Decades of research have shown that high-fat, low-carb keto foods, the very foods we once thought would destroy our health, may do just the opposite. Studies of the ketogenic diet continue to find benefits for people with various types of diseases, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. How can a diet filled with so much cholesterol and fat be good for us? Because many of the foods we once thought were a problem – like eggs and meat – can actually be the solution.
Below, we explore some of the healthiest keto foods.
1. Fish and Seafood
f you follow a keto diet, fish and shellfish are good choices. Salmon is rich in essential nutrients such as omega-3 and B vitamins, but low in carbohydrates. Shrimp and lobster also work well for keto.
Macronutrients per 3 ounces (85 g) in fish and seafood:
- Salmon: 0 g carbs, 4 g fat, 17 g protein
- Flounder: 0 g carbs, 2 g fat, 11 g protein
- Crab: 0 g carbs, 1 g fat, 15 g protein
- Lobster: 0 g, 1 g fat, 14 g protein
2. Meat and Poultry
Meat and poultry are popular among people on the keto diet because they are high in fat and very low in carbohydrates.
However, scientists have found a link between eating too much meat on a regular basis and health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and excess weight. That’s why it’s best to eat meat and poultry in moderation.
Macronutrients per 3.5 ounces (100 g) in meat and poultry:
- Turkey: 0 g carbs, 12 g fat, 27 g protein
- Beef: 0 g carbs, 6 g fat, 123 g protein
- Chicken: 0 g carbs, 3 g fat, 32 g protein
- Sausages: 2 g carbs, 26 g fat, 18 g protein
3. Non-starchy Vegetables
Vegetables that are low in carbohydrates but still contain fiber are a good choice for the keto diet. They also contain high levels of micronutrients and antioxidants, which are vital to your health.
Non-starchy vegetables can be a great alternative to high-carb foods. For example, you can use cauliflower to make “rice” and zucchini to make noodles.
Macronutrients per 3.5 ounces (100 g) in low-carb, high-fiber vegetables:
- Zucchini: 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 0 g fat, 3 g protein
- Cauliflower: 4 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 0 g fat, 2 g protein
- Bell Peppers: 5 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 0 g fat, 1 g protein
- Broccoli: 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 0 g fat, 3 g protein
Avocados are an important part of the ketogenic diet, especially in the beginning. This is because avocados are rich in many vitamins and minerals, including potassium. By increasing your potassium intake, you can help alleviate many of the symptoms of the keto flu in the first few days of the ketogenic diet.
Regarding your long-term health, avocados have been found to help improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels. For example, one study found that increased avocado consumption led to a 22% reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and an 11% increase in “good” HDL cholesterol.
One half of a medium-sized avocado contains about 9 grams of carbohydrates, but 7 of those grams come from fiber. That means only 2 grams of net carbohydrates per avocado half, which makes avocados a keto-friendly, healthy choice.
Don’t like avocados? Try using avocado oil instead. While you won’t get all the vitamins and minerals as you would from eating a whole avocado, avocado oil contains mostly monounsaturated fat. This unsaturated fatty acid helps improve cholesterol levels and is stable enough to withstand high temperatures during cooking and baking.
There are hundreds of species of berries in the world, all of which contain different anthocyanins, the flavonoids responsible for their distinctive colors of red, blue and purple. These flavonoids also have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
For example, wild blueberries have been found to improve memory in older adults, and other studies have shown that they can protect the brain from inflammation. Raspberries and blackberries are rich in antioxidants and are thought to reduce inflammation and protect against disease.
When you’re on a ketogenic diet, it’s best to consume berries in moderation because of their relatively high net carbohydrate content.
Here are the carb counts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of some keto-friendly berries:
- Blackberries: 10 grams of total carbs (~5 grams of net carbs)
- Blueberries: 14 grams of total carbs (~12 grams of net carbs)
- Raspberries: 12 grams of total carbs (~5.5 grams of net carbs)
- Strawberries: 8 grams of total carbs (~5.5 grams of net carbs)
6. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a healthy addition to any diet.
Many studies have found that regular nut consumption is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, depression and obesity. Nuts and seeds also contain high amounts of fiber, which helps promote weight loss by increasing satiety.
Seeds also have many unique benefits. For example, flaxseed is the richest dietary source of lignan precursors, while sesame seeds have the highest phytosterol content of all nuts and seeds. Both lignans and phytosterols help reduce inflammation, heart disease risk and cancer risk.
However, it is highly recommended not to consume nut and seed oils alone as they contain unhealthy high levels of inflammatory omega-6. For this reason, it is best to consume whole or freshly ground nuts and seeds.
On a ketogenic diet, you will find many recipes that call for almond flour and flax meal, which are healthy low-carb flour alternatives. However, make sure you know how much of these low-carb flours you are using. Over-reliance on these nut and seed flours can unknowingly lead you to consume too many calories, carbohydrates and inflammatory fats.
While all nuts and seeds are low in net carbohydrates, the amount contained in different types of nuts and seeds varies greatly.
Here are the carb counts for 1 ounce (28 grams) of the most widely consumed nuts and seeds:
- Almonds: 6 grams of total carbs (3 grams of net carbs)
- Brazil nuts: 3 grams of total carbs (1 gram of net carbs)
- Cashews: 9 grams of total carbs (8 grams of net carbs)
- Macadamia nuts: 4 grams of total carbs (2 grams of net carbs)
- Pecans: 4 grams of total carbs (1 gram of net carbs)
- Pistachios: 8 grams of total carbs (5 grams of net carbs)
- Walnuts: 4 grams of total carbs (2 grams of net carbs)
- Chia seeds: 12 grams of total carbs (1 gram of net carbs)
- Flaxseeds: 8 grams of total carbs (0 grams of net carbs )
- Pumpkin seeds: 5 grams of total carbs (4 grams of net carbs)
- Sesame seeds: 7 grams of total carbs (3 grams of net carbs)
Eggs are an easy and affordable source of fat and protein, while also being low in carbohydrates, making them a great option for people following a keto diet.
While previous advice warned against eating more than 2 eggs per week, the latest research found that for most people, it’s okay to eat 1 egg a day, or 7 eggs a week.
8. High-fat Dairy Products
High-fat dairy products are a good source of protein as well as fat.
Some scientists have linked certain dairy products to health benefits. For example, yogurt can keep you fuller longer and provide beneficial probiotics for your intestines.
But not everyone agrees. A recent study found that people who replaced carbohydrates with animal products were more likely to die than those who replaced them with plant-based foods like nuts over a 25-year follow-up.
It may be a good idea to balance your dairy intake with plant-based foods while you’re on a keto diet.
Some oils are healthy sources of fat and do not contain carbohydrates. These oils include olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, nut oils and seed oils such as flax and hemp oil.
Studies have shown that olive oil can protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Both olives and olive oil are good choices for the keto diet because they have the same health benefits and almost no carbohydrates.
Some oils, such as avocado oil, sunflower oil and rice bran oil, are more stable when cooked on high heat.
10. High-cocoa Chocolate
Chocolate with high cocoa content is a good source of antioxidants, including flavanols. Studies have shown that it can improve heart health.
Keto-friendly chocolate should contain 70% cocoa or more. Chocolates lower in cocoa have a higher sugar content, which will increase your carbohydrate intake.
A 3.5 ounce (100 gram) serving of 70% cocoa chocolate contains 43 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 47 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein.
These are the top 10 foods for keto diet. As long as you make sure you get enough fiber by eating plenty of plant-based foods and stick to moderate amounts of meat and dairy, it’s possible to follow a keto diet and still eat healthy.