On the keto diet, healthy fats are in and sugary carbs are out, but is peanut butter keto? What about other high-in-fat nut butters? Are they better or worse for keto and for your health? This article has a breakdown of the carb count and nutrient ratios of natural peanut butter and other top nut butters.
By prioritizing healthy fats and restricting carbs and sugar, keto dieters are able to enter a state of ketosis, a secondary metabolism that burns fat for its primary energy source and leads to rapid yet safe weight loss. Nuts are naturally full of healthy fats like essential fatty acid omega-3, but some nuts are more keto than others.
Here’s a rundown of the best nuts for a keto diet.
With such a long list of keto-friendly nuts, peanuts are near the bottom depending on which number you’re prioritizing, be it grams of fat or carbs. While there are nuts with much better keto ratios, peanuts are still in the running, so let’s get to know its nut butter a bit better.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires any jar of peanut butter to be at least 90% peanuts or else it can’t be considered peanut butter. However, there’s a lot of room in that remaining 10% for artificial preservatives, color additives, and synthetic flavors and sweeteners—those levels change from brand to brand. Moreover, some peanut butters include added oils for stability and creaminess that may contribute refined products to what is otherwise advertised as “natural” peanut butter.
That being said, a USDA study took a look at 11 popular peanut butter brands and found that regardless of the oils added, no detectable rate of trans fats was found in any of them (1). That means that regardless of whether you choose regular, natural, or crunchy, peanut butter isn’t terrible for you, but some brands will have cleaner, less sugary ingredients than others.
Say you find an all-natural, sugar-free brand of peanut butter…does that make it a keto peanut butter or are there better keto-friendly options out there? Let’s find out!
Many keto snacks and recipes include nut butters for their naturally rich and delicious flavors. Say you want keto cookies, cakes, or fat bombs with more pizazz than you can get from plain coconut oil. Well, nut butters are the perfect high-fat ingredients to pack those fat macros in with flavor.
Here’s a list of the best nut butters for keto in descending order, along with an answer to the pressing question: is peanut butter keto?
Costlier than your average peanut butter, macadamia nut butter is nevertheless far and away the most keto-friendly. It’s all thanks to macadamias’ high-fat-to-low-carb ratio.
Eating macadamia nuts is not only keto-approved, but it also has been shown to help lower dangerous LDL cholesterol in people with cardiovascular disease (2). Add macadamia nut butter to keto recipes and vegan desserts, or plop a spoonful of it into your daily smoothie for extra filling creaminess.
Full of omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are incredibly valuable for balancing the ratio between omega-3s and omega-6s in your body, which is often highly skewed in the average modern diet. Many people in the U.S. have a 20:1 ratio of omega-6-to-3, which leads to chronic inflammation that can exacerbate many diseases and conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. By increasing your omega-3s, you bring the ratio closer to the ideal 1:1.
Walnuts and walnut butter also contribute to brain health, heart health, and digestive health by nourishing and promoting the good gut bacteria in the body, your frontline defense against bacteria, parasites, and viruses (3).
So famously tasty they merit their own super-sweet pie, pecans are one of the softest nuts (made to be spreadable) and have a one-of-a-kind flavor. They also contribute to heart health, as seen in a 2018 study that found a link between a diet rich in pecans and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (4).
Almond butter can be used in a multitude of ways, as a convenient snack or as a thickening agent in certain savory recipes like meat and veggie dishes (consider also seed butters like tahini for stir-fry recipes and the like). Almond butter can also lend extra tasty texture to your health shakes, as well as help reduce your cholesterol levels and improve your blood sugar control (5, 6).
Real hazelnut butter (not Nutella which has the same sugar content as other brands’ milk chocolate frosting) has far more fat content than grams of carbs per serving, and like the other selections on this list, it’s proven to be healthy too.
Thanks to their content of proanthocyanidins, hazelnuts can contribute to anti-cancer and antioxidant efforts in the body (7). They also contain a helpful amount of fiber, which naturally slows down the rate of sugar absorption in the bloodstream and eases regular digestion.
Pro tip: If you want your true hazelnut butter to be more like Nutella, add a little raw cacao powder or include it in a recipe with dark chocolate chips.
We’ve run into the section of the list that must be delivered with cautions and certain caveats. Cashews are appropriate for keto, naturally fatty and filling, but they’re also low in fiber which means their carb content has a larger impact. Soft enough to make an excellent vegan cheese replacement, cashew butter should nevertheless be enjoyed in moderation, especially if you’re at risk of being knocked out of ketosis.
Rare in commercial locations like grocery stores, Brazil nut butter truly must be used in moderation because it is so high in selenium. In one sense this is amazing—just a single Brazil nut per day can give you the recommended dose of 55 micrograms of the essential mineral, as well as improve your blood lipid levels (10).
However, that also means there’s a real potential of getting too much selenium (selenosis). Brazil nut butter is keto-friendly, but we’d recommend getting Brazil nuts in their single-nut form and enjoying them one at a time, more like a daily multivitamin, either mixed in with other nuts or tossed into a smoothie.
The last entry on this list comes with a slight caveat—coconuts are simultaneously a fruit, a seed, and a nut depending on whom you ask. However, since we’re discussing nut butters for keto, we simply cannot skip coconut butter since it’s an absolute keto staple.
Distinct from coconut oil, which is cold-pressed from the flesh of coconuts, coconut butter is made from the meat itself, which is blended into a smooth paste that’s full of healthy fats, the medium-chain triglycerides that make up MCT oil, and is appropriate for your body both inside and out (coconut butter products also work as a beauty treatment).
Yeah…about that peanut butter. Just like peanuts are not the best nut for the keto diet, peanut butter is not the best nut butter either, and simply doesn’t make the list. If you don’t want to do without creamy peanut butter on keto however, there is a solution: making your own low-carb peanut butter at home.
If you’re craving peanut butter cookies or want to make our own delicious version of Keto Peanut Butter Chocolates, you can get exactly what you’re looking for by making your own keto-friendly peanut butter instead of using storebought Jif or Skippy. Here’s how, courtesy of KetoVale (11).
With a prep time of 5 minutes and a total time of 20, you can make your own truly natural peanut butter yourself, with a keto boost thanks to the MCT oil, and leave the Smucker’s at the store.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether peanut butter, store-bought or homemade, is right for your keto diet. There are better nut butters out there for keto, but there’s also no replacing that peanut taste. So, as long as you’re on-target with your macros, you can totally make room for peanut butter on keto, plus half a dozen other nut butters that are available for selection.