A ketogenic or keto diet involves eating foods low in carbohydrates but high in fat. This combination prompts production of the ketone beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). If the body lacks glucose, it taps into fat stores for energy in a process called ketosis. Many celebrities live on a ketogenic diet because it can assist with weight loss, control blood sugar, and may help ward off diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
1. Fish and Seafood
Salmon, sardines, and mackerel are healthy brain foods because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is also packed with potassium, selenium, and B vitamins, and has zero carbohydrates. While shrimp and some crab also lack carbs, some shellfish do contain this nutrient, which is strictly avoided on the keto diet. Clams, oysters, squid, and other seafood are keto-friendly. Eat at least two servings of seafood a week for a healthy amount of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s.
Although vegetables are healthy in general, a few are specifically suited to the ketogenic diet. For example, 1 cup of raw spinach has less than 1 gram of carbohydrates. Cooked Brussels sprouts have nearly 8 grams of carbs. Both contain antioxidants that fight free radicals, which may cause cellular damage, but one is more keto friendly than the other. Starchy vegetables are not suitable for the keto diet. These include beets, yams, and potatoes, which are loaded with carbohydrates. Nonstarchy vegetables are low in carbs and calories yet still high in vitamins and minerals. Instead of eating mashed potatoes or rice, substitute a low-carb veggie that mimics the texture. Today, cauliflower replaces everything from pizza crust to mac and cheese, and zucchini is a great substitute for pasta.
All cheese is low in carbohydrates and high in saturated fat. One ounce or 28 grams of cheddar contains 1 gram of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fat, and 7 grams of protein. This provides 20 percent of your recommended daily intake of calcium, too. Cheese also has conjugated linoleic acid, which is linked to improvements in body composition. It may also help reduce the loss of muscle mass and strength.
This fruit has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. Avocados are packed with potassium and other essential vitamins and minerals. If you have high cholesterol, avocados can help lower bad LDL cholesterol, including triglycerides, and increase good HDL cholesterol. When it comes to carbohydrates, most of them are fiber, which does not count toward daily intake on the keto diet. For example, a medium-size avocado has around 9 grams of carbs, 7 of which are fiber, for a net twoÂ net carbohydrates (what’s left over after subtracting the healthy fiber).
5. Chicken and Red Meat
Meat and poultry are staples for anyone on the ketogenic diet. They are rich in B vitamins, potassium, selenium, zinc, and other minerals, but have net zero carbohydrates. Red meat and chicken are also high in protein. Preserve your muscle mass and strength by consuming high-quality protein on a low-carb diet. If possible, choose grass-fed meat because it contains more omega-3 fats, conjugated linoleic acids, and antioxidants than grain-fed meat.
We don’t know if the chicken or the egg came first, but both are great foods for the ketogenic diet. Eggs are just as versatile as they are healthy. In fact, they are a perfect keto food because a large egg has less than 1 gram of carbs but nearly 6 grams of protein. They can help maintain a healthy blood sugar level and positively impact hormone production. The yolks are high in cholesterol but also contain antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the eyes.
7. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a great option for jumpstarting the ketosis process. It has unique ingredients like medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Because they are not long-chain triglycerides, the liver absorbs the fats in coconut oil directly and converts them into ketones,which can promote weight loss. The primary fatty acid in coconut oil is lauric acid, which can help increase levels of ketones in people with brain disorders, nervous system ailments, and Alzheimer’s disease.
8. Plain Greek Yogurt
In addition to cheeses, plain Greek yogurt is another dairy product people can incorporate into a ketogenic diet. Although it still contains net carbs, the amount is small. Every 5 ounces (150 grams) of plain Greek yogurt contains 5 grams of carbohydrates and more than 11 grams of protein. Eating yogurt can promote that feeling of fullness that helps control appetite. Adding other healthy keto foods can make this food a quick and tasty snack.
Consuming a handful of nuts now and then can help lower the risk of depression, certain types of cancer, and chronic disease. Because they’re high in fiber, nuts encourage feelings of fullness, which can lead to consuming fewer calories throughout the day. In a 1-ounce serving (28 grams), Brazil nuts and pecans both have just 1 gram of net carbs. Macadamia nuts and walnuts have only 2 grams of net carbs, and almonds have three. Pistachios and cashews contain 5 and 8 grams, respectively.
Nuts and seeds are very similar. They’re both excellent sources of healthy fats paired with low carbohydrates. However, seeds have even fewer net carbs than nuts. For example, flaxseeds have no net carbs because all 8 are fiber. Sesame seeds yield just 1 gram of net carbs, while chia seeds have 2. As long as they contain less than 8 grams of net carbs per ounce, seeds are a keto-friendly food.
You won’t find many fruits on the ketogenic diet because they have too many carbohydrates. Berries, however, are low in net carbs because most are high in fiber. They are also loaded with antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation. Blackberries and raspberries have the lowest net carbs at just 5 in a 2.5-ounce (100 gram) serving. Blueberries have more than 12.
12. Olive Oil
Like coconut oil, olive oil is keto-friendly. It is a pure fat source that has zero carbohydrates. The ingredient is best used for low-heat cooking or adding to foods that are already cooked because it is not as stable as a saturated fat at higher temperatures. Nevertheless, olive oil has a high content of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that can help reduce the chance of heart disease. Extra-virgin oil olive is also packed with antioxidants called phenols that improve artery function and decrease inflammation.