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The 12 Best Keto Foods – Zero Carb Foods That Don't Break Ketosis

Published: 13th May 2018. Last updated: 21th July 2019.

Luna Smithton

Editor & Fact Checker


Introduction

Chances are, you’ve heard a lot about the keto or ketogenic diet because it is one of the most popular diets out there right now.

But for those who haven’t, a ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet which is said to help you burn fat more effectively.

The diet has received praise from people who have managed to shed unwanted pounds by eating keto-friendly foods – as well as for its wide range of health benefits such as lowering triglyceride [1], “bad” (LDL) cholesterol [2], and blood sugar levels [3].

The effectiveness of the keto diet in helping you lose weight has been backed by numerous research studies [4], however, the diet has been surrounded by controversy, too. Some people claim the keto diet raises cholesterol levels and may lead to heart disease, though there haven't been much data to support such speculations.

So, what does one eat on a keto diet? Read on to find out what the best keto diet foods are, and what you should be buying at a supermarket to reap the benefits of this popular low-carb diet.

1. Leafy Green Vegetables

Non-starchy, green veggies are an essential part of a low-keto diet since they can be used to replace higher-carb foods.

Low-carb vegetables include things like lettuce, kale, spinach, asparagus, avocados, bok choy, tomatoes, zucchini, and many more [5]. These types of vegetables contain plenty of nutrients and minerals, are a rich source of antioxidants [6], and provide our bodies with much-needed vitamin C.

On top of that, vegetables and plant foods are fiber-rich – and fiber isn’t digested. This means it won’t be absorbed by your body like other carbs.

While most vegetables contain few net carbs, you should be careful not to consume too many starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnip, beets, and yams. Root vegetables generally contain more carbs – and you should consume them with care. For example, one serving of baked potato without salt contains 13.1 grams of total carbohydrates [7].

The net carb for non-starchy veggies (which tend to grow above ground), however, ranges from about 1 gram (in raw spinach) [8] to 8 grams (a cup of Brussels sprouts) [9].

Add in the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables (like reduced risk of heart disease and cancer) [10, 11], and you’ll see why consuming plenty of low-carb vegetables should be part of any diet!

2. Red & White Meat

Since fresh meat and poultry contain no carbs and are fantastic sources of B vitamins and minerals like selenium, potassium, and zinc [12] – it isn’t surprising that these types of products are known as the staple foods of a keto diet.

When we’re on a very low-carb diet, our bodies are at risk of losing muscle mass. Getting enough quality protein can help us preserve it – and meat and poultry are fantastic sources of it [13].

However, it is important to make sure you incorporate “the right kinds” of meat and poultry into your diet and choose meat that comes from grass-fed animals. This type of meat is generally healthier and more nutritious than meat that comes from grain-fed animals [14].

3. Fish

While seafood is consumed on a keto diet, it is important to know which types of seafood are keto-friendly, and which aren’t. Within the seafood range, some foods are low in carbs or contain no carbs, while other types do. For example, shrimp contains no carbs – while other types of shellfish do [15].

Salmon is a particularly keto-friendly food because it is incredibly nutritious and completely carb-free! Loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, potassium, and selenium, salmon is one of the most nutritionally-dense foods and has a ton of health benefits [16].

With salmon and other fish, try and purchase wild-caught fish since it is generally considered to be healthier than farmed fish.

4. Avocados

Avocado is an incredibly nutritious and unique fruit, which has a wealth of health benefits – from reducing the levels of bad cholesterol to helping you reduce gut inflammation.

In addition, avocado is naturally a weight-loss-friendly food since it has been shown to make people feel fuller for longer. Some studies have shown that supplementing meals with avocado made people feel more satisfied with their food – and significantly lowered their desire to eat over the next 5 hours [17].

And, even though avocados are high in calories and fat, they aren’t fattening – if you consume them in moderation. Stick to reasonable portions like half an avocado to avoid consuming too many calories.

5. Eggs

Eggs are ideal for a keto lifestyle because they are low in carbs and high in quality protein [18]. They are also rich in vitamin B2, selenium, vitamin D, B12, B6, and iron, zinc, and copper – making them one of the healthiest foods on the planet!

Not only are eggs incredibly nutritious – but they have also been shown to increase the feelings of fullness and stabilize blood sugar levels which means you'll be consuming fewer calories during your day.

You may have heard that egg yolk is high in cholesterol and while that’s true, consuming them won’t raise blood cholesterol in most people. The opposite of that - there is actually some evidence that eggs may reduce the risk of heart disease! [19]

Egg yolk also contains antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin which have been shown to be great for our eye health [20].

6. Cheese

It won’t come as a surprise when we say that cheese is one of American’s favorite foods [21]. Luckily, it is also keto-friendly. Most cheese types are low in carbs and high in fat, making them a great fit for a ketogenic diet [22]. Cheese is also a fantastic source of calcium, protein, and phosphorus.

Cheese is high in saturated fat, but currently, no data suggests it may lead to problems like heart disease. Quite the opposite, in fact – some research has shown that eating cheese could protect your heart [23]!

Cheese may also have other health benefits, like protecting your teeth from cavities [24] and preventing obesity due to the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) cheese contains [25]. Finally, some studies have shown that cheese could help reduce the loss of muscle mass which happens as a result of aging [26].

7. Plain Greek Yogurt

High in protein, potassium, and calcium [27], plain Greek yogurt is a healthy, low-carb food that is perfect for those on a keto diet.

170 grams of plain Greek yogurt contains 17 grams of protein and only about 6.1 grams of carbs (which is about 6% of the daily value).

Yogurt has also been shown to increase feelings of fullness, reduce appetite, and promote body weight stability which is a benefit for those looking to manage their weight [28].

And if you’re not a fan of yogurt, try cottage cheese since it has very similar qualities and is just as good for promoting weight loss [29].

8. Butter and Cream

You may be surprised to see these on a list of diet-friendly foods at all, but butter and cream are good low-carb fats to include on a keto diet. They are high in conjugated linoleic acid – the fatty acid which has been found to support fat loss [30].

While traditionally it has been believed that the saturated fat is linked to heart disease, this was more of an assumption rather than a fact based on evidence. This claim was based on observational data, animal studies, and assumptions rather than facts [31].

In fact, some studies have even shown that consumption of high-fat dairy may reduce the risk of stroke and heart-attack [32][33].

9. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are the perfect keto diet snack because they are incredibly rich in fiber – as well as healthy fats. Eating plenty of nuts has been linked to many health benefits, such as reduced risk of heart disease, depression, as well as cancer [34].

The fact that nuts are high in fiber is important because foods rich in fiber can help you feel fuller for longer and consume fewer calories (which is great when following a diet overall) [35].

Here are the carb contents of the most popular types of nuts (for 1 ounce or 28 grams):

  • Almonds: 3 grams net carbs; 6 grams total [36]
  • Brazil nuts: 1 gram net carbs; 3 grams total [37]
  • Macadamia nuts: 2 grams net carbs; 4 grams total [38]
  • Pecans: 1 gram net carbs; 4 grams total [39]
  • Cashews: 8 grams net carbs; 9 grams total [40]

10. Berries

It is widely known that berries are good for you. And – while most fruits are too high in carb content to be part of a keto diet, berries are an integral part of it!

High in antioxidants which may help fight inflammation and protect against various diseases [41][42], berries make a fantastic healthy snack or can be added to smoothies and low-calorie desserts.

11. Olives (And Olive Oil)

Olives and olive oil have incredible health benefits – particularly because they’re high in antioxidants. The main antioxidant found in olives has been found to protect your cells from damage – as well as have anti-inflammatory properties [43]. Studies have also found that eating olives may be beneficial for our bones by preventing bone loss [44], as well as reducing blood pressure [45].

Extra-virgin olive oil also provides impressive benefits for your heart. High in monounsaturated heart-healthy fats and antioxidants, it may protect your heart by helping reduce inflammation in the body [46] – and improving artery function [47].

Bear in mind that olive oil isn't as great for cooking at high temperatures – so it would be best to use it for low-heat cooking, or just add it to foods after they have been cooked.

12. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is very suitable for ketogenic meal cooking – particularly at mid-temperature (it isn’t recommended to cook with it at higher than 171 C)

Research has shown it has a range of health benefits, from helping obese adults shed weight and lose belly fat [51] to promoting a sustained level of ketosis due to it being high in lauric acid and medium-chain triglycerides [52].

Coconut oil has been used to increase the levels of ketone in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease – as well as other brain and nervous system disorders [53].

Interestingly, research has shown that populations that eat a lot of coconut oil are actually healthier than those that don’t. An example of such a population is the Tokelauans living in the South Pacific. Researchers studied their eating habits and found that they used to get more than 60 percent of their calories from coconuts. The records showed that their health was excellent – and they had a very low rate of heart disease [54].

Conclusion

The ketogenic diet is increasing in popularity among those looking to lose weight – and has been shown to be useful for weight loss.

Not only is this low-carb, high-fat diet great for shedding unwanted pounds, but it also has many other health benefits – such as being beneficial for Alzheimer's disease, and even some types of cancers.

The keto diet limits daily carb intake to about 20-50 grams per day – and even though that may seem a little challenging, there are plenty of varied foods that can be included in keto diet so you can get a wide range of nutrients and vitamins without exceeding your carb limit.

These foods are incredibly healthy and loaded with vitamins our bodies need – so, consume as many of them to reap the health benefits of a ketogenic diet!

The main keto-friendly products are low-carb vegetables, seafood, and meat and poultry. These products are fantastic sources of nutrients and are low in carbs.

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