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When many people embark on the ketosis journey, they mourn bread, pasta, danishes and other starchy, carbohydrate-rich, grain-based foods. Admittedly, it is hard to live without your morning toast if that’s what you’ve been eating for breakfast for the last 10 years. However, many people find that once they clear their systems of grain and grain-based products, they have a much easier time resisting these items and eating keto-approved foods.
The same cannot always be said for fruit, sadly. Many of us, especially in the pursuit of nutrition, health and fitness, have been taught that fruit is a free-for-all. Want some ice cream? Have a bowl of cantaloupe instead! Craving those break room cinnamon rolls? Cut up an apple or two and enjoy!
It’s true that fruit contains a much higher level of positive nutritional elements such as fiber, nutrients and water, but what the health food industry isn’t telling you is this: Most fruit still contains a considerable amount of carbohydrates. Unfortunately, that makes it a problem for keto adherents.
Before you despair, though, know that all is not lost. Although the ketosis diet emphasizes low-carb eating, it is not actually a no-carb diet – contrary to popular myth. What this means for you is that sweet treats still have a place in your future, consumed correctly and in moderation. But just what is “correctly and in moderation”?
Today, we’ll answer that question and others. Let’s take a brief look at the foundation of ketosis, as well as why fruit and keto don’t always get along. We’ll also talk which fruits are a go (and which are a no … for the most part). Then we’ll discuss how to integrate fruits into the ketosis diet and point you toward a few recipes you might enjoy.
Ready to meet the new, fruit-friendlier you? Keep reading.
Fruit and Ketosis: What’s the Deal?
Unless you are brand-new to keto, you already know that the point of the diet is to minimize carbs. In so doing, your body is forced to stop relying on them for energy and instead to produce its own form of energy. It does this by manufacturing ketones in the liver, breaking down fatty acids in the body. Once your body is in ketosis, you use your own fat stores as well as fat intake as the source of energy, boosting health and decreasing weight and waistline.
For obvious reasons, fruit throws a wrench in things. Fruit is composed largely of simple carbohydrates – glucose, sucrose, fructose – as well as more complex carbs, especially starches. When you ingest these, your body now has access to its old energy source once more: carbs. Instead of manufacturing ketones, it will turn to these instead, disrupting the cycle you’ve spent all this time setting up.
More dangerously still, your body doesn’t just stop producing ketones while it has access to the carbs; if you eat enough, you will fall out of ketosis altogether. Then you’ll have to start over again, suffering anew through symptoms such as bad breath and the keto flu. No Bueno.
Again, all is not lost. Your body will tolerate a small level of carbohydrates in ketosis, which is why you can still enjoy some fruit and even the occasional drink or two. As long as you don’t overdo it, your body won’t suffer the insulin spike and crash that disrupts ketosis and puts you back in the old crash-and-crave model we all hate so much.
So, how not to go overboard? Simple: Start with berries.
What Are Berries Exactly?
Before we dive into why berries are your new best friend, however, let’s do a quick review of what berries are and how they are differentiated from other fruits. According to a comprehensive review of the nutritional evidence regarding berries from the Food & Health Innovation Service of the United Kingdom:
“In botanical terms, ‘berries’ are defined as a fleshy fruit that arises from the entire plant ovary that surrounds the seeds and therefore true berries include bananas, grapes, blueberries, black currants and coffee beans.”
Berries, however, have a different meaning in grocery stores, cookbooks, food blogs and more. In the common usage, berries also include “soft fruits with multiple seeds including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, black currants, blackberries etc.” We prefer this definition for berries, which are still similar in that they are bite-sized, easy to measure into a serving, sweet but not overwhelmingly so, and all have fewer than 10 grams per serving (and often a lot less).
So Why Are Berries So Magical?
The best thing about berries, if you are on the keto diet at least, is that they are among the lowest-carb options if you’re looking for a sweet treat. The same study as above offers this carbohydrate breakdown of grams carbohydrates per 100 grams fruit (roughly 3/4 – 1 cup):
- Black currant: 7.8 grams
- Raspberry: 4.1 grams
- Strawberry: 8.4 grams
- Cloudberry: 7.8 grams
- Bilberry: 6.4 grams
- Cranberry 3.5 grams
- Sea buckthorn: 6.3 grams
Compare that to 15 grams per serving for mango or pear, 14 grams per serving for apples and 23 grams per serving for the dreaded banana. When you do an apples to apples comparison (get it?), berries come out on top every time. For the same serving of, say strawberries and mango, you can get equivalent sweetness and enjoyment with half the carbs you would get from the mango. Ditto raspberries and apple, which are of equivalent tartness, but the raspberries contain between a third and a fourth fewer carbohydrates.
Plus, according to the same UK source, “Nutritionally-speaking, berries are generally low in calories; fats and sodium but contain essential minerals, dietary fibre (including soluble fibres such as pectins) and vitamin C.”
By opting for low-carb fruits, you avoid the body’s former carb-heavy ways. By injecting only a few carbs into your bloodstream at any one time, your blood sugar remains stable, your body continues to metabolize fat rather than glucose, and you maintain natural metabolic functioning as well as healthy hunger levels.
Other Berry Good Benefits
The goodness of berries doesn’t stop there, however. These near-fantastical fruits are also responsible for a range of other health benefits, according to Diabetes Self-Management. They:
- Help lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol
- Improve cognitive function and memory
- Stabilize your blood pressure
- Reduce blood sugar spikes
- May even reduce blood sugar levels
This makes berries a great choice for people who are following the ketogenic diet either for weight loss or for a true medical condition such as diabetes in adults or epilepsy in children.
So, Just Berries? Or Do Other Keto-Approved Fruits Exist?
The good news is that other fruits meet the keto requirements as well. For instance, the melons tend to be lower in carbohydrates as well, with honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon all clocking in under 10 grams per 100 grams of fruit. Starfruit is even better, at less than 4 grams carbohydrates per 100 grams fruit.
Coconut is another excellent fruit for those on keto. The coconut is alternately considered a fruit, a nut or a seed. Like fruits, it is naturally sweet. Like seeds and nuts, it contains lots of proteins. Win win! It comes in at around 6 grams per serving, which is awesome, since it is so useful for so many different recipes. Plus, both creamed coconut and coconut flakes are an excellent replacement for many desserts when you’re having a craving.
Another blessing of the ketosis diet? All the learning! We’re betting you didn’t know the following foods are actually fruits:
- Tree nuts such as almonds, chestnuts and hazelnuts
So when you add these yummy foods to your diet, you’re actually sneaking in those fruits you crave without all the carbs. Avocado, for instance, is sweet and buttery but has fewer than 2 grams per serving, while the humble tomato is delicious … especially when drizzled with a tablespoon or two of carb-free white wine vinegar. Be judicious with everyone’s fave balsamic, though, which has about 2 grams per tablespoon. While it’s okay to dress up les tomates, you don’t want to go overboard and rev that carb cycle back up.
How Should You Eat Keto-Approved Fruits?
Integrating fruit into your diet correctly is important. If you keep eating fruit right from the get-go, it might be hard for your body to enter ketosis. You will continue to experience urges for carbs, which will make it harder to stick with what is at first a challenging lifestyle change for many.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to avoid fruit altogether for the first month or so. Once you are in ketosis and have lost your constant cravings for carb-based foods, you’ll have an easier time making wise decisions. At that point, you can start having a serving or two (at most) of low-carb fruit per day. Make sure one of those servings is a very-low-carb option, such as cranberries – and that they are not sweetened. Also keep in mind that if you opt for an alcoholic beverage that you should not combine this with fruity mixers, as that might overload your bod.
You can also make rich recipes such as raspberry ripple, which contains coconut and butter and chocolate for ultimate satisfaction. And of course, be sure to check out our post on keto-approved sweets, where you’ll learn how to make such awesome delicacies as sugar detox cookies or almond butter cups – guaranteed yum.
Think we forgot to include some of the most important information vis-a-vis keto and fruit? We invite you to tell us about it in the comments!
About the Author Nate Arnold
I started this website because it was hard to find trustworthy, evidence-based information about the ketogenic diet. Information that was published and peer reviewed by respected scientific journals. After years of research, I'm sure you'll achieve great results in a healthy way following my advice. I do my best to translate scientific research jargon into plain English. Remember, it's always a good idea to consult a doctor before starting a new diet!