The Ketogenic Diet Food List
(Everything You Need to Know about Keto Food)
The benefits of a ketogenic diet are extensively researched and documented. Whether you are trying to lose weight, control your blood glucose level or just improve your energy levels, a keto diet can help you do it all. As a result, it is gaining popularity as a safe and effective way to lose weight and stay healthy.
Despite its popularity, many people find it difficult to keep up with a true keto diet. Although most people can wrap their minds around the general idea of a keto diet and ketosis, they seem to miss a lot of subtleties and nuances.
The most commonly misunderstood concept of a keto diet is, ironically, food! Many people struggle to decide whether a particular food is okay to consume while on a keto diet. Confusing food labels can make the situation even worse.
So, if you are considering a keto diet and feel overwhelmed and confused about what you can and can't eat, it is entirely understandable. But the question is, what can you do to sort thing out?
Well, now that you are here are reading this, you have already taken the first step in the right direction!
How to Read Food Labels
Food labels are like miniskirts; they hide much more than they reveal! Although there is a lot of information on a food label, don't get me wrong, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.
If you want to achieve and maintain ketosis, you need to pay extra attention to these food labels. Many important questions need to be asked while reading a nutrition label. Questions like "How many carbs qualify as 'low-carb'?" or "What other components besides sugars should be counted toward total carbs?" are quite important.
So, let's analyze what information is provided on a nutrition label.
Fats and Oils
We will start off our list of ketogenic foods of with Fats and oils, which are perhaps the most important food groups when it comes to a keto diet. Foods that are rich in fats can provide a lot of calories that you need without causing the characteristic insulin spike that is associated with a high carb food.
A ketogenic diet typically will have anywhere between 70-85% of the calories supplied by fat. That's a huge chunk of your daily caloric intake. Hence, you must pay close attention to the 'kind' of fat that you are consuming.
For instance, if you rely on just a single source of fat, you may miss out on some key benefits. Omega 6 fatty acids are notorious for causing a mild inflammation within the body. If you consume fats that are rich in these fatty acids exclusively, you may see some digestive issues.
Oils that are rich in omega six fatty acids include Soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and canola oil. Although these are good in moderation, make sure that they are not your exclusive source of fats on a keto diet.
The Balance Between Omega 6 and Omega 3
Both the omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids are sometimes called polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFA. They are necessary for your diet, but a balance between these two is also essential.
You should try to strike a balance between the omega 6 and omega 3 in such a way that your diet does not contain an overwhelmingly high amount of either of them. The best way forward is to mix and match your fats so that you don't rely on any one source entirely.
What About Saturated Fats?
There is a misguided notion floating around that saturated fats are bad for your health. However, there is a little truth to it. The whole idea that saturated fats cause heart disease started in the 70s with the publication of a study called "The Seven Country Study." Researchers of this study wrongfully correlated the increased risk of coronary heart disease with consumption of fats in seven countries of the world. While they considered the fats that the people consumed, they neglected several other factors including the amount of sugar they were consuming.
Years later, this study is still not accepted by a majority of the scientific community, but the damage was already done. The notion that saturated fats increase the risk of coronary disease was so deeply rooted in the society that people started running away from any saturated fat.
Numerous studies since then have concluded that there is little to no connection between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. In fact, saturated fats can be good for your overall health.
Some of the benefits of saturated fats include:
stimulate the liver cellssaturated fats can boost the testosterone
So, the point is this:
Saturated fats are not bad for you at all, and you should not avoid them altogether. Although I don't condone eating a ton of saturated fats, eating them in moderation is not bad at all.
What Fats are Bad for You?
Not all type of fat is good for you though. Hydrogenated fats such as margarine, or hydrogenated vegetable oils contain trans-fats that are horrible for your health. Avoid them like the plague!
If you want to include vegetable oils in your diet, make sure they are 'cold-pressed.' If you want to use oils for cooking, make sure that you are not using vegetable oils with a low smoking point.
Lard, beef tallow, coconut oil and ghee can be used for frying as well.
Protein is also an important source of calories in a keto diet. Although a high protein diet has many fans, it is not a truly keto diet.
You see, if you consume too much protein in your diet and cut down carbs and fats, your body will just convert the proteins into glucose. That completely defeats the purpose of a keto diet. You will never be able to reach the state of ketosis if your diet contains an excessive amount of protein.
That said, some proteins are needed for your body to repair and do damage control. So, eliminating protein is as bad as going on an extremely high protein diet.
While choosing protein source, you need to keep in mind the balance between the fats and protein in the said source. An ideal protein source will have a healthy balance between fats and proteins in it. An example includes a fatty cut of meat.
There are several sources of protein to choose from on a keto diet. Some of the sources that offer the best benefits include the following.
Fruits and Veggies
Some fruits and vegetables are certainly not off limits on a keto diet. Non-starchy vegetables can be a great addition to a keto diet.
Veggies such as fresh organic spinach is an excellent source of vital micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins. It is rich in fiber that is not absorbed by your body and hence does not count toward the total carb intake.
Although most fresh veggies, especially the green, leafy kind, are low in the net carb content, some others such as potatoes or yams are not. As a matter of fact, a single serving of potatoes or yams can throw you off your daily carb limit just like that. So, make sure that when you are eating veggies, you strictly avoid the starchy kind.
Another benefit of eating vegetables is that they contain several antioxidants that play a vital role in ensuring overall health. Veggies such as kale, broccoli, and cauliflower are also shown to be effective in lowering the risk of various heart diseases.
Low carb veggies can also be used to replace other high carb-containing food items. For instance, you can replace rice with cauliflower that contains only a fraction of carbs of the rice.
