But I Want My Watermelon! (Sorry, No Fruit on Keto)

There are a few responses one often hears when the topic of what foods are permitted and which are verboten on the ketogenic, low carb/high (LCHF) diet. In no particular order, the following jump to mind:

"I can't do that diet. I hate eggs."
"Oh, that's the high protein diet I've heard about"
"My doctor won't let me do that. She says my cholesterol will go sky high."
"What? No fruit?! That's a deal breaker."

Let's get to that last one first.

Yes, it's true. Fruit is not on the allowed food list, as described here. It surprises many people who are considering following the ketogenic protocol. It surprised me. Fruit is good for us, right? Apples and bananas and grapes and cantaloupe and pineapple, pomegranate and plums and pears. (That's a lot of alliteration!) We've been told to include these in a so-called healthy diet. And we love fruit. Who doesn't love fruit? We love fruit like we love love layer cake, blueberry danish and Snickers bars. And for the same reason: they're sweet. Keep in mind that this way of eating is all about eating very low carb. Ideally, less than 20 grams a day. (I tend to be closer to about 10 a day). Sugar is just about the highest carb delivery food there is. Carbs and sugar are the same thing as far as our livers are concerned. Simply put, when we eat, the liver does it's thing. If there is carbohydrate available, whether that carbohydrate comes in the form of table sugar, whole grain bread, potato or even our beloved fruit, the liver pumps out glucose - yet another word for sugar. Think of it this way: if it tastes sweet, it's high in carbs. Even if it comes packaged in a peach, papaya or a fig.

[For reference, an apple has about 20 grams of carbohydrate. Not only would that be more carbs than I'd eat on a normal day, it would probably knock me out of ketosis, trigger cravings. and I'd be hungry an hour later.  It's not me hating on the apple. It's physiology.]

Now, as I wrote here about how some folks can eat a few nuts, even though buts aren't on the approved list, there may be some who can tolerate fruit and remain in ketosis, have good blood glucose and lose weight or maintain at a level that pleases them. My guess is those individuals are the rare exception.

I have a friend who had considered the ketogenic diet for several months. She didn't have a great deal of weight to lose but wanted to shed a few pounds and her blood sugar was not where she wanted. But she's a fruity. A serious one. She would think about keto and then shake her head. "I just can't give up fruit. I have it every day. I Love it. And I want my watermelon, dammit!" We'd chat, I'd advise this just may not be the program for her - there are many roads that can lead to the same destination - and we'd move on to other topics. But a couple of months ago she decided to give it a go. It took a couple of 'at bats' for her to plow through the first 10 days or so when a kind of keto crud can set in. A detox, if you will. But plow through she did. She let me know the other day she's lost about 14 pounds. And she doesn't miss fruit. Not even a bit.

This makes sense when you consider that since fruit is sweet and is essentially sugar wrapped in some fiber, and since it's pretty widely accepted that sugar is addictive, the idea of giving it up can seem impossible. But once you get through a couple of weeks without it and interrupt the reward system found in the area of the brain fired up by sugar, your system won't be calling for you to keep the supply coming.

The point is that eschewing fruit, as well as the other foods that aren't on the approved food list, can be a challenge for the first week or so. But once your system has converted from being a sugar burner to a fat burner, those foods we once thought we couldn't do without lose their appeal. Really. It does happen. Fruit wasn't my biggest 'give'. But tortilla chips? And pizza? Pizza? Pizza is crack to me. Now I'm not the least bit tempted. It was like magic.

Now, about "having" to eat all those eggs...


I’ve been fortunate to have exposure to leading researchers, physicians and journalists regarding the ketogenic specifically and LCHF (low carb/high fat) more generally, we are all responsible for our own choices, including what we put in our mouths. I welcome questions, comments and even civil criticism. I’m still learning. So, if you have something to add, go for it. Thanks!  - Casey