Foods to Eat on a Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet has become quite popular recently.
Studies have found that this very low-carb, high-fat diet is effective for weight loss, diabetes and epilepsy (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
There’s also early evidence to show that it may be beneficial for certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases, too.
A ketogenic diet typically limits carbs to 20–50 grams per day. While this may seem challenging, many nutritious foods can easily fit into this way of eating.
Here are 16 healthy foods to eat on a ketogenic diet.
Fish and shellfish are very keto-friendly foods. Salmon and other fish are rich in B vitamins, potassium and selenium, yet virtually carb-free (4).
However, the carbs in different types of shellfish vary. For instance, while shrimp and most crabs contain no carbs, other types of shellfish do (5).
While these shellfish can still be included on a ketogenic diet, it’s important to account for these carbs when you’re trying to stay within a narrow range.
Here are the carb counts for 3.5-ounce (100-gram) servings of some popular types of shellfish
- Clams: 5 grams
- Mussels: 7 grams
- Octopus: 4 grams
- Oysters: 4 grams
- Squid: 3 grams
Salmon, sardines, mackerel and other fatty fish are very high in omega-3 fats, which have been found to lower insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese people (11Trusted Source).
In addition, frequent fish intake has been linked to a decreased risk of disease and improved mental health (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
Aim to consume at least two servings of seafood weekly.
Non-starchy vegetables are low in calories and carbs, but high in many nutrients, including vitamin C and several minerals.
Vegetables and other plants contain fiber, which your body doesn’t digest and absorb like other carbs.
Therefore, look at their digestible (or net) carb count, which is total carbs minus fiber.
Most vegetables contain very few net carbs. However, consuming one serving of “starchy” vegetables like potatoes, yams or beets could put you over your entire carb limit for the day.
The net carb count for non-starchy vegetables ranges from less than 1 gram for 1 cup of raw spinach to 8 grams for 1 cup of cooked Brussels sprouts (14, 15).
Vegetables also contain antioxidants that help protect against free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
What’s more, cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and cauliflower have been linked to decreased cancer and heart disease risk (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
Low-carb veggies make great substitutes for higher-carb foods. For instance, cauliflower can be used to mimic rice or mashed potatoes, “zoodles” can be created from zucchini and spaghetti squash is a natural substitute for spaghetti.
Cheese is both nutritious and delicious.
There are hundreds of types of cheese. Fortunately, all of them are very low in carbs and high in fat, which makes them a great fit for a ketogenic diet.
One ounce (28 grams) of cheddar cheese provides 1 gram of carbs, 7 grams of protein and 20% of the RDI for calcium (20).
Cheese is high in saturated fat, but it hasn’t been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. In fact, some studies suggest that cheese may help protect against heart disease (21Trusted Source, 22).
Cheese also contains conjugated linoleic acid, which is a fat that has been linked to fat loss and improvements in body composition (23Trusted Source).
In addition, eating cheese regularly may help reduce the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging.
A 12-week study in older adults found that those who consumed 7 ounces (210 grams) of ricotta cheese per day experienced increases in muscle mass and muscle strength over the course of the study
Avocados are incredibly healthy.
3.5 ounces (100 grams), or about one-half of a medium avocado, contain 9 grams of carbs.
However, 7 of these are fiber, so its net carb count is only 2 grams (25).
Avocados are high in several vitamins and minerals, including potassium, an important mineral many people may not get enough of. What’s more, a higher potassium intake may help make the transition to a ketogenic diet easier (26, 27Trusted Source).
In addition, avocados may help improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
In one study, when people consumed a diet high in avocados, they experienced a 22% decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and an 11% increase in “good” HDL cholesterol
Meat and poultry are considered staple foods on a ketogenic diet.
Fresh meat and poultry contain no carbs and are rich in B vitamins and several minerals, including potassium, selenium and zinc (29).
They’re also a great source of high-quality protein, which has been shown to help preserve muscle mass during a very low-carb diet (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).
One study in older women found that consuming a diet high in fatty meat led to HDL cholesterol levels that were 8% higher than on a low-fat, high-carb diet (21Trusted Source).
It’s best to choose grass-fed meat, if possible. That’s because animals that eat grass produce meat with higher amounts of omega-3 fats, conjugated linoleic acid and antioxidants than meat from grain-fed animals
Eggs are one of the healthiest and most versatile foods on the planet.
One large egg contains less than 1 gram of carbs and fewer than 6 grams of protein, making eggs an ideal food for a ketogenic lifestyle (33).
In addition, eggs have been shown to trigger hormones that increase feelings of fullness and keep blood sugar levels stable, leading to lower calorie intakes for up to 24 hours (34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source).
It’s important to eat the entire egg, as most of an egg’s nutrients are found in the yolk. This includes the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect eye health (36Trusted Source).
Although egg yolks are high in cholesterol, consuming them doesn’t raise blood cholesterol levels in most people. In fact, eggs appear to modify the shape of LDL in a way that reduces the risk of heart disease