so healthy.
“There is evidence that consuming diets high in monounsaturated fat can improve metabolic risk factors among patients with type 2 diabetes.”National Institute of Health
They also contain oleic acid, palmitoleic acid, linoleic acid, and α-linolenic acid. This study shows a macadamia nut-rich diet reduces total and LDL-cholesterol.
Macadamia nuts contain numerous vitamins and minerals, such as:
- vitamin A
- B vitamins
- manganese and folate
Did you know the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires all grain products be fortified with folic acid?
According to the the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
“Birth defects decreased by 35% in the United States since folic acid fortification was required in 1998.”Center for Disease Control and Prevention
If you’re on a ketogenic diet you are not eating grains and bread so you are not getting the fortified (added) folic acid (folate). It takes approximately 400-600 mcg of folate a day for optimum health.
The average joe probably needs around 400 mcg, but if you’re a female and even have the possibility of getting pregnant, you need between 600-800 mcg of folate.
One of the things that make nuts so keto-friendly is their addition of folate
Low carb macadamia nuts contain approximately 14.7 mcg of folate per cup. This study suggests that high folate intake reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Admittedly, 14.7 mcg is not a lot, but it all adds up and if you also eat vegetables you should be fine.
If you take a folate supplement, be sure to take the active, methylfolate form of folic acid, it’s far more bioavailable.
Other good sources of folate:
- brussels sprouts
- beet kvass
- beef liver
Walnuts are definitely one of the best nuts for keto. Their cancer-fighting properties and high content of omega 3 fatty acids make them super keto friendly. Walnuts have even more folate than macadamia nuts. One ounce contains about 28 mcg of folate.
Not only are walnuts one of the best nuts to eat on keto, but they’re also one of the healthiest foods to eat in general for anyone.
This study from the American Institute for Cancer Research was very interesting and kind of proves the point that calories aren’t the only factor in weight loss.
Both groups (in the study) ate a reduced-calorie diet, but the group that ate the walnuts lost more weight. Walnuts are a high caloric, high-fat food, yet observational studies show a correlation between regular intake of nuts and beneficial weight management. Walnuts are made up of about 65% fat.
“In spite of the fact that nuts are calorically dense and high in fat, our findings show that eating walnuts as part of a diet to promote weight loss can be recommended.”Dr. Cheryl Rock, Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at University of California, San Diego
Have you ever heard of a squirrel having a heart attack?
Walnuts also contain ellagic acid, which is a polyphenolic phytochemical. Ellagic acid is also found in blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, pomegranates, and pecans.
Probably what makes walnuts particularly healthy is their abundance of omega 3 fatty acids. One ounce of walnuts has a whopping 2.5 grams of Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is a plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid.
Walnuts are the only tree nut on earth that has a significant quantity of ALA. The next closest nut is the pecan and it only has .5 grams per ounce. Due to the ALA, you could even argue that walnuts are healthier and more keto-friendly than macadamia nuts.
When I get asked what nuts you can eat on keto, pecans are usually right at the top of the list. Out of all the keto-friendly nuts, they have the least amount of carbohydrates, only 4.5 grams per cup.
I love pecans because they are made in the USA
The USA produces about 80 percent of the entire world’s pecans. Albany, Georgia is the pecan capital of the USA. There are over 600, 000 pecan trees in Albany, and they can grow as tall as 150 feet and live for over 150 years!
Yes of course pecans are also abundantly healthy
This study shows after 4 weeks on a pecan-rich diet, insulin resistance and beta-cell function improved. Pecans also lowered the risk of cardiometabolic disease.
Additionally, pecans are a good source of fiber and can help relieve keto constipation. One ounce of pecans contains 2.7 grams of fiber. Most of the prebiotic fiber is found in the skin of the nuts.
This study shows the polyphenols and polysaccharides of the nut fiber feeds the human gut microbiota. It seems to stimulate the formation of new bioactive metabolites and improve microbiota diversity. Nuts provide a boost to improving our digestive system.
Pecans can also help prevent the keto flu
One of the reasons people get the keto flu when first starting out is because of water retention. That is, it lowers water retention and the swelling in your cheeks, fingers, and ankles goes down.
With the water loss, you also lose electrolytes. Fortunately, pecans can help replace the electrolytes and are high in minerals such as:
- magnesium (34 mg)
- zinc (1.3)
- phosphorus (78 mg)
- iron (70 mcg)
- vitamin B6 (10 mcg)
- potassium (116 mg)
So you can get nutty with these keto-friendly nuts and keep them around the house for a healthy snack.