February 06 2019

Can I Eat Fruit On a Keto Diet?

By Lindsay Taylor, PhD
47 Comments

Question: “Can I eat fruit on a ketogenic diet?”

Answer: “Sure, if you want!”

I’m kidding, of course. I know why people ask this question. It’s because in the keto world fruit is a confusing, often contentious topic. You’ll sometimes see keto folks draw a hard line in the sand, saying that all fruits, or sometimes specific fruits, are “not allowed” on a ketogenic diet. I’ve written before about why I feel it’s inappropriate to label foods as “keto” or “not keto.” People need to consider their own goals, health, activity level, and food preferences when formulating their eating strategies.

Nevertheless, it’s true that it can be hard to figure out how to incorporate fruit into your keto diet. On the one hand, it’s “real” food: unprocessed, “whole,” and full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. It’s also Primal/paleo approved in moderation. On the other hand, the carbs in a typical serving of fruit can amount to a considerable chunk out of one’s daily carb allotment, especially for people who adhere to a very strict version of keto that only allows 20 to 30 grams of carbohydrate per day (as opposed to the Keto Reset Diet’s 50 gram per day suggestion).

So where does fruit fit for the average person following a Keto Reset Diet?

Keto People CAN Eat Carbs

Sometimes you’ll hear someone say that keto-ers can’t eat fruit because they “don’t eat carbs.” They really mean that keto folks don’t eat sugar, which is still a gross oversimplification because keto people absolutely do eat carbs. If you’re eating according to the Keto Reset Diet, you’ll start by aiming for 50 grams of carbohydrates per day—perhaps somewhat less if you are dealing with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome—with some wiggle room if most of your carbs come from above-ground veggies and avocados.

From the point of view of the Keto Reset, we want you to choose your carb sources from among those included on the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid. That means no grains or added sugars, but eating nutrient-dense vegetables and, yes, even some fruit if you wish.

What Fruits Are Best For Keto?

When picking the “best” fruits for keto, it comes down to how many carbs are in a serving. Higher carb fruits are going to be harder to incorporate into a keto diet while still allowing room for the liberal intake of vegetables and avocados encouraged in the Keto Reset.

The information below is taken from the Cronometer database. Make sure you pay attention to the serving size. I selected what seemed like reasonable servings of each by volume instead of weight (who knows what 100g of grapes looks like compared to 100g of watermelon?). I also provided the weight for reference, as well as the fiber content. The Keto Reset Diet does not recommend counting net carbs for fruit though.

Before getting to the data, note that this list omits foods like tomatoes and olives because that’s not what people mean when they ask about fruit.

Let’s also get two items out of the way that always appear on “keto approved fruits” lists:

Avocados: Is there any question about them being keto-friendly? So you know, one whole avocado (136 grams) has 12 grams of carbs (9 grams fiber), as well as 21 grams of fat.

Lemons: Most people aren’t eating lemons but juicing them, right? The juice from one whole lemon has 3 to 4 grams of carb (about 1 gram per tablespoon).

Now for the rest…

Berries:

  • Strawberries (½ cup halves, 76 grams): 6 grams carb (2 grams fiber)
  • Blackberries (½ cup, 72 grams): 7 grams carb (4 grams fiber)
  • Raspberries (½ cup, 62 grams): 7 grams carb (4 grams fiber)
  • Blueberries (½ cup, 74 grams): 11 grams carb (2 grams fiber)

Stone Fruits:

  • Apricot (each, 35 grams): 4 grams carb (1 gram fiber)
  • Plum (1 medium, 66 grams): 8 grams carb (1 gram fiber)
  • Peach (1 medium, 150 grams): 14 grams carb (2 grams fiber)
  • Nectarine (1 medium, 142 grams): 15 grams carb (2 grams fiber)

Melons:

  • Watermelon (1 cup cubed, 152 grams): 12 grams carb (1 gram fiber)
  • Cantaloupe (1 cup cubed, 160 grams): 13 grams carb (1 gram fiber)
  • Honeydew (1 cup cubed, 191 grams): 17 grams carb (2 grams fiber)

Tropical Fruits:

  • Papaya (1 cup cubed, 144 grams): 16 grams carb (3 grams fiber)
  • Pineapple (1 cup cubed, 165 grams): 22 grams carb (2 grams fiber)
  • Banana (1 small, 101 grams): 23 grams carb (3 grams fiber)
  • Coconut meat (½ cup, 163 grams): 25 grams carb (15 grams fiber)
  • Mango (1 cup sliced, 165 grams): 25 grams carb (3 grams fiber)

Other Fruits:

  • Clementine (each, 74 grams): 9 grams carb (1 gram fiber)
  • Fig (1 medium, 50 grams): 10 grams carb (2 grams fiber)
  • Kiwi (1 each, 69 grams): 10 grams carb (2 grams fiber)
  • Orange (1 small, 96 grams): 11 grams carb (2 grams fiber)
  • Apple, green (1 small, 144 grams): 20 grams carb (4 grams fiber)
  • Grapefruit (1 small, 200 grams): 21 grams carb (3 grams fiber)
  • Pear (1 small, 148 grams): 23 grams carb (5 grams fiber)
  • Apple, red (1 small, 158 grams): 24 grams carb (3 grams fiber)
  • Cherries (1 cup, 154 grams): 25 grams carb (3 grams fiber)
  • Grapes (1 cup, 151 grams): 27 grams carb (1 gram fiber)

You can see why it is difficult to work fruit into a ketogenic diet, and also why blackberries and raspberries are the most often recommended fruit for keto-ers. Nevertheless, it’s possible.

Just for comparison, the 7 grams of carbs you “spend” on ½ cup of blackberries could also be allocated to any of the following:

  • 1 cup of cooked whole Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup cooked chopped broccoli
  • 2 cups of raw chopped broccoli
  • 1¾ cups raw shredded cabbage
  • 8 medium baby carrots
  • 4 cups of baby spinach
  • 5 cups of raw kale
  • 1 whole small cucumber
  • 1 medium red bell pepper

Tips For Incorporating Fruit Into Your Keto Diet

  1. Select lower-carb fruits and limit portion sizes.
  2. Eat whole fruit, not fruit juices. Whole fruits induce a smaller glycemic and insulin response. Smoothies can quickly become carb bombs, and they are generally less satiating than their ingredients eaten separately because you don’t have to chew them. Include smoothies mindfully.
  3. Consider timing them strategically around the times when you are most insulin sensitive: in the morning and especially after exercise. (This is solid advice for any higher carb food or meal.) Likewise, you might save fruit intake for designated higher carb meals (“carb ups”) if this is part of your routine. However, if you struggle with insulin resistance, any kind of carb ups might not be appropriate for you at this time.
  4. Eat seasonally and locally. This recommendation isn’t unique to keto dieters, but eating seasonally and locally will automatically limit your consumption of fruits for much of the year unless you live someplace warm (in which case, hopefully you’re getting lots of outdoor time and sun exposure year round, too!)

But I Heard I Need to Avoid Fructose For Health?

Fructose is often demonized because it’s thought (incorrectly) that fructose uniquely contributes to de novo lipogenesis. As Mark has written previously, although fructose and glucose are metabolized differently in the body, it is probably splitting hairs to argue that one is more or less healthy than the other when they are considered in the context of one’s entire diet. And while reducing sugar intake has been shown to improve various health markers, this usually means cutting back on high fructose corn syrup and other added sugars, not eliminating a green apple and a serving of berries. If you’re eating a Primal-aligned ketogenic diet and are already limiting your total sugar intake, it’s probably not necessary to specifically avoid fructose that comes in the form of whole fruit.

That said, some of the GI disorders that are so common nowadays might be attributable at least in part to issues of fructose malabsorption. If you have been diagnosed with IBS or otherwise experience chronic GI symptoms, you might consider asking your doctor for a hydrogen breath test to detect fructose malabsorption. You can also try eliminating and then reintroducing fruit to see if it affects your symptoms.

Remember, Constant Ketosis Is Not Required

If you’re avoiding fruit because you’re afraid to get knocked out of ketosis, remember that once you’re keto-adapted it’s unnecessary to stay in ketosis 100% of the time unless you’re using a therapeutic keto diet to treat a serious medical condition. Also, if there’s a fruit you especially want to include in your keto diet, you can also test your individual physiological response to it using a blood ketone meter.

A final word: When considering whether to add more fruit to your keto diet, ask yourself whether you’re still at a point where you would be better off abstaining in order to avoid triggering cravings for sweet foods. This is an n=1 situation. If you feel like some fruit would add to your general enjoyment of your keto way of eating, or you’re looking for ways to incorporate more Primal-approved carbs, go for it. If you’re still struggling to break the sugar habit, perhaps hold off for now, knowing you can always choose to add fruit later.

References:

TAGS:  Keto, keto-popular

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47 thoughts on “Can I Eat Fruit On a Keto Diet?”

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  1. I really enjoy your articles and your relaxed approach to paleo/primal/keto. Stress is so damaging, it is always unwise to stress ourselves about food.
    Please could you look into and address the following, because it would help people make wiser choices.
    I am a student of Chinese traditional medicine, and they have a principle that if you really want a food or really crave something (whole real healthy food, that is, not addictive sugar etc.) then your body is telling you that you really need the nutrients in that food – whatever nutrients there are, even if we haven’t yet identified them in the lab. If the food is not appealing or doesn’t taste that wonderful then your body is saying that right now you don’t particularly need what it contains. Tomorrow it may taste great again, and you’ll need it then.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi, Rosalind, thank you for your kind response!

      That’s a great question. My understanding is that there is not a lot of direct empirical evidence to support that hypothesis at this time, but that doesn’t mean it is incorrect (it could just mean it hasn’t been well studied). I will be happy to look into it more, though.

    2. Rosalind,
      Just a random opinion here, but back in the day, there were not companies working to exploit our weakness for sugar and fat and flavor. Scientists who spend their days making foods …. addictive. I don’t necessarily trust my cravings anymore for this reason.

    3. I absolutely agree! There are times when meat is revolting to me, so I figure my body is telling me something (what, I’m not sure, but maybe I’ve reached my iron needs). And recently, I just got a huge craving for kiwi, which tells me maybe I needed the vitamin C. I am a big fan of listening to your body.

    1. Hi, Pam! It depends on whether you are more or less metabolically healthy now, but a general rule of thumb is that it takes about 3 weeks for the body to establish a baseline ability to make and use ketones efficiently.

      That said, for athletes it can take longer (8 weeks to 6 months even) to feel like their performance is “normal.”

  2. I love that you’re addressing the role of fruit in the keto lifestyle. I too like your relaxed approach and don’t get hung up on labeling “good” and “bad” foods. You have to live a little.

    I’ll admit that before switching to a paleo, and currently keto, lifestyle I ate several servings of fruit daily. But I also craved sugar 24/7.

    After a few years of regular intermittent fasting my cravings for sweets are gone. Although I enjoy the occasional piece of fruit I do miss it even more than bread (and that’s saying something).

    This article brings a good balanced perspective to the food choices that we make and how they impact our health. As always, thanks, Mark!

    1. I agree! I know someone who eats a ketogenic diet but will absolutely not touch fruit. I feel that eventually you’re going to miss some nutrients that way, and the hard-core forbidden-fruit folks can be somewhat judgmental about it.

      1. How can you miss nutrients that aren’t necessary? How could zero carb or Inuits or carnivore diet people be healthy?

        While we might have evolved eating some fruit – which would be very, very different from today’s sugar bombs, most humans since the Great Migration out of Africa had fruit only seasonally or not at all.

        I don’t eat fruit. Healthy.

      2. I suspect that all the vitamins and minerals in fruits are also found in non-fruit vegetables. Without the sugar.

  3. You may want to check your data on strawberries. That looks way closer to the carbs in one cup instead of one half cup. Strawberries are much lower than blueberries.

    1. Oh, thank you for catching that, Rachel! You’re right, it’s 6g carb, 2g fiber. We will update that.

    2. I was thinking the same thing, at least the last time I checked the carbs in strawberries.

  4. I eat a small cup of berries twice a day (along with veggies, meat, and bone broth with three tablespoons of different kinds of oils). Studies indicate the potential for berries to mitigate differents kinds of cancer and demenia-related diseases. I will continue to follow a traditional Primal Blueprint diet with some extra fats due to all the keto hype. 🙂

    1. I eat blueberries more because it seems positive for my libido.

  5. I am not clear on what you’re saying about lemons. Are you saying that lemon juice has more carbs than we realize, so it should be limited, or are you saying that it has a low amount of carbs, so it is not of concern?

    Thanks!

    1. I was saying that on most “ok for keto” food lists you see, lemons are listed as a top fruit. But when most people say, “I could go for some fruit,” are they peeling and eating a whole lemon? I think not 😉 However, a lot of people are probably squeezing lemons into their water, so they might want to count those carbs.

  6. I eat MAYBE 5 or 6g of carbs a day most days. Most comes from the little bit in cheese and the heavy cream in my coffee as well as the whole avocado I eat just about every day. I may get a little from something like garlic or onion in my food.

    I don’t even eat vegetables because of carbs. I’m dead serious. Sweet fruits are absolutely off the menu.

    I have reactive hypoglycemia. The least bit of carb makes my pancreas go a little nuts. I have to keep my carbs super low to control my blood sugar and stay in ketosis.

    I have noticed I can get away with a bit more since I went back to lifting months ago. I was able to re-institute Wednesday pizza nights with my pizza having a meat crust. I use a little pizza sauce, a little diced garlic, and a few olives. This is me going crazy with the carbs. 😉

    I know there are some people who can eat much more freely and who can be in ketosis at 50 net carbs a day. It just ain’t me.

    If you’re struggling with keto and eating sweet fruit, the first thing I would tell you to do would be to cut the fruit. If you’re eating fruit and doing well, I’d congratulate you and tell you I’m super jealous. 😉

    1. It makes sense that around lifting you would be able to eat a bit more. It sounds like you are doing a good job figuring out what works for you!

    2. Well above Mark lists an avacado as 12 carbs., so if you’re eating one a day you’re more than 5 or 6 carbs a day…

      1. If you’ll look at the top of the article, it tells you that Lindsay Taylor wrote the article, not Mark. Just FYI. 🙂 A lot of commenters seem to be overlooking this, despite it being completely different from Mark’s writing style.

      2. “Avocados: Is there any question about them being keto-friendly? So you know, one whole avocado (136 grams) has 12 grams of carbs (9 grams fiber), as well as 21 grams of fat.”

        I’m not sure why you don’t count “net carbs” on a Keto diet, but obviously this writer does, and I’ve always used net carb counts when getting into ketosis–it worked for me.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this Blog. It has been an adventure to choose the right foods while on Keto plan. Besides eating only 2 meals a day gives me a very few options. This helped me very much being a Type 2 Diabetic.

    Keep up the great work in keeping us informed.

    1. Because those are times you are the most insulin sensitive.

  8. Just had a question about kale and carbs. Whenever I look at the carbs in kale especially lacinato kale it is pretty high like 12 grams for 6 oz etc (if memory serves) I was confused by your equivalence of 1/2 cup of blackberries 7grams of carbs to 5 cups of raw kale

    1. Cooked vs raw maybe? Different macro trackers (Cronometer is particularly trustworthy).

  9. Nice article… a few notes : the sugar content would depend on season, varieties, etc… A good way to lower the sugar content is to slice and put in vinegar in a while ( with the mother ) : the sugar will be turned into food for the mother, and flavour nicely the vinegar…. Time is the essence here… Haqpy days…

  10. So glad this came up on my “Google Assistant” news feed. Great read.

  11. Bravo
    So true , I m eating more regarding my feelings even if as a health professional I have all the science based knowledge and your explanations here are clear and precise and I hope will help people who are so confused now with carbs

  12. Really interesting. I agree with Rosalind vision too “I am a student of Chinese traditional medicine, and they have a principle that if you really want a food or really crave something (whole real healthy food, that is, not addictive sugar etc.) then your body is telling you that you really need the nutrients in that food – whatever nutrients there are, even if we haven’t yet identified them in the lab”.

      1. So glad that you have read the research on this. Can you cite a study that sheds some light on this question?

    1. While i agree that it’s certainly likely that we would have developed some kind of response causes us to crave the nutrients that we require at any given time, such a thing seems quite plausable from an evolutionary perspective, and the idea that you subconciously ‘know’ what’s good for you’, however i think this can very easily be mixed up with just craving things’ that your addicted to or just feel like eating for fun. Unless you’ve reached some kind of high level of zen like mental clarity and discipline i’m not sure if it’s quite pragmatic to just ‘listen to your body’ and eat what you crave.

  13. I’m a keto runner and about the main time I have fruit is right before or occasionally after a race. I like to train low carb and race high (for keto) carb. I love a banana before a race.

    The other time I do fruit is sometimes at parties/pot lucks. A cube or two of fruit from a fruit tray let’s me feel like I’m having dessert with everyone else with out being tempted to fall face first into the tray of brownies.

  14. I would like to save the information in the article above. Can you please send to my email address

  15. Explain the situation of insulin rising in morning? You said that we are more insulin sensitive in the morning but I find because of “dawn effect” that I can’t tolerate any carbs in am without making my tired to the point of needing a nap.

  16. I have been keto for several years now and find many fruits taste overly sweet to me. Berries are definitely my favorite, and I put a whole (peeled) lemon in my green drink every morning. My grandmother lived to be 104 and swore by fresh lemon every day, so I’m sticking with that tradition.

  17. Maybe it’s OK for many people, but I find that if I have more than the tiniest bit of fruit, for example, if I have a half an apple, I will want sweet things the next day. If I avoid fruit entirely, the temptation is lessened.
    That said, when I am on the edge of ketosis, fruit is my greatest temptation! Bread, pastry, pasta – who cares! But a plum!! Whoa!

  18. Im so sick about those diets turn in to a “religion” or something like that. These kind of behavior go straight to obsession.. Fruit? Bad thing? Really? Thats something i can imagine..This is food terrorism

    1. That’s quite a funny reply, though i admit i’m quite guilty of it myself. This kind of fanatical determination helps to really stick to a diet, so it does have a role to play. It becomes a problem when it stops you from trying new things and you just become stuck in your ways.

  19. Sugar from any food enters bloodstream more slowly when earen with fat.