Keto fats, sauces and oils – the good, the bad and the ugly
What fats, oils, sauces, and dips can you add to your food and stay keto? What’s best for your health?
The numbers are the average amount of net carbs per 100 grams (3.5 ounces).1 To the left, in the green zone, are choices with less than 5 grams of carbs. Choices in the red zone, to the right, have a lot more carbs and likely need to be avoided even in small amounts to stay in ketosis. See our best tips for getting into ketosis
Beware: Read all labels. Manufacturers often add sugar to many products.2 Carb amounts can differ among brands, so make sure to check. Learn how to use the nutrition facts label
In a keto contest between mustard and ketchup, who wins? Mustard, hands down. Ketchup is full of sugar; mustard often has little or (occasionally) none.
But again, read labels carefully as some mustard brands do sneak in sweeteners.
*For example, traditional Dijon mustard has 2 carbs while some “honey” mustard brands may have 10 grams or more.
Feasting on tasty baby back ribs or a seared steak fresh off a hot grill is one of the great pleasures for many on the keto diet. However, beware of store-bought barbecue sauces, which are often high in sugar. Eat them with full knowledge of their carb hit, or try instead a savory, sugar-free rub or just season with salt, pepper, and powdered or minced garlic.
Most of us start out understandably fat phobic after 40 years of being encouraged to eat low fat.
On keto, you don’t need to fear the fat. Eat the butter, leave the skin on your chicken, and eat the entire egg — yolk and all.3 Drizzle on olive oil. Fat tastes great, it satisfies, and it helps make your keto diet sustainable.4
How much to eat? If you are hungry between meals, consider eating a bit more protein and fiber first, and then, if needed, consider adding more calories from fat. See our guide on how to eat more fat
A word about oils
What about vegetable, nut and seed oils? This is a bit more complicated. Natural oils that have been around for thousands of years are generally safe and should be embraced on a keto diet.5
Feel free to use 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 do recommend minimizing the use of industrial seed or vegetable oils created within the past 60 years, such as corn oil, soy oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and cottonseed oil. These oils are created by chemical extraction and high heat industrial processes.6 Since it’s not clear what kind of effects this might have on health, we feel that sticking with traditional, less processed fats makes sense.
Learn more here: Vegetable oils: are they healthy?
Here’s a handy list of the amount of carbs, per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), in common fats and sauces.
Or, better yet, make your own. Check out our scrumptious recipes linked below.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
Keto fats, sauces and oils – the good, the bad and the ugly - 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.
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Net carbs = digestible carbs, i.e. total carbs minus fiber. ↩
In a review of more than 40,000 products at a large Canadian grocery retailer, 66% were found to contain one or more added sugar:
Canadian Medical Association Journal Open 2017: Added sugar in the packaged foods and beverages available at a major Canadian retailer in 2015: a descriptive analysis [ingredient analysis study; ungraded] ↩
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:
Although you don’t need to go out of your way to add fat, in a recent study lasting two years, nearly 200 people followed a keto diet that allowed them to eat as much fat as they needed to feel satisfied:
Frontiers in Endocrinology 2019: Long-term effects of a novel continuous remote care intervention including nutritional ketosis for the management of type 2 diabetes: a 2-year non-randomized clinical trial [non-controlled study; weak evidence] ↩
Scientific evidence shows how industrial seed oils are truly new to human nutrition.
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.