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Top Low Carb Keto Drinks and Others to Avoid

By Liam McAuliffe Updated on

In modern life, most of us choose drinks for other reasons than simply to hydrate ourselves: We drink to boost our energy with caffeinated beverages, enhance our meals and lubricate our social lives with wine, beer, and cocktails, and for pleasure with carbonated and flavored beverages. Though most of these popular drinks can be high in carbs, there are various low-carb keto drinks that can hit the spot without interfering with your keto macro percentages

Let’s explore the top low-carb keto drinks. 

Mineral Water

Mineral water isn’t the most exciting keto drink, but it’s the one your body will appreciate the most. 

True mineral water has electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. These are charged particles that play key roles in many essential body processes. Electrolytes conduct nervous system impulses, muscle contraction (like in your heart), keep your cells hydrated, and regulate pH levels [1].

Electrolytes can be especially important when making the transition to ketosis. During this period, your body flushes fluids and electrolytes as it unlocks glycogen stored in your muscles. 

Drinking mineral water and upping your salt intake while hydrating can reduce many of the unwanted side effects of transitioning to keto. 

Mineral water is also a great drink while intermittent fasting

Regular Water

In communities with clean tap water, it’s best to save your money on the bottled stuff and get it from your sink.

In fact, in most of North America, the tap water has electrolyte content rivaling that of bottled mineral water. And nearly all water districts offer regular quality assessments where you can see exactly what’s in your local tap water.

The authors of a 2001 study examining the mineralization of tap water compared to mineralized bottled waters concluded, “Drinking water sources available to North Americans may contain high levels of Ca2+, Mg2+, and Na+ and may provide clinically important portions of the recommended dietary intake of these minerals. Physicians should encourage patients to check the mineral content of their drinking water, whether tap or bottled, and choose water most appropriate for their needs.”

chart of minerals in tap water

Coffee

A big part of a keto lifestyle is the way it kicks carb addiction and simplifies food choices, but this doesn’t mean you have to give up all your pleasures. 

For 62% of Americans, coffee is a daily ritual that fuels our energy and focus. The good news is that black coffee (and surprisingly many other variations that we’ll get to soon) is not only keto-friendly, but keto-supporting. 

An 8 oz. (1 cup) serving of black coffee has .1 grams of fat, 0 carbs, and .3 grams of protein. 

Beyond the obvious energy benefits, coffee also provides keto-specific benefits. 

Drinking coffee can speed your metabolic rate, enhancing fat-burning at a rate equivalent to intermittent fasting [2][3].

Coffee also contains a compound called chlorogenic acid that may improve glucose metabolism by blocking the uptake of carbohydrates in the small intestine [4][5][6]. 

Studies show that both the ketogenic diet and drinking coffee may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. This condition is associated with chronic inflammation, high blood pressure, obesity, and hormonal imbalances [7][8][9].

Another area where coffee and keto combine forces is their neuroprotective benefits. Both coffee and keto have been shown to protect against Parkinson’s’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and dementia [10] [11]. 

Additionally, studies show that coffee drinkers have a 23% to 50% reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes [12]. 

When used together, coffee and keto may have a synergistic effect that enhances their respective benefits. 

Keto Coffee, AKA Bulletproof Coffee

If black coffee isn’t your ideal keto drink, the keto diet gives you license to add nearly unlimited amounts of keto fats in the form of butter, heavy cream, and coconut or MCT oil. 

Adding butter to coffee was first popularized as Bulletproof coffee by health and wellness thought leader Dave Asprey. 

The original recipe called for quality coffee, unsalted grass-fed butter, and MCT (medium-chain triglycerides). 

There are variations that call for collagen powder and ghee

One of the benefits of adding full-fat dairy like butter and ghee to coffee is its abundance of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). Found in abundance in grass-fed butter, CLA offers many benefits, including [13][14][15][16][17]:

  • Helps reduce body fat
  • Increases lean muscle mass
  • Reduces the risk of atherosclerosis
  • Supports robust immune function
  • Prevents and treats diabetes
  • Supports bone formation and mineral density

Keto Macha Latte 

BULLETPROOF MATCHA. Ketogenic keto diet hot drink. Tea matcha blended with coconut oil and butter. Cup of bulletproof matcha and ingredients on white background.

Swapping your coffee for green tea or matcha (the pulverized concentrated version of green tea) can offer an energy boost and additional benefits over coffee. 

Like keto coffee, a keto matcha latte simply means adding heavy cream, butter, ghee, and coconut oil to your matcha and water brew. 

If that feels too involved, simply ordering an unsweetened matcha latte with heavy cream is great eating out on keto hack

Matcha has been shown to suspend the aging process of glycation and to stimulate collagen synthesis. Collagen synthesis is a crucial process that repairs skin, bones, ligaments, muscle tissue, and teeth [18]. 

If you want an energy boost without the jitters you get from coffee; matcha is a fantastic alternative. Match contains L-theanine, a compound that smoothes the effects of caffeine while promoting alertness and dulling the post-caffeine energy crash [19]. 

L-theanine also increases alpha wave activity in the brain, which induces relaxation and decreases stress and anxiety levels [20].

Matcha as a keto drink can add to the anti-cancer benefits of both practices. Matcha is high in the powerful antioxidant epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is known to have anticancer properties. 

In test-tube studies EGCG has been found to kill prostate cancer cells and has been shown effective against lung, breast, liver, and skin cancers [21][22][23][24][25]. Granted, these positive results were found only in test tube studies. More research needs to be done to determine the effective dosage for humans.

Black or Green tea

Unsweetened black, green, white, and herbal teas make great keto drinks. Enjoy them iced or hot. They all typically contain less than 1 gram per cup (8 0z./ 240 mL). 

Green tea is made from fresh tea leaves, lending it a lighter color, floral flavor, and generally lower caffeine levels than black tea. 

Black tea is brewed from the same leaves as green tea, only aged. The aging process gives black tea a stronger flavor, higher caffeine content, and darker color [26]. 

White tea is made from very young tea leaves, giving it a more mild flavor than black and green tea [27

Herbal teas are generally caffeine and carb-free. Hibiscus tea in particular, may have numerous health benefits, including the support of heart health, increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce inflammation–all of which are synergistic with the benefits of keto [28][29]. 

MUD WTR and Adaptogenic Coffee Alternatives

Mud wtr and other adaptogenic coffee alternatives can be great keto drinks. 

Mud wtr is made  from masala chai, cacao, and adaptogenic mushrooms including lion’s madne, chaga, reishi, and cordyceps that together promote energy, gut health, mood, mental focus, and immune health [30][31]. 

Mud wtr supports energy despite having only 1/7th the caffeine of a cup of coffee. So it’s billed as an alternative that reduces jitters, dependency, and energy crashes. 

Keto Drinks at Starbucks

If you’re one of 40 million Americans who visit Starbucks each month, you’ll be happy to know that there are keto drinks at Starbucks. 

Here’s a brief rundown of the best keto drinks at Starbucks along with ordering tips. 

Skinny Mocha

For a 1g net carb mocha, order with “skinny mocha sauce” and request heavy cream instead of milk. 

Unsweetened Iced Tea

0g net carbs. This one is as refreshing as it is easy. If you just can’t pass up a little sweet flavor, you can add a pump of sugar-free syrup. But beware that non-sugar sweeteners have their own downsides, which we’ll detail later. 

Unsweetened Iced Coffee

The default iced coffee comes sweetened, so you’ll need to ask for it unsweeteened. 0g net carbs. Add in heavy cream for a delicious iced latte. 

Iced Blonde Vanilla Latte

If you need to get your Starbucks flavor fix, an iced blonde vanilla latte with heavy cream and 2 pumps of sugar free vanilla syrup will run you only 4g net carbs. 

Nitro Cold Brew

0g net carbs / 3g net carbs with flavorings. Thicker, smoother, creamier, and less acidic, cold brew that has the natural sweetness of nitrogen bubbles. A few ounces of heavy cream and a pump of sugar free vanilla syrup make this a sinfully delicious energy booster. 

Keto Milk Drinks

Though whole milk is fatty, it’s also high in carbs, so normal cow milk on keto is a no, no. 

Keto-friendlier alternatives include heavy cream and some plant-based milks. However, even if plant milks meet low-carb standards, they are often highly processed foods with inflammatory vegetable oils and omega-6 fatty acids along with plant toxins and antinutrients

For these reasons, we highly recommend sticking with full-fat dairy in the form of heavy cream and half and half. 

Here’s a rundown of keto-friendly milks: 

  • Heavy cream: The best keto milk in terms of fat content with  only 1 gram of net carbs per ounce [32]
  • Half-and-half is another keto-friendly alternative to cow’s milk. Less fatty than heavy cream, half-and-half also provides 1 gram of carbs per ounce. But beware that this can add up quickly. 
  • Coconut milk is the top non-dairy milk option. Unsweetened coconut milk can contain between 1-5 grams per 1 cup so it’s important to check your brand [33]
  • Unsweetened almond milk is a favorite keto drink among many people looking for a little flavor and texture in their beverage. 1 cup of almond milk contains 1 gram of carbs [34]
  • Macadamia nut milk can be a keto drink with containing 5 grams of fat to only 1 gram of carbs per cup [35]
  • Flax milk is another keto drink that’s higher in omega-3 fatty acids than other alternative milks. It has 1 gram of carbs per cup [36

Keto Drinks: Alcohol? 

Alcohol on keto is a complex and often controversial topic. 

On the one hand, all distilled spirits have zero carbs. While dry red and white wines and light beer contain around 3-4 carbs per serving. 

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not loaded with sugar. Nor does your body convert alcohol into sugar. 

On the other hand, alcohol is toxic. So when you consume it, your body prioritizes eliminating it through the liver, which can turn off ketosis [37]. 

It’s also high in calories, so while your ability to burn fat is turned off, the calories in alcohol can be stored as fat on your body. 

With all that said, if enjoyed in moderation, alcohol can be a pleasurable keto drink. 

Chose your alcoholic keto drinks from the following list: 

  • Dry red wines: Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Dry white wines: Chardonnay, Champagne, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc 
  • Distilled liquors: Mezcal, gin, vodka, tequila, rum, and whiskey
  • Low Carb Hard Seltzer: Most hard seltzers are also keto-friendly, averaging 1-2 grams of carbs per can. 

The following chart shows the carb content per serving of keto friendlier alcohol drinks: 

TYPE OF ALCOHOL SERVING SIZECARB CONTENT
RUM1.5 ounces0 grams
VODKA1.5 ounces0 grams
GIN1.5 ounces0 grams
TEQUILA1.5 ounces0 grams
WHISKEY1.5 ounces0 grams
RED WINE5 ounces3-4 grams
WHITE WINE5 ounces3-4 grams
LIGHT BEER12 ounces3 grams

Drinks to Avoid on Keto

All high carb drinks should be avoided on keto. These include: 

  • Fruit juice–fresh and from concentrate
  • Soda
  • Milk
  • Diet Sodas

Diet sodas deserve a special explanation. Though they may meet low-carb standards, they are sweetened with artificial chemicals like aspartame and sucralose. 

These artificial sweeteners can damage the gut microbiome and lead to increased sugar cravings [38]. 

A 5-day study on participants who were fed the FDA’s maximum dose of saccharine resulted in 60% of participants developing glucose intolerance [39].

Keto Drinks with Natural Artificial Sweeteners: A Word of Caution

Drinks with naturally-derived low and zero-carb sweeteners including stevia, monkfruit, swerve, and erythritol may have fewer negative effects, but still deserve a word of caution [40][41][42]. 

A recent study found that drinking two or more of any kind of artificially sweetened drink a day was linked to an increased risk of clot-based strokes, heart attacks, and early death in women over 50 [43]. 

Part of the issue with low-carb sweeteners is that they activate the same neural reward pathways as sugar. This causes them to interfere with the natural reward centers in your brain. 

People eat and crave sweets because real sweet food means an abundance of quick calories. But when we consume alternative sweeteners our body gets mixed signals: Our body senses that it’s eaten something sweet, but it doesn’t get the calories it expects, leading to a craving for more calories. 

Type of DrinkCarbs Per Serving
Water0 grams
Mineral Water0 grams
Lemon Water0 grams
Tea (green, black, white)0 grams
Unsweetened Iced Tea0 grams
Coffee 0 grams (w/ heavy cream 1 gram per oz of cream)
Keto Coffee (Bulletproof)2-4 grams carbs
Keto Matcha Latte2-4 grams carbs
Hard Spirits0 grams
Hard Seltzer0-2 grams
Dry Red Wine3-4 grams
Dry White Wine3-4 grams
Light Beer3-4 grams
Low Sugar Kombucha3-8 grams

Keto Drinks: The Takeaway

Though the keto diet means cutting carbs, it doesn’t mean cutting out many of your favorite beverages. 

In fact, keto drinks are often healthier low carb versions of staples you’ve been enjoying, and in many cases, relying on for years. 

Turning a black coffee into a bonafide keto drink means making it richer, creamier, more energizing, and more satiating. 

Exploring different keto drinks can add antioxidant matcha and hibiscus teas to your repertoire.

Many people are also surprised to find that in moderation, most alcohols (other than mixed cocktails) are actually keto-friendly drinks. 

And ff course, the ultimate keto drink is mineral water.

 

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