22 Foods to Eat on a Ketogenic Diet:
A ketogenic diet is a low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat nutrition plan. This article addresses some of the best foods to eat on a ketogenic diet.
Following a ketogenic diet has been effectively shown to improve cardiovascular health, regulate the endocrine system, stabilize blood glucose levels, support weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity in people with type-2 diabetes and even treat neurological dysfunction (8, 9).
Additionally, a ketogenic diet can improve your energy, cognitive acceleration and overall daily performance. Most people feel their best when in a state of mild-ketosis. One of the big challenges, is that most people have been raised on higher carb comfort foods. So rather than focusing on what foods you will miss, shift your energy to all the great foods you can enjoy. Here are 22 foods to eat on a ketogenic diet that you will LOVE!
1. Lemons & Limes:
Most citrus fruits are packed with sugar. Lemons and limes however offer you the pleasure of a low-glycemic fruit to enjoy regularly and are rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients like citric acid, vitamin C and bioflavonoids. (1)
Citric acid helps stabilize blood sugar levels and combat the inflammatory effects of sugar while also serving as an alkalizing agents for the body.
Lemons and limes are some of the best foods you can use daily to help detoxify the gastrointestinal tract because of their natural antiseptic properties. Add a fresh squeeze of lemon or lime to your water throughout the day and use in many food preparations such as meat marinades and dressings.
Herbs pact some of the most powerful antioxidants. Bitter herbs like ginger, turmeric, and parsley stimulate digestive function by improving gut health. They support enzyme and bile secretion from the liver as well as the gallbladder. Consequently food transit time increases, fats are better digested, and detoxification pathways are provided a boost. (2).
Carminative herbs like garlic and ginger add a pungent aroma to meals which is important for stimulating the flow of gastric juices in the stomach. Their natural oils increase bile flow so consider adding crushed garlic to your high fat meals and enjoy the smells circulating the kitchen. They are also high in vitamins A, polyphenols, amino acids and phytosterols. (3)
Other herbs like dried rosemary, sweet basil and oregano contain polyphenols that enhance organic acid synthesis by improving the gut flora (4). Organic acids are key to maintain bowel health and aid in nutrient absorption. These herbs destroy harmful bacteria and provide antioxidant, anti-viral and anti-fungal benefits to help you maintain a strong immune system (5).
3. Unsweetened Coffee and Tea:
You can continue drinking your regular coffee and tea when on a ketogenic diet but ditch the added processed sugars and milk. Creamers, artificial sweeteners and conventional dairy products produce inflammatory stress that destroy your gut health and cause damage to all organs in the body.
When consumed properly, coffee and tea are extremely beneficial to improving energy, gut health and brain function. Coffee and tea are no-carb beverages that contain caffeine to give your metabolism a kick. I always add XCT oil, grass-fed butter, stevia and cinnamon with my coffee for a creamy sweet fat burning coffee that tastes great!
Coffee contains chlorogenic acid that produces anti-inflammatory responses in the body and lowers blood sugar levels. Herbal teas provide various benefits from stimulating bile flow for a healthy liver to increasing detoxification processes. (58) You can also try bone broth coffee for a great tasting, high protein coffee flavored beverage.
4. Low-Carb Vegetables:
Increased vegetable intake is directly associated with a lower risk of chronic disease largely because of the polyphenols they contain (6). Low-carb vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and an assortment of antioxidants. This would include spinach, cucumbers, celery, parsley, cilantro, watercress, bok choy, etc.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale and cauliflower are lower in total net carbs and are extremely powerful at protecting cells against oxidative stress and tissue damage (7). Avoid starchy vegetables like white and sweet potato and substitute zucchini noodles into pasta dishes for a ketogenic approved “zoodle.”
Another very low-carb vegetable source that is full of nutrients but often forgotten is sprouts. Look to get broccoli, kale or alfalfa sprouts into your diet each day for glutathione boosting agents, enzymes and other phytonutrients. These low carb veggies are great foods to eat on a ketogenic diet.
5. Nuts and Seeds:
Some of the best foods you can consume while on the ketogenic diet are nuts and seeds. Walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin and chia seeds are low-carb, are high in omega fatty acids and can fuel your energy during the day.
Nuts and seeds are concentrated with powerful plant compounds that combat inflammation in the body and boost immune health. Choosing the right variety of nuts and seeds is key considering some varieties such as peanuts contribute to inflammation.
When consumed in moderation, the high fiber content of nuts and seeds can curb your appetite helping you to avoid excess calorie intake. The healthy fats and antioxidants in nuts is credited with providing the anti-inflammatory activities responsible for regulating lipid concentrations, preventing against depression, Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders (59).
Avocados are packed with healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals and only tip the scale with a net carb count of 2 grams (22).
Clinical studies support that the abundance of nutrients and antioxidants in a single serving of avocado promote healthy aging and weight management (25). Avocados are rich in potassium and magnesium shown to improve muscle strength and athletic endurance in individuals on a low-carb diet (24).
Nutrients often work synergistically in nature. For this reason, when the monounsaturated fats in avocados are paired with foods containing lycopene and beta-carotene they can actually increase the absorption of these antioxidants into the body. Monounsaturated fats also significantly decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels (23). Avocados are one of the amazing foods to eat on a ketogenic diet.
Although many fruits should be limited to maintain ketosis in the body, a small handful of berries can provide major anti-inflammatory benefits.
Given 3.5 ounces of each fruit, the net carb count for blackberries is only 5 grams followed by raspberries and strawberries at 6 grams while blueberries weigh in at 12 grams net carbs (26, 27, 28, 29).
Berries are one of the richest sources of phenolic compounds including anthocyanins, flavonoids, and tannins. These compounds reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, produce anti-carcinogenic activities, and exhibit anti-inflammatory responses preventing tissue damage that results from complications of diabetes (30, 31).
Eggs are a wholesome food that can be enjoyed while on the ketogenic diet. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, contain only 1 gram of carbs in single egg and can improve satiety (38).
Despite its bad reputation, consuming the egg yolk is a key part of receiving all the great health benefits eggs have to offer. The egg yolk is concentrated with essential vitamins and minerals like folate, iron, and vitamins A, B-12, D, E and K.
Research actually shows that eating the whole egg significantly improves lipid profiles compared to individuals who only consumed the protein rich egg white. It can also alleviate symptoms of metabolic syndrome by improving insulin resistance and supporting weight loss. (39, 40)
Be sure to choose organic fed free-range eggs from a local farmer for the highest quality egg. This is one of the best foods to eat on a ketogenic diet.
9. Meat and Poultry:
Consuming organic, 100% grass-fed beef and pasture-raised poultry is a must when eating a ketogenic diet. This will limit the toxins, hormones and harmful agents that can accumulate in conventionally raised meat.
Grass-fed meat and pasture-raised poultry contain omega-3 fatty acids that support brain function, heart health and can help control blood sugar levels that can lead to better weight management. CLAs (conjugated linoleic acids) support your immune system, regulate cardiovascular function and boost metabolic function. (42)
This staple food group is also an excellent source of B vitamins, zinc and the trace element selenium which exhibits powerful antioxidant function and is linked to a reduction in inflammatory diseases (41). Meat and poultry are some of the best foods to eat on a ketogenic diet. A great place to find healthy meat is through US Wellness Meats here
Supplementing the ketogenic diet with fish is a great way to optimize your omega-3 fatty acid intake. Wild caught fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines protect cardiovascular function, provide antioxidant protection to boost cellular health and inhibit neurological degeneration. (43)
Consumption of EPA and DHA in fish three times per week has been found to be a major predictor of better weight management because of improved insulin resistance (44). Furthermore, consuming at least 2 servings of fish per week is associated with a decrease in various types of chronic disease including cancer and Alzheimer disease (45, 46). It is also wise to use a high quality fish oil supplement to add more anti-inflammatory fish oils to your diet.
Seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse that combats inflammation, repairs oxidative damage and prevents against inflammatory diseases like cancer.
Seaweed is rich in vitamins B6 and C, and trace minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, zinc, iron, magnesium and iodine. Such nutrients support the immune system, reduce blood pressure, help curb cravings, and balances hormones (56).
Seaweed also contains essential fatty acids like EPA, amino acids, and other bioactive agents that provide a wide array of human health benefits. These compounds are helpful to reducing inflammation in the body and improves healthy aging and longevity. (57)
Sea Snax offers a seaweed treat that you can easily snack on to incorporate incredibly dense nutrients into a ketogenic diet.
12. Grass-Fed Butter/Ghee and Cream:
When it comes to dairy, choosing products that are full-fat instead of low-fat or fat-free is preferred. Butter, ghee and cream from grass-fed cows is not only more nutritious, but people who consume full-fat dairy products have a reduced likelihood of being overweight or obese (19).
These foods contain vitamins A, D, E and K, essential fatty acids like omega-3s and CLAs. These nutrients are anti-inflammatory, balance insulin levels, increase metabolism, support digestive health and gives detoxification pathways a jumpstart so that you can burn fat more efficiently. (20, 21)
One of the benefits of consuming ghee (clarified butter), is that it contains no lactose or casein making it a suitable food for individuals with milk intolerances. Grass-fed butter/ghee or cream are some of the best foods to eat on a ketogenic diet.
13. Coconut Milk & Coconut Milk Yogurt:
Non-dairy coconut milk and yogurt made from coconut milk are an excellent source of healthy fats. They contain medium-chain triglycerides that boost metabolism, energize the brain and help balance hormones which can influence your satiety and mood over an extended period of time (10).
In addition, the high fat content of coconut based milk and yogurt exhibit a paradoxical relationship with risks factors for heart disease. Intake of these foods protect against the formation of plaque in arteries and is associated with the reduced occurrence of heart attack and stroke (53).
Organic full-fat coconut milk is a great option to include into smoothies, stews, and use in ketogenic desserts. So Delicious provides a cultured coconut milk yogurt that is the perfect yogurt alternative for individuals with intolerances to dairy. Coconut milk and coconut yogurt are some of the best foods to eat on a ketogenic diet.
14. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder:
You may have thought that chocolate would be off limits when in fact 1 ounce of chocolate made with 100% cacao powder contains only 3 grams of net carbs. Dark chocolate is rich vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium. (17)
Unrefined cacao powder contains the highest concentration of flavanols and is often marketed as a super food because of its antioxidant effects. Cocoa powder helps break down nitric oxide in the blood improving heart and brain function resulting in increased circulation and reduced free oxidative injury (18).
So go ahead and indulge in a little dark chocolate in your day along with the other staple foods you should be eating on a ketogenic diet.
When consumed in moderation, cheese is the perfect meal accompaniment or snack to fuel your satiety on the ketogenic diet. Organic cheese from grass-fed animals contains CLAs that drive metabolism, help burn fat and enhance immunity (51).
Choosing the healthiest products like raw cheese also aids in healthier digestion. The milk’s natural enzymes are preserved which breaks down lactose and increases the availability of nutrients like calcium and protein into the body.
Although cheese is a source of saturated fats, studies actually correlate increased cheese consumption in high-fat, low-carb diets with healthier cholesterol levels and may decrease the risk for cardiovascular problems (52).
16. Plain Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese:
Fermented milk in Greek yogurt contains a host of beneficial bacteria that promote gut health and overall wellness. Both yogurt and cottage cheese without added sweeteners stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels and contain protein which helps control appetite and improve energy (47, 48).
Avoid adding high-glycemic sweeteners to either food and 5 ounces of both plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese will have about 5 grams of carbs. Cottage cheese packs the stronger protein punch with 18 grams compared to 11 grams of protein in the yogurt (49, 50). Because these are higher in protein and lower in fat, be careful not to over consume these. As with any dairy, choose yogurt and cottage cheese sourced from grass-fed cows for maximum nutrition.
17. Coconut Oil:
Coconut oil contains a combination of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and long-chain fatty acids that support a ketogenic diet. Lauric acid is the dominating fatty acid most concentrated in unrefined coconut oil. Coconut oil provides many benefits including the ability to regulate blood sugar and hormone levels, boost thyroid function, fuel the human body’s metabolic demands and provide healing support to cells, tissue and organs. (11, 12)
In one 12 week study, obese individuals who daily supplemented coconut oil into their diets had a decrease in abdominal fat (13). Virgin coconut oil contains the greatest concentration of MCTs and does not contribute to fat deposits unlike long-chain fatty acids.
Adding coconut oil to your diet is an inexpensive and safe way to combat belly fat and boost brain function. Swap out processed oils that contribute deleterious effects to the body like vegetable oil with coconut oil in cooking, baking and add to smoothies and hot beverages.
18. MCT Oil:
MCT oil is not the same as coconut oil. MCT oil contains 100% medium-chain triglycerides. Consumption of MCT oil supports the body in maintaining ketosis while consuming proteins and carbohydrates.
Unlike long-chain fatty acids, MCTs decrease the caloric load of fats to less than 70%. It provides an efficient energy supply because of its rapid conversion into ketone bodies and exhibits brain protective benefits. (10)
MCT oil serves as the perfect substitute for your heavy creamers in coffee and tea and can be used abundantly in cooking practices. I personally use and recommend the bulletproof XCT oil here
19. Olive Oil:
Olive oil is another good fat that the ketogenic diet is built upon. For good reason this flavorful fat has long been a staple of the Mediterranean diet and Spanish cuisine. Its concentration of the monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, is linked to a reduction in cardiovascular disease including related stroke and death rates (14).
Using unrefined extra virgin olive oil contains the greatest concentration of antioxidants because many plant compounds are destroyed during heating processes. Olive oil contains vitamin E that helps scavenger free radicals, provide minerals for bone health and also protection against diabetes (15, 16).
Prepare your own salad dressings with olive oil and herbs, use as a mayonnaise alternative and avoid high temperature cooking that can initiate the natural occurrence of free radicals forming in food.
Most of the carbohydrates in olives is in the form of fiber which means you can consume about 7 olives for a count of 1 gram net carbs (32).
Another staple of diets associated with a low occurrence of cardiovascular disease amongst the population, olives contain hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein which give olive oil its pungent taste and aroma. These polyphenols have a high absorption rate (up to 60%) and are made easily available to the human body (33).
Oleuropein has been shown to produce numerous antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-bacterial benefits. Olive consumption is followed with the release of glutathione in cardiac tissue and the downregulation of carcinogenic activity throughout the body. (34, 33) Olives and olive oil are great foods to eat on a ketogenic diet. I like the pitted Kalamata olives here
21. Coconut Flour, Flakes & Butter:
Coconut flakes, flour and butter are all good sources of fiber that can be easily supplemented to a ketogenic diet. Considered a functional food, unsweetened coconut flakes help improve lipid levels by reducing triglyceride and LDL levels (54).
Furthermore, the high dietary fiber from coconut flakes, coconut flour and coconut butter has been shown to lower the risk for diabetes by decreasing blood glucose levels and preventing against intestinal cancers (55).
Easily incorporate coconut flakes into your diet by adding them to trail mix, ketogenic desserts, smoothies, or using as an alternative to bread crumbs in coating poultry. Try this brand of coconut flakes by Lets Do Organics for coconut flakes with no added sweeteners or preservatives. Nutiva makes a great coconut butter that they call coconut manna here
22. Shirataki Noodles:
Shirataki noodles are made from the fermentable dietary fiber glucomannan. Glucomannan can hold up to 50 times its weight in water alone making 1 serving of shirataki noodles 1 gram net carb. Studies suggests that individuals who consume 2 to 4 grams of these noodles daily are more likely to lose weight by increasing satiety and improving gut motility. Evidence shows that glucomannan reduces the glycemic load of foods and supports healthy cholesterol levels. (35)
Individuals with type-2 diabetes have especially found to have major health benefits from the consumption of this compound in foods like shirataki noodles. Although glucose levels elevated following a meal with glucomannan, studies show that insulin levels in type-2 diabetics is not significantly impacted. (36, 37) I use these shiratki noodles on a regular basis. This is one of the best foods to eat on a ketogenic diet.