Sour cream can be part of a weight loss diet when consumed in moderation and accounted for in your daily calorie intake. It is high in calories and fat, so portion control is important.
What is sour cream?
Sour cream is a dairy product made by fermenting regular cream with lactic acid bacteria. The bacteria sours and thickens the cream, giving it a tangy, rich flavor.
Sour cream has a smooth, creamy texture and is commonly used as a condiment or cooking ingredient. It’s used to top baked potatoes, tacos, chili, and more. It’s also an ingredient in dips, sauces, baked goods, and desserts.
Here are the nutrition facts for a 2 tablespoon (30ml) serving of regular sour cream (1):
As you can see, sour cream is high in fat and calories compared to other condiments, like mustard or hot sauce with almost no calories.
The majority of calories in sour cream come from fat. About 70% of the calories come from total fat, with over half being saturated fat (2).
The small amount of carbs in sour cream come from residual milk sugars like lactose. Sour cream contains almost no fiber or micronutrients.
Is sour cream fattening?
Sour cream is high in calories and fat, which means it’s very energy dense. Just a small amount packs in a lot of calories.
Two tablespoons of sour cream provide nearly 60 calories, over 5 grams of fat, and 4 grams of saturated fat (1).
To put that into perspective, here’s how that compares to other condiments (based on 2 tablespoon servings) (3, 4, 5):
As you can see, sour cream provides significantly more calories and fat than condiments like mustard, ketchup, or hot sauce which have minimal impact.
So is sour cream fattening? It can be, if consumed in large amounts on a regular basis. The calories, fat, and saturated fat can quickly add up and lead to weight gain over time.
However, when sour cream is consumed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet, it does not have to lead to weight gain.
Does sour cream cause belly fat?
Eating sour cream itself does not directly cause fat to accumulate around your belly.
However, a diet high in saturated fat from foods like sour cream, butter, cheese and fatty meats is linked to visceral fat gain over time (6).
Visceral fat is the deep belly fat that surrounds and infiltrates organs in your abdominal cavity. It’s considered the most dangerous type of body fat to have in excess.
Diets high in saturated fat cause chronic inflammation, insulin resistance in cells, and influence hormones in a way that favors visceral fat storage (7, 8).
In addition, excess calories from sour cream can lead to weight gain in general, including around the belly area.
So regular overconsumption of sour cream in large amounts may indirectly contribute to increases in belly fat for some people. But keep in mind that weight gain involves many dietary and lifestyle factors.
To help reduce belly fat, experts recommend limiting saturated fat intake to no more than 10% of total daily calories (9).
Can you eat sour cream on keto?
Yes, sour cream can definitely be included in a ketogenic diet.
Sour cream contains minimal carbs and sugar. Just 2 tablespoons provide only around 1 gram of carbs (1).
The keto diet typically limits net carbs to 20-50 grams per day, so sour cream fits in small amounts.
Sour cream is high in fat, which also suits the high fat nature of the keto diet. In fact, sour cream is close to 80% fat, making it ideal for hitting your fat macros.
Some varieties, like crema agria, may contain added starch or gums as stabilizers which can bump up the carbs. So check the ingredients list and nutrition facts.
Plain, full-fat sour cream or Mexican crema are the best options for keto. Avoid low-fat or “light” varieties.
Sour cream can be used to top keto-friendly foods like:
– Baked potatoes or cauliflower mash
– Tacos or taco salad with low-carb tortillas
– Fathead pizza
– Baked fish or chicken
– Low-carb nachos
– Omelets or scrambled eggs
Just be sure to account for the calories and fat. Limit intake to 1-2 tablespoons per meal.
Can sour cream cause weight gain?
Sour cream is high in calories and fat. So overconsuming it on a frequent basis can contribute to excess calorie intake, potentially leading to weight gain over time.
Here are some reasons how sour cream may contribute to weight gain for some people:
– A 2 tablespoon serving packs nearly 60 calories. It’s easy to add hundreds of extra calories from sour cream without realizing it when topping foods like baked potatoes or tacos.
– It’s high in saturated fat. Diets high in this unhealthy type of fat are linked to weight gain, especially around the belly (10).
– The creamy texture makes it easy to overeat. Using a calorie-dense fatty sour cream for dipping vegetables, chips or spreading on foods promotes overconsumption.
– It’s low in nutrients. With no fiber or protein, sour cream lacks nutrients that provide satiety. So it’s easy to overindulge without feeling full.
– The tangy flavor stimulates your palate and appetite, making it easy to overeat foods topped with sour cream.
– High fat plus carbs can boost appetite further. Sour cream is often paired with high carb foods, like potatoes, which may amplify hunger cues (11).
However, enjoying sour cream occasionally or in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet is unlikely to lead to significant weight gain for most people. But heavy, daily use of sour cream could be problematic.
Is sour cream okay for weight loss?
Sour cream can be part of a weight loss diet when consumed in moderation. But there are some things to keep in mind:
– Be mindful of portions. Stick to 1-2 tablespoons max per meal, measured out. This provides 30-60 calories.
– Count it in your daily calorie intake. Those 60 calories can quickly add up. So account for it if tracking calories.
– Use it sparingly. Use sour cream minimally to top foods or in recipes. Don’t go overboard.
– Avoid heavy creams. Stick to light dairy like plain Greek yogurt for most uses to save calories.
– Boost nutrition. Choose other toppings like avocado, salsa, or onion to add more fiber and nutrients.
– Substitute when you can. Mix in plain Greek yogurt for some of the sour cream in baking or dip recipes.
– Watch saturated fat. Aim for no more than 10% of total calories from saturated fat daily.
– Be active. Balance out your diet with regular exercise to help burn extra calories.
– Consider reduced fat. Reduced fat sour cream saves about 2 grams of fat per serving. But it may be higher in carbs.
With mindful portions and proper accountability, sour cream can absolutely be part of an overall weight loss plan. But heavy use on a daily basis is not recommended.
Healthier sour cream substitutes
To lighten up recipes or save calories, there are several healthier substitutions for sour cream:
– Plain non-fat Greek yogurt – Provides the creamy texture with less fat and more protein.
– Low-fat buttermilk – Has a tangy flavor. Use a 1:1 ratio.
– Low-fat milk and lemon – Mix 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Let curdle slightly.
– Silken tofu – Blend silken tofu with a bit of lemon juice and seasoning until smooth.
– Cottage cheese – Puree in a blender or food processor until creamy.
– Avocado – Provides creamy richness and healthy fats.
– Plain kefir or Skyr – These are tangy, cultured dairy products.
– Cashew cream – Blend soaked raw cashews with water or milk.
Keep in mind reduced fat sour cream is still relatively high in fat compared to these alternatives. Check labels to compare fat and calorie counts.
Health risks of eating too much sour cream
While small amounts of sour cream are fine for most people, excessive intake does come with some potential health risks:
Weight gain – The extra calories, fat, sodium, and lack of fiber or protein can lead to weight gain over time, especially around the belly.
Heart disease – Diets high in saturated fat from dairy are linked to high LDL cholesterol levels, a risk factor for heart disease (12).
Diabetes – High fat dairy intake is associated with an increased risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (13).
Digestive issues – Some people may experience bloating, gas or diarrhea from the lactose in dairy products like sour cream.
Foodborne illness – Raw, unpasteurized dairy products can contain harmful bacteria if contaminated during production. This is rare, but most experts advise avoiding unpasteurized dairy.
The key is moderation. Heavy daily use of sour cream may cause problems. But occasional use as part of a healthy diet is unlikely to be an issue for most people.
How much sour cream is safe per day?
There’s no universally agreed upon amount for how much sour cream is considered safe or recommended per day.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans don’t provide specific guidance for daily intake of sour cream.
But most experts recommend limiting saturated fat intake to no more than 10% of total daily calories (14).
For a 2,000 calorie diet:
– 10% of 2,000 calories is 200 calories
– With 9 calories per gram of fat, this equals about 22 grams of saturated fat as the recommended upper limit
Since sour cream provides 4 grams of saturated fat per 2 tablespoon serving (1), it’s recommended to limit intake to around 5-6 tablespoons (75-90ml) or less daily to stay under the saturated fat limit.
Of course, this is just a general recommendation. Your personal calorie needs and diet preferences may differ.
For weight loss, tighter limits around 1-2 tablespoons daily are likely better for limiting calories. But always consult your healthcare provider for diet advice tailored to your individual health status and needs.
Sour cream is high in calories and fat, especially saturated fat. This means it can contribute to weight gain if eaten in large amounts on a regular basis.
However, enjoying sour cream in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet is unlikely to significantly impact weight for most people.
When limiting portions and counting calories, sour cream can absolutely be part of an effective weight loss diet. Just be mindful of how much you use and balance it out with nutritious foods to manage calories.
Substituting in lighter alternatives, like Greek yogurt or low-fat buttermilk in recipes, is an easy way to lighten up meals when you want to cut back. But you don’t necessarily have to avoid sour cream altogether if you love the taste.
At the end of the day, no single food will make or break your weight loss efforts. It’s your overall calorie balance and dietary pattern over time that matters most.