When it comes to fruits, however, the story is a bit different. Most fruits are quite high in carbs. A single apple, for instance, has as much as 10 grams of sugar!
That said, there are some fruits that you can occasionally enjoy on a keto diet. Fruits such as berries are lower in carbs compared to some other fresh fruit and can be included in a keto diet, but only in moderation.
Most dairy products can be added with little problem to a keto diet. However, when adding a dairy product, make sure that you are using the full-fat version and not the skim version.
One of the biggest traps to avoid while selecting a dairy product for a keto diet is processed dairy. On the face of it, these products may seem enticing, but most of them contain a ton of added sugar and starches to make them taste good. Stay clear of these products.
Try to incorporate as many raw dairy products in your diet as possible. For instance, rather than using a flavored yogurt that is sweetened with a ton of sugar and contains various starches as stabilizers, go for whole milk instead.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds can be a great healthy snack on a keto diet. They are low in carbs and high in fats which make them a perfect snack food item in a keto diet. Apart from the low carb content, nuts have several other health benefits as well.
For instance, consuming nuts frequently has been shown to reduce the risk of various diseases including cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Nuts are also rich in fiber as well. They can also induce a feeling of satiety and reduce the number of calories consumed, which is a good thing.
So, in a nut-shell, nuts are great…get it?!
My poor attempt at comedy aside, nuts are a great option for keto diet, but they come with a mild warning as well.
As with vegetable oils, nuts are also rich in fats containing omega six fatty acids which are known to cause inflammation throughout the body and gastric disturbances. So, while nuts in moderation are a good thing, they are not a very good idea to be used for an entire meal!
Most nuts and seeds contain between zero to about 8 grams of carbs per ounce.
Water and Beverages
Water is crucial when you are on a ketogenic diet. When your body enters the state of ketosis, you tend to urinate more often; a process called diuresis. One of the immediate effects of this is that you start losing more water than usual.
To stay hydrated on a keto diet, you must increase your water intake. If you are prone to bladder and urinary tract infections, a keto diet can be especially taxing.
Make sure you are drinking the recommended eight glasses of water and then some more. I recommend drinking as much as a gallon of water a day to ensure that you are not dehydrated during the keto diet.
Also, drinking a ton of water at one time is not ideal either. What you need to do is drink water more frequently in smaller portions.
I am sure you must have heard about the dreaded Keto-Flu that is one of the worst things about a keto diet, right? Well, guess what, one of the reasons of the keto-flu is the lack of hydration. People who enter ketosis for the first time, fail to maintain the hydration of their bodies, making the symptoms of the keto-flu unbearable.
Make sure that you are consuming enough water to account for the diuretic effect of ketosis and you will be okay.
What About Tea or Coffee?
Beverages such as tea or coffee are allowed on a keto diet.
The caffeine in these drinks can help to kickstart your metabolism in the morning.
Furthermore, tea or coffee can be a great vehicle for some heavy cream.
However, make sure that you stay as far away as possible from the heavily sweetened lattes and mochas.
While alcohol is not completely barred from a keto diet, you should choose hard liquor over beer and cocktails. Alcohol and ketosis CAN mix but there are a lot of carbs in most alcohol. Avoid the glass of wine in the evening as well.
Alcohol will deepen your ketosis, but it will also slow down your weight loss. Alcohol behaves similarly to ketone bodies once it is consumed. It is used by the body to generate energy over fat and ketone bodies.
As a result, your body will not be burning fat as long as you supply it with alcohol. So, if you want to lose weight, make sure you are avoiding alcohol. (until someone invents a ketogenic diet alcohol)
Spices, Condiments, Sweeteners, and Sauces
Spices and condiments can make the food tasty and exciting. Luckily, as long as you are not overdoing them, some spices and condiments are allowed on a keto diet. That said, some condiments do contain considerable amounts of added carbs, and you should exercise caution in selecting them.
The best way to include spices is to use them in their raw, unprocessed form. Rather than using a store-bought dressing, you can make your own with fresh herbs and spices.
Most spices will have a varying amount of carbs in them. So, while adding copious amounts, make sure that you are noting the carbs down. Most pre-made spice mixes contain dextrose or other starches added to them. Avoid such mixes as much as possible.
Evan if you decide to include a pre-mix spice blend, make sure that you know what you are getting.
What About Condiments and Sauces?
Condiments such as ketchup, mustard or dressings are delicious and can make any food taste good. However, they are highly processed foods and contain a ton of sugar.
Sauces are a gray area in a keto diet. While you should avoid eating premade, store-bought sauces at all cost, some homemade sauces can be okay.
For instance, you can make your condiments and sauces that are low in carbs rather than buying stuff from the supermarket.
While some people may not need them, most of us do need some or the other form of sweetener in some dishes and beverages. Although the best way is to stay as far as possible from any sweetener, that can be a difficult thing to do for many, including yours truly!
So, what is the alternative? Well, the good news is, there are some sweeteners that you can use in moderation over sugar in a keto diet.
As far as possible, go for the liquid sweeteners as they do not contain any added ingredients. You see, when a serving of an artificial sweetener contains less than a gram of carbs, they can claim it to be carb-free, as we saw earlier. So, while choosing an artificial sweetener, you are better off selecting the one with the least additives.
Foods to Avoid
As important as it is to know what to eat, it is equally important to know what not to in a keto diet. If you have stuck with me this far, you have a pretty good idea about the foods that are perfect for a keto diet. But what about the foods that should be completely avoided?
Well, let's talk about that.
Although it is relatively easy to spot the strictly "no" foods in a keto diet, some food items can be a bit difficult to categorize. If you are still wondering about them, here is a list of food items that you should totally avoid if you want to achieve ketosis.