Low-carb fats and sauces – the best and the worst
What are the best and the worst fats and sauces on a low-carb diet? It’s an important question as many commercial fats and sauces may have hidden carbs and sugars that can make it difficult to stay on a low-carb diet.
There are tons of great options for adding more fat or sauces to your diet, but there are also some not-so-good ones. For more details, please check out this visual guide. The lower-carb options are to the left:
The numbers represent grams of net carbs per 100 gram (3½ ounces).1 The green foods contain less than 5 percent carbs – a good basic rule of thumb for a keto low-carb diet.
Note: these are general numbers so please keep in mind that they may vary between different brands. To be on the safe side, read the nutrition facts label on the back.
Mustard vs. ketchup
Should a low-carber choose mustard or ketchup?
Ketchup generally contains a lot more carbs than mustard does, but some kinds of mustard also have a lot of sugar added. So choose plain mustard, like Dijon, for example.
*For example, traditional Dijon mustard has 2 carbs, while some “honey” mustard brands may have 10 grams or more.
Check the nutrition facts label to make sure.
Please note that store-bought BBQ sauce is often loaded with sugar. Those glazed ribs may look nice, but there’s likely quite a load of sugar on them. Remove the sauce to stay low carb. Or decide to eat anyway, with full knowledge of what you’re doing.
Many of us may still fear dietary fat, and who can blame us after 40 years of being encouraged to eat low fat!
On a low-carb diet, you don’t need to fear the fat. Cook in butter, leave the skin on your chicken, and eat the entire egg — yolk and all.2 Drizzle on olive oil.
Fat tastes great! So, don’t shy away from fat when eating a low-carb diet. Use fat as needed to enjoy your food.
What about vegetable, nut, and seed oils? This is a bit more complicated. Natural oils that have been around for thousands of years are likely good choices to eat3
The vegetable oils we know today were developed at the end of the 19th century, when technological advances allowed oils to be extracted from other crops.4 Instead, we suggest using pure olive oil, ghee, avocado oil, almond oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, fish oil — anything for which it is easy to extract the oil with simple pressing, grinding, churning or low heat separating.
We recommend minimizing the use of highly-processed seed or vegetable oils created within the past 60 years, such as corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed oils.
These oils are created by chemical extraction and high heat industrial processes.5 They’re quite new compared to butter, olive oil, and other fats that have been used for centuries or longer, and it’s not clear what kind of effects they might have on health. Therefore, we feel that consuming mostly traditional, less processed fats is best.6
Learn more here: Vegetable oils: are they healthy?
Detailed list and recipes for low-carb fats & sauces
Below is a detailed list of carbs in fats and low-carb sauces. The number is net carbs per 100 gram (3½ ounces).
Do you want to make your own low-carb sauce, or use fat? Follow the links for awesome recipes.Butter 0
Coconut oil 0
Béarnaise sauce 2
Hollandaise sauce 2
Ranch dip 2
Thousand islands dressing 3
Heavy cream 3
Soy sauce 4
Blue-cheese dressing 4
Tomato paste 15
Low-carb fats and sauces – the best and the worst - the evidence
The guide contains scientific references. You can find these in the notes throughout the text, and click the links to read the peer-reviewed scientific papers. When appropriate we include a grading of the strength of the evidence, with a link to our policy on this. Our evidence-based guides are updated at least once per year to reflect and reference the latest science on the topic.
All our evidence-based health guides are written or reviewed by medical doctors who are experts on the topic. To stay unbiased we show no ads, sell no physical products, and take no money from the industry. We're fully funded by the people, via an optional membership. Most information at Diet Doctor is free forever.
Should you find any inaccuracy in this guide, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Net carbs = digestible carbs, i.e. total carbs minus fiber. ↩
Are you concerned about saturated fat? In all likelihood, you may not need to be. Although still somewhat controversial, several recent systematic reviews of randomized trials have failed to show a connection between eating saturated fat and increased heart disease risk:
Millions of years ago, the only vegetable fats our ancestors consumed likely came from wild plants.
Around 4000 BC or earlier, pressed olive oil became a staple in the diets of people living in Italy, Greece, and other Mediterranean countries.
Around 100 years ago, there was very little vegetable oil in the food supply, and it did not form a significant part of the diet.
The consumption of soybean oil increased more than 1,000-fold between 1909 to 1999.
Vegetable Oils and Oilseeds 1970: A review of production, trade, utilisation and prices relating to groundnuts, cottonseed, linseed, soya beans, coconut and oil palm products, olive oil and other oilseeds and oils [text book article; ungraded] ↩