The Keto Diet and Dairy

To what extent can you consume different types of dairy during the ketogenic diet?


A common question asked with the ketogenic diet is:

Can I consume dairy on the ketogenic diet?

The answer is YES… .. but ..

There are a few caveats to be made about consuming dairy on the ketogenic diet. Because one yogurt is not the other!

In this article, we will provide you with clarity on which dairy products you CAN use in the ketogenic diet, and which dairy products NOT.

We will do this by discussing the following topics.


  • What is dairy and what does it consist of?
  • Which dairy products are allowed on the ketogenic diet?
  • Which dairy products are not allowed on the ketogenic diet?
  • What to do with lactose intolerance
  • Possible benefits of dairy
  • Possible drawbacks of dairy


What is dairy and what does it consist of?

Technically, any food or drink made from mammalian milk is a dairy product. Although cow’s milk dairy is by far the most consumed in Europe and the United States, goat and sheep’s milk are also very popular in many areas.

These are the main components of dairy:


Lactose is a disaccharide. This means that it is a sugar molecule made up of two simple sugar particles: glucose and galactose. Enzymes in your intestines break down the lactose into these simple sugars, which are then transported through your bloodstream.


Casein provides 80% of the total protein in dairy, including the nine essential amino acids. When milk is treated with the enzyme Rennet (rennet ferment) to make cheese, the casein starts to clump and the liquid part containing whey is removed. Casein takes a relatively long time to digest compared to whey and other proteins.


Whey protein accounts for the remaining 20% ​​protein in milk. Most of the whey (but not all) is removed during cheese production. Like casein, whey contains all the essential amino acids, although it is digested much faster.

Many of the well-known protein powders available as a milk protein supplement are made from whey protein, more commonly known as “whey protein”.

Fatty acids

Milk contains hundreds of different fatty acids, most of which are saturated fatty acids:

Saturated: 70% of the total milk fat, including 11% in the form of short chain fatty acids such as butyrate and capric acid.
Monounsaturated: 25% of the total dairy fat.
Polyunsaturated: 5% of the total fat in dairy, including 2.5% naturally occurring trans fatty acids. These dairy trans fats are completely different from the industrial trans fats found in margarine and other processed foods. Although more research needs to be done on this, fatty acids from trans fats in dairy appear to have a neutral or even beneficial effect on health.
As stated in the introduction to this article: dairy is allowed in the ketogenic diet, but not all types of dairy. There are four important points to keep in mind:

Some options are full of carbohydrates, while others are full of fat and protein. The latter option is of course better if you want to stay in ketosis
Because some types contain more carbohydrates, you will have to fit them very accurately into your diet.
Some people have difficulty digesting dairy. So you may experience unwanted side effects when consuming dairy products such as an upset stomach, bloating, problems with your sinuses, acne, and joint pains.
Also, it is generally the case that people often opt for the pasteurized milk that is widely sold in supermarkets. However, due to the pasteurization process, these dairy products have been stripped of their healthy natural bacteria that help digest milk.


Which dairy products are allowed on the ketogenic diet?

Grass butter

Grass-fed butter is an excellent product to use in the ketogenic diet. The advantage of grass butter is that it is rich in vitamin K2 and conjugated linoleic acid.

Vitamin K2 acts as a transport medium for calcium. Vitamin K2 therefore ensures that calcium arrives at the places where it is needed, such as the bones and teeth.

With a lack of vitamin K2 there is a chance that calcium will remain in the blood vessels, which can cause arteriosclerosis. This can then lead to various ailments including cardiovascular disease.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a naturally occurring trans fatty acid that, unlike unhealthy trans fats, does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity, but actually decreases it (1).

So besides that grass butter is a tasty and easy way to add fats to your ketogenic diet, it is also a source of healthy fatty acids and vitamins.


Ghee is clarified butter. This means that the butter has been heated longer to remove the milk proteins and salts. Because the milk proteins and salts have been removed, ghee is also suitable for people with lactose intolerance.

Ghee contains easy to digest short chain fatty acids and medium chain fatty acids (MCT) as well as vitamins A, D, E and K.

Because ghee has a high burning point, it is very suitable for use in baking and roasting meat.

Fermented yogurt, Greek yogurt, kefir

Fermentation is a process in which bacteria, fungi and yeasts are used to make a food. This can be yogurt or kefir.

This process is started by adding yeast and bacteria to milk. These bacteria and yeast then feed themselves on the sugars naturally present in the milk.

Lactose is converted into lactic acid, making the product more digestible. Due to the fermentation process, the good bacteria multiply in the dairy product.

The final end product is then packed with probiotic lactic acid bacteria. These bacteria are crucial for a properly functioning intestinal flora and digestion.

Since most of the sugars in fermented dairy have been converted by bacteria into lactic acid, you generally don’t have to worry about carbohydrates in fermented products.

Pay attention! There are also several dairy products on the market (such as certain brands of yogurt drink) that also contain lactic acid bacteria and probiotic cultures. However, these products can still be packed with sugars. So keep a close eye on this!

Often yogurts with a fruit flavor or 0% fat are flavored with sugar.

Sour cream

Sour cream is a perfect ketogenic product because the full-fat version contains almost no carbohydrates. The taste is somewhat similar to that of Greek yogurt, but the macronutrient ratio speaks in favor of sour cream (Greek yogurt contains more carbohydrates).

Sour cream is made by fermenting regular cream with certain types of lactic acid bacteria.

Sour cream is of course not really a product that you spoon out of a bowl for breakfast in your dressing gown in the morning. But it is a great addition to your ketogenic meals. Its thick texture makes it a good base for keto dips and you can also add it to soups.

Hard cheeses

And now the big moment has come that all cheese lovers have been waiting for: we are going to discuss the different types of cheese that are allowed within the ketogenic diet.

The rule of thumb you want to use for eating cheese is:

The fatter the better (choose 48+), and the older the better (matured cheeses contain less carbohydrates than young cheese).

Matured varieties such as Parmesan cheese, aged Gouda cheese, or various hard types of blue cheese are all permitted in the ketogenic diet.

Soft cheeses

In addition to the above hard cheeses, there are also the full-fat soft cheeses that are an excellent addition to the ketogenic diet.

Full-fat mozzarella, brie, camembert, mint cheese; all kinds that are suitable.

In addition to these soft cheeses, there are also creamy options such as full-fat cottage cheese, mascarpone, crème fraîche that you can use as an addition to dishes to give them a creamy and richer taste.

Below are the dairy choices with the smallest amount of carbohydrates per 28 grams (1 ounce):

butter: 0.1 grams (2 tablespoons)
brie and camembert: 0.1 grams
Münster cheese: 0.3 grams
cheddar: 0.4 grams
Gouda cheese: 0.6 grams
mozzarella: 0.6 grams
blue cheese: 0.7 grams
cream: 0.8 grams (2 tablespoons)
sour cream: 1.0 grams (2.5 tablespoons)
Swiss cheese: 1.5 grams


Which dairy products are NOT allowed on the ketogenic diet?


Unfortunately for the avid milk drinkers among us, milk is not allowed. Especially the low-fat and semi-skimmed milks are a NO GO in the ketogenic diet. These types contain little fat and mainly only carbohydrates and proteins.

What about raw milk?

Raw milk is by definition a better option than the pasteurized and processed low-fat milk varieties. However, raw milk still contains quite a lot of carbohydrates.

So if you drink raw milk, you do get the fats and good bacteria, but also the carbohydrates that are present.

Condensed milk

Condensed milk is often used as part of recipes. However, if you want to stay in ketosis, the use of this form of milk is not recommended.

Condensed milk is milk where the water content has been reduced. So what is left is a kind of thick, sugary milk syrup. Not very suitable for a ketogenic diet!

If you are asked to use condensed milk in any recipe, use unsweetened coconut milk. This product has the same thick, creamy texture, but not the sugars!


What should you do if you are lactose intolerant?

As we discussed earlier in this article, lactose is a form of sugar that milk is present. Enzymes in your intestines break down the lactose into these simple sugars, which are then transported through your bloodstream.

People who are lactose intolerant have difficulty with the lactose processing process. This can lead to symptoms such as flatulence, bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhea and nausea.

If these symptoms occur when you have consumed dairy products, you can use the following tips to prevent this from happening in the future:

Only use hard and aged dairy products. Products such as old cheese are long-ripened and therefore contain much less lactose than their younger counterparts.
Use ghee instead of butter. Ghee is clarified butter and it is pure milk fat, without the lactose particles.
Find out if you actually have lactose intolerance. You may also be sensitive to casein.
It may therefore be that you avoid lactose but still have complaints. This can therefore indicate a casein intolerance.

The symptoms of casein intolerance are very similar to those of lactose. You will be able to experience the same abdominal symptoms such as cramps, bloating and diarrhea.

But with casein intolerance, allergic complaints can also occur such as rash, itching, asthmatic complaints or hot flushes (flushing face).

If you have these symptoms and want to combat the symptoms, avoiding dairy products completely is the only option you have.

You can replace a lot of dairy by using coconut milk products. In addition, if you want to get extra protein due to a sporty lifestyle, you can use vegetable protein powders as a supplement.

However, make sure that you use unsweetened variants with these dairy substitutes. There are several brands that market almond and coconut milk products with added sugars. If you want to stay in ketosis, it is better to ignore these products.

Now that you have read the above texts about various intolerances related to milk, you may think:

“Are there any health benefits associated with the consumption of milk?”

The proven benefits are there, as well as scientifically proven negative effects. We will now discuss these advantages and disadvantages.


Possible benefits of dairy

Dairy can be very nutritious

Dairy products can be very nutritious as milk contains all the proteins, fats and micronutrients needed to feed a growing calf.

Since the human muscle structure, cells and organs are very similar to that of a calf, it makes sense that the human body can also benefit from the nutrients of milk.

One cup of milk contains the following nutrients (2):

Calcium: 28% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)
Vitamin D: 24% of the RDI
Riboflavin (B2): 26% of the RDI
Vitamin B12: 18% of the RDI
Potassium: 10% of the RDI
Phosphorus: 22% of the RDI
In addition, milk also contains reasonable amounts of vitamins A, vitamins B1 and B6, selenium, zinc and magnesium.

Of course, dairy products come in many different forms and so they also have different nutrient composition.

In addition, the composition of the nutrients (especially the fatty acids) also depends on the way in which the cows are raised and fed.


Pasture-grazing cows have more omega-3 fatty acids and up to 500% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) (3) (4).

CLA is the healthy trans fatty acid we discussed earlier in this article. It lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity (5).

Grass-fed dairy is also much richer in fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamin K2. This nutrient is extremely important for regulating calcium transport in the body. With this, it has major health benefits for the bones and for the heart (6) (7) (8) (9).

Logically, low-fat dairy products have been stripped of these important vitamins, because the healthy fats have been removed from the milk.

Dairy is a superfood for your bones

A large majority of dairy studies show that dairy improves bone density, reduces osteoporosis, and also reduces the risk of fractures in the elderly (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15). These effects of dairy consumption are due to the presence of calcium, vitamin K2.

There are nutritionists who claim that it is not a good idea to consume a lot of dairy because it would cause osteoporosis.

These assumptions are based on the fact that countries with a high level of dairy consumption are also more likely to have osteoporosis. For example, osteoporosis is common in the United States. However, there is no evidence that dairy consumption has anything to do with this.

Other factors such as a sedentary lifestyle (lying down, sitting, hanging out on the couch!) And unhealthy eating habits in affluent countries can also be a factor in the development of osteoporosis, not the dairy consumption.

Full-fat dairy is associated with a lower risk of obesity and diabetes

Full-fat dairy has certain benefits for your metabolism.

A scientific report compared 16 different studies that investigated dairy. In 11 of these studies, an association was shown between the use of full-fat dairy and the reduction of obesity.

In another study from the renowned American University of Harvard, scientists looked for the presence of a certain type of dairy fatty acid that subjects had in their blood.

The results of this study showed that the people who consumed the most full-fat dairy had less fat around the waist, less inflammation, lower blood triglycerides, better insulin sensitivity and a 62% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

There are also scientific studies in which no association has been found between the consumption of full-fat dairy and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

Grass dairy can contribute to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

In countries where cows are mainly grass-fed, full-fat dairy is associated with large reductions in the risk of cardiovascular disease. A reduced risk of stroke has also been associated with grass-fed dairy.

In Australia (where most cows are grass-fed), research found that those who consumed the most full-fat dairy were as much as 69% less likely to develop heart disease.

The reason that this risk of cardiovascular disease decreases drastically with the consumption of grass dairy is because of the presence of vitamin K2.

In addition, there are other studies that show that the consumption of grass dairy can also have a beneficial effect on blood pressure and inflammation.


Possible drawbacks of dairy


Dairy is known to stimulate the release of insulin and IGF-1. IGF-1 is the abbreviation for “insulin-like growth factor”.

According to studies, acne can develop as a result of the increase in this substance. As a result, dairy consumption has been linked to acne formation on the skin.

Prostate Cancer

The increase in insulin and IGF-1 is also associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer. There are, therefore, certain scientific studies that link dairy consumption to this type of cancer.

However, the link with prostate cancer is inconclusive. And there is no conclusive evidence from academia, as some studies report an increased prostate cancer risk of 34%, while other studies fail to find a link.

In addition, an increased insulin and IGF-1 does not always have to be a bad thing. For example, if you are an active strength athlete and want to build muscle mass and strength, these hormones play an important role in this process





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