Keto nuts – the best and the worst
You’ll find the lower carb (i.e. keto) options to the left.
A rough guide is that 100 grams of nuts is about three handfuls. But hands come in different sizes, so if you want to know exactly how many grams of carbs you’re eating, here are how many individual nuts you need for 100 grams:
- 65 pecan halves
- 20 Brazil nuts
- 40 macadamias
- 70 hazelnuts
- 25 walnuts or 50 walnut halves
- 2/3 cup of peanuts
- 80 almonds
- 3/4 cup of pistachios
- 3/4 cup of pine nuts
- 60 cashews
Keto nuts to love
Pecans, Brazil nuts and macadamia nuts, all on the left side, have the lowest amount of carbs per serving and can be enjoyed freely on the keto diet. Well, almost freely. Some people simply cannot resist a dry roasted and salted macadamia nut and end up going overboard with them. If this is you, know this ahead of time and limit yourself to one handful, or simply avoid them is the temptation is too strong.
Eat these low-carb nuts as a snack (if you need one) between meals, toast and toss into salads and other dishes, or grind them into nut butters to spread into celery, other veggies or low-carb crackers.
The nuts in the middle are not the best keto options, but you can probably get away with a few here and there.
The nuts to the right – especially cashews – should be avoided on keto. You’ll very quickly reach the daily keto limit of 20 grams of carbs.4 Less than three handfuls — about 60 cashews in total — is enough to reach this limit.
For all these various types of nuts, never eat any version that has been treated with sugar and other glazes, such as with labels like “honey roasted”, “sweet chili”, “salted caramel” and “spiced.” Read labels to make sure that no sugar has been added. These days many brands are adding sugar.
A reason to not go nuts on nuts
While Brazil, macadamia and pecan nuts are good keto options, you may still want to be a bit restrictive when eating nuts. Especially if you’re aiming to lose weight, or reverse type 2 diabetes, even these nuts can still be problematic.
Keep in mind that all nuts contain lots of fat and calories (plus some protein and minerals) – they are very nutritious.5 Eating nuts is fine if you’re doing so when you’re hungry and need energy. But if you’re just snacking on them between meals – without being hungry – because the nuts taste good or because you’re bored, then you’re adding tons of calories and fat that you don’t need.
The result? Your body will burn the fat from the nuts, instead of your stored body fat. This is fine if you’re happy with your current weight and metabolic health. But if you’re aiming to lose weight it’s a different story. In that case, reducing snacking between meals to a minimum may be the best option.6
As always, aim to eat when you’re hungry. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry.7
Salt, reward and how to avoid a nut binge
Nuts are so tasty and good, that they may be easy to over consume, especially salted varieties.8 Adding salt to nuts makes them significantly more rewarding and, for many people, almost addictive.9 This can lead to eating far more than you need to feel satiated.10
Eating too many nuts, especially with higher carb counts, can seriously slow down weight loss.11 Here are some tips to help control consumption, if you need them:
- Select the amount you want to eat.
- Put the nuts in a small bowl – don’t eat out of the full bag or container.
- Preferably don’t mindlessly munch nuts while in front of the TV, watching a movie, reading or doing another activity that has most of your attention.12 Aim to instead enjoy them deliberately and mindfully.
- Cut back on nuts if you find your weight loss is stalling, and make them an occasional indulgence.
Here are some popular keto recipes that use nuts.
Top 7 keto nuts
Here’s our list of the top 7 keto nuts, ranked by the amount of carbs.
- Pecan nuts – 100 g (3½ ounces or about three handfuls) contains 4 grams of net carbs.
- Brazil nuts – 100 g contains 4 grams of net carbs.
- Macadamia – 100 g contains 5 grams of net carbs.
- Walnuts – 100 g contains 7 grams of net carbs.
- Hazel nuts – 100 g contains 7 grams of net carbs.
- Peanuts – 100 g contains 8 grams of net carbs.
- Almonds – 100 g contains 9 grams of net carbs. Almonds can also be ground into almond flour. Their neutral flavor makes them a good substitute for high-carb flours, and almond flour can be used in many keto recipes for bread or even pizza.
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More visual keto guides
The fewer carbs, the more effective it appears to be for reaching ketosis, losing weight or reversing type 2 diabetes.
This is mainly based on the consistent experience of experienced practitioners, and stories from people trying different levels of carb restriction [weak evidence].
There is not yet any RCT that has actually tested two low-carb diets of varying strictness head-to-head. But RCTs of strict low-carb diets appear to generally show better results, compared to RCTs of less strict low-carb diets.
Net carb = total carbs minus fiber ↩
Some information on how we determine which numbers to use for net carb counts: Generally we look in multiple nutritional databases, and when there are major discrepancies, we aim for an average of plausible numbers. Here are two examples:
Cashews: USDA says 26.9, CoFID 18.1, German database 22.2. The USDA database may sometimes have problems with net carbs (carbs are defined as “carbohydrate by subtraction”). This review on cashwes says 20.5. We take an average of these four numbers (26.9+22.2+18.1+20.5)/4=21.9, or 22 grams. ↩
We define a keto diet as having less than 20 grams of carbs per day:
Nuts might also help reduce heart disease risk factors:
Eating more often than three times a day may be bad for weight loss or metabolic issues:
Diabetologia 2014: Eating two larger meals a day (breakfast and lunch) is more effective than six smaller meals in a reduced-energy regimen for patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomised crossover study [moderate evidence]
According to this review, people with excess weight might often end up eating more calories when consuming nuts. The same effect was not apparent in people of normal weight:
Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2018: Effect of nuts on energy intake, hunger, and fullness, a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials [strong evidence] ↩
Studies demonstrate that eating when distracted may increase food intake somewhat: