When trying to lose weight, everybody knows that a low fat diet is the way to go, right? Except that it’s not. It turns out that low fat diets are not only detrimental to our health, but also to our weight loss as well.
Decades ago, so-called health “experts” were quick to demonize fat and blame it for every health issue in the world. People were advised to cut way back on fat and to stick with low calorie diets and opt for fat-free products or reduced fat alternatives. It turns out that this was one of the worst things we could have done.
As the years went by, we discovered that healthy fats were not just okay for our weight loss ventures, but they were also considered essential when it came to our general health and well-being.
Fast forward to the present day and high fat, low carb, moderate protein diets such as keto are now hugely popular and have been found to not only promote weight loss, but a whole bunch of other health benefits too.
But which foods are keto-friendly, and which should we avoid?
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Fruit? Isn’t keto a low carb diet, and isn’t fruit packed full of naturally occurring fructose sugars? Well, yes and no. Keto is indeed a low carb diet, and certain fruits do contain a lot of natural sugars, but not all.
There are plenty of fruits which can be consumed on keto in moderation, that are very healthy and surprisingly low in sugars. These include the following:
Avocado –Many people assume that avocados are actually vegetables, when in reality they’re fruits. Avocados are one of the healthiest fat sources in the world, making them perfect for keto.
Known as “nature’s butter” because of their rich and creamy texture, avocados contain heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, more potassium gram-for-gram than bananas, zinc, and vitamins C, E, K, and B6, making them great for the immune system and metabolism. Avocados also contain fiber, which promotes a healthy digestive system.
Coconut “meat” –Coconut meat, also known as coconut flesh, is the white “flesh” found within a coconut, that has a meaty texture.
It tastes just as you’d expect coconut to taste and is loaded full of anti-bacterial goodness. Packed full of fiber which helps promote satiety and reduce LDL cholesterol while boosting digestive health, coconut meat is also rich in medium chain triglycerides, AKA MCTs, which are metabolized quicker than other fats, and so provide a near boost of energy.
Star fruit –Star fruit gets its name because of its unique star-shaped qualities. It is a fruit that many keto followers cannot get enough of.
Also known as Carambola fruit, start fruit possesses anti-inflammatory properties, it’s packed full of vitamin C for immunity, and it is packed full of antioxidants including quercetin and gallic acid, which help to eradicate free radicals and prevent oxidative stress in the body and keep your cells safe. Star fruit is also a mineral-rich powerhouse as it is full of zinc, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, manganese, and many more besides. Each mineral plays a key role in countless physiological processes in the body, so the more you consume the healthier you are.
Tomatoes –Yes, tomatoes are a fruit, and yes, they are keto friendly.
Tomatoes are a great source of fiber, making them ideal for the digestive system. They’re also rich in vitamin C, and antioxidants. In particular, tomatoes are rich in an antioxidant known as lycopene, which is responsible for giving them their rich red colour.
To increase lycopene absorption, tomatoes should ideally be slightly cooked before being consumed, so for max health benefits, try not to eat your tomatoes completely raw.
Blackberries –Blackberries are one of the lowest carb fruits in existence, as they contain very small amounts of naturally occurring sugars – hence their inclusion on this list.
Blackberries are high in vitamin C, they contain soluble fiber, they’re a great source of manganese, and they contain vitamin K, which assists with the clotting of your blood. One cup of blackberries contains just 62 calories and 14g of carbs, along with a low glycaemic index, coming in at just 25.
Strawberries –Strawberries are renowned for their delicious sweet taste and fruity aroma, and yet despite their amazing taste, they are extremely low in carbohydrates.
They contain immune system boosting vitamins such as vitamin C, and vitamin B9, also known as folate, which is vital for optimal cellular function and healthy tissue production.
Talking of your cells, strawberries also contain heaps of antioxidants, including Ellagic Acid, which is a polyphenol that promotes healthy cellular function.
If you want a keto-friendly treat that seems too good to be true, but is actually very low in carbs, simply take a small bowl of ripe strawberries and enjoy with a serving of cream.
Lemons –Lemons, despite being high in citric acid, are actually an alkalizing fruit, making them great for restoring your body’s alkalinity levels if your PH balance is out of sync.
Lemons are one of the best fruits for boosting the immune system, and way back when, were often consumed by sailors out at sea to prevent scurvy, which was a condition brought on by a weakened immune system.
Cantaloupe –Cantaloupe is another type of melon, though this one looks and tastes very different to watermelon.
Cantaloupe has a distinctly sweet taste, yet despite this, it is extremely low in natural sugars, making it a great fruit to enjoy on keto.
Up next we’re going to be taking a look at several of the most popular, and healthiest, vegetables suitable for consumption on a ketogenic diet.
These vegetables include, but are not limited to:
Artichokes – Artichokes are ideal for keto diets as they are filling due to their high fiber contents, despite being low in calories and carbohydrates. Artichokes are nutritional powerhouses as they contain vitamins C, K, and B6, as well as minerals like zinc, iron, copper, potassium, and phosphorus, along with riboflavins and other antioxidants.
Asparagus – Asparagus is a vegetable that goes incredibly well with salmon and red meat, which also both happen to be keto-friendly.
Asparagus is also very healthy, though, as it contains potent amounts of antioxidants, it provides anti-inflammatory benefits, and it contains fiber, folate, and vitamins A, C, D, K, and E.
Bell Peppers – Bell peppers provide a unique sweetness to savoury dishes, despite being very low in natural sugars.
They’re also very bright and vibrant in colour, which is due to their naturally high antioxidant contents, including Lycopene, which could help prevent cancer. Bell peppers boost the immune system and also provide anti-viral and anti-bacterial benefits, making them ideal for the prevention of infection.
Broccoli – Broccoli is considered a superfood because of its incredibly high nutritional contents. Broccoli is rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin K, as well as iron for healthy haemoglobin production and red blood cell counts.
You’ll also find heaps of folic acid in broccoli, and metabolism-boosting vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6.
Brussels Sprouts – Brussels sprouts are members of the brassica family, and are a food that people either love, or loathe.
Like other brassica family members, they’re rich in vitamin K, as half a cup will provide 137% of your recommended minimum daily intake. Brussels are also high in antioxidants, which help to protect your cells and reduce your risk of chronic illness and disease.
Cauliflower –Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable that is packed full of fiber and B vitamins. Keto diets are renowned for their health benefits on the brain, and by eating cauliflower your brain will benefit even more as it is packed full of choline, which provides many potent cognitive health benefits and may even help to prevent degenerative brain illnesses.
Celeriac –Celeriac may have a unique appearance (some describe it as looking like a brain) but don’t let that put you off because it is a great keto-friendly food.
Celeriac is a great source of vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 which is great for the brain, for mental health, the metabolism, and the production of haemoglobin. As well as that, you’ll also find heaps of potassium which prevents muscle cramping, and phosphorus, which assists with the excretion of waste products by the kidneys.
Celery –Celery is a food that many people overlook in terms of its health benefits, due to its high water content. In truth, celery is a nutritional powerhouse. Celery contains antioxidants such as beta carotene, vitamin C, and other flavonoids. It also fights and prevents inflammation.
Chilli Peppers –Chilli peppers vary greatly in terms of shape, size, colour, texture, appearance, and heat.
One thing they all have in common, though, is the fact that they’re rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, anti-inflammatory properties, minerals, and that they’re low in carbs and can be used in a number of keto friendly dishes.
Cucumbers –Cucumbers may have a subtle taste and be quite water, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that they aren’t as healthy as some of the other keto-friendly foods on our list today.
Egg Plant –Egg plant is ideal on keto because there are a number of different varieties to choose from.
Egg plant helps assist with digestion, it’s rich in folic acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) vitamin K, magnesium, niacin, iron, copper, manganese, and potassium.
It also contains impressive amounts of calcium, making it great for the teeth and bones.
Fennel –Fennel has an unmistakable aniseed-like taste that compliments a wide variety of different meat and fish dishes.
It’s therefore great for people on ketogenic diets. Fennel is also a very healthy ingredient as it helps reduce blood pressure, it’s a great source of vitamin C, it is rich in minerals including potassium, manganese, and phosphorus, plus it contains polyphenols which provide antioxidant benefits for the body.
Garlic –Garlic is one of the most flavoursome ingredients in existence. There aren’t many savoury dishes that garlic cannot improve.
It not only tastes great, but it also happens to be fantastic for immunity. Garlic is full of antioxidants and provides a number of antibacterial and antiviral benefits, whilst also helping to reduce blood pressure, which makes it ideal for cardiovascular health.
Green Beans –Green beans are a fantastic side dish for a number of keto-friendly main dishes.
They’re high in immune system-boosting vitamins, as well as being great for the skin, hair, and bones, thanks to their silicon contents.
Offering a great crunchy texture and subtle taste, green beans are a great addition to any keto-friendly main dish.
Jalapeno Peppers –Jalapeno peppers are one of the milder chilli peppers, yet they possess many of the same health benefits as other chillies, so expect plenty of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and minerals.
For weight loss benefits, jalapenos are also ideal as they boost the metabolism thanks to compounds known as capsaisinoids. As an added bonus, if you want a keto-friendly snack while watching the game, you can whip up some buffalo chicken jalapeno poppers.
Jicama –Jicama is one of the lesser-known vegetables on our list today, but don’t let that put you off, because it’s as tasty as it is healthy.
Jicama is a root vegetable that contains the usual vitamins you’d expect to find in vegetables, as well as vitamin E and healthy fats.
Jicama is also essential for longevity as it is full of antioxidants including selenium, beta-carotene, and ascorbic acid.
Leeks –Leeks not only work very well with heavy cream dishes, they’re also great for making soups and broths on keto. Leeks are a good source of fiber, they’re rich in iron for healthy red blood cell counts, and contain large amounts of vitamins A, C, and K in particular.
Okra –Okra, which is also known as Lady’s Fingers, is technically a fruit, though it is used as a vegetable for culinary purposes, which is why we’re including it here.
Okra contains vitamins A, C, K, and B6, as well as a large amount of minerals including magnesium. It has been found to reduce LDL cholesterol, making it a very heart-healthy ingredient.
Mushrooms –Mushrooms are a very versatile food that are low in carbs and high in flavour.
With so many varieties to choose from it’s easy to see why people love them so much on keto.
Mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D, and have been found to boost healthy HDL cholesterol.
Onions – Onions form the base of a whole variety of different savoury keto friendly dishes, and if used sparingly, you can really keep your carb intakes low while improving the taste no end.
Onions are well-known for their immune system-boosting properties as they contain vitamin C, and B vitamins including vitamin B6 and vitamin B9.
What’s more, they contain over 25 types of flavonoid, so the antioxidant content is very high indeed.
As keto is a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet, we now need to emphasize the fats that are vital to make this diet successful.
Avocado oil – Avocados, as we looked at earlier, are very well known for being wonderful forms of heart-healthy fats.
Avocado oil is made from avocados and is rich in oleic acid that promotes many different aspects of cardiovascular health.
It can also reduce LDL cholesterol increase nutrient absorption rates, and help fight and prevent inflammation.
Butter – Butter on keto is very versatile as you can use it for cooking, for marinades, and you can even use it to add richness to your coffee. If possible, opt for grass-fed butter. Butter helps to boost the metabolism, it increases energy levels, it promotes the production of ketones, and it speeds up the metabolization of fats.
Cocoa butter – Cocoa butter is derived from cocoa beans and is often used in desserts, especially those containing chocolate.
Rich in heart healthy fatty acids, cocoa butter not only boosts cardiovascular health, it’s also great for the brain and can help improve cognitive health and function.
It is also rich in antioxidants that provide anti-aging benefits, both on a cellular level and externally.
Ghee – Ghee is clarified butter and is widely used in Indian cuisine.
Ghee is natural and is free of trans fats and is rich in essential fatty acids. Ghee also contains conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA for short, which strengthens immunity and can prevent chronic illness and disease.
It also has a higher smoking point than oil, so can withstand higher temperatures without burning.
Coconut oil – Coconut oil is a delicious oil derived from coconuts that provides a distinctly coconutty taste and a non-greasy texture to dishes.
Coconut oil provides instant bursts of energy as it contains MCTs which are metabolized much faster than other triglycerides.
Olive oil – For many decades now, olive oil has been considered a healthy oil, and things are no different to this day.
Olive oil provides monounsaturated fats including oleic acid, which is extremely beneficial for the heart and the brain.
It’s also a great source of vitamins E and K, as well as antioxidants.
MCT oil – MCT oil is oil which has been derived from ingredients containing medium chain triglycerides, including coconut oil.
It is metabolized much faster than fats with longer triglyceride chains and so it is great for energy production, both physically and mentally.
Because the fats are used straight away for energy, they aren’t stored as body fat, making MCTs great for weight loss.
On keto, meat is a staple for many as it forms the bulk of whichever main dishes are being consumed.
Not all meats are as keto-friendly as you’d think, though. You see, many processed meats on keto diets are simply not suitable because they are often fortified with added cereals, grains, and sometimes even dextrose, which is a sugar, to preserve the food for longer, make the ingredients stretch further, and enhance the taste and texture.
Avoid processed meats such as bologna, sliced ham and deli meats, salami, pastrami, and many types of sausage. If you do buy sausage, read the ingredients as ideally you want one that contains no cereals, grains, or carbs.
Chicken breast is also one to watch, as some cheaper cuts are pumped full of water, salt, and again dextrose, so read the packaging.
Other than that, generally all other cuts of meat are fine, and yes, that includes fattier cuts of meat such as lamb or ribeye, that you would ordinarily avoid when trying to lose weight.
On keto, fish is very important because it is a great source of protein, it contains minerals such as zinc and iron, and many types of fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and other oily fishes, are actually loaded full of healthy fats.
If possible, avoid canned fish as it may contain hidden carbs, as well as dangerous levels of mercury and sodium, which could damage your health and even potentially knock you out of ketosis.
When buying fish, you should also try to opt for the fresh cuts, and avoid ready meals, or fish dishes that come with sauces as they could contain hidden carbs.
As well as fish, keto-friendly seafood in the form of mussels, oysters, prawns, langoustines, shrimp, and shellfish are also very beneficial.
These are not only rich in protein, but they also naturally are free from carbohydrates, and often contain B vitamins, vitamin D, and minerals such as zinc, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and many more.
Again, opt for the seafood in its natural form and avoid dishes pre-prepared, as you never know what they may contain.
On keto, never underestimate the importance of herbs.
No matter how enticing the prospect of bacon and eggs for breakfast may be, after a while you will get sick of bland tasting meats and fish dishes and you will crave something with a little more taste.
Herbs on keto are fantastic because they’re virtually all free from carbs and sugars, they contain vitamins and minerals, and they can enhance all manner of different dishes.
Dill for example, is a herb that works unbelievably well with fish and seafood, and can be combined with other ