Even though they’re high in fat, peanuts are technically a legume and are not allowed on the keto diet. Legumes are off limits on the keto diet because of their high carb counts (along with these other healthy but high-carb foods you can’t have on the keto diet). That includes chickpeas (30 grams per 1/2 cup), black beans (23 grams), and kidney beans (19 grams). Some believe the lectins in legumes may prevent the fat-burning state of ketosis.
But nuts and nut butters are a great way to add fat to smoothies and snacks. Eating more of these healthy fats is crucial when you’re on the ketogenic diet.
Since peanut butter is out, we asked Robyn Blackford, a registered dietitian nutritionist for the Ketogenic Diet Program at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, to comment on the best alternative: cashews.
Cashews pack a punch of energy and have strong fat-burning properties, says Blackford. When it comes to macronutrients, cashews and almonds are similar and are both an option while on keto, but they offer different micronutrients. Cashews are high in copper (regulating cholesterol and iron), magnesium (prevents muscle weakness and cramps), and phosphorus (supports strong bones and a healthy metabolism), says Blackford. A diet with enough magnesium is crucial, especially in the first week of the keto diet, to prevent the dreaded “keto flu.”
When buying cashew butter, look for one that’s low in sugar and high in fat. Crazy Richard’s Cashew Butter ($11; crazyrichards.com) and Simply Balanced Cashew Butter ($7; target.com) both have 17 grams of fat and 8 grams of net carbs per serving. If you prefer a bit more flavor, try Julie’s Real Coconut Vanilla Bean Cashew Butter ($16; juliesreal.com) with a slightly higher but still reasonable 9 grams of net carbs (just be sure to limit your serving size because of the honey). Or to boost the healthy fat profile, consider blending your own nut butter with cashews and coconut oil, suggests Blackford.
It’s possible you’ll return to PB when you’re back on carbs. But when it comes to the keto diet, cashews are king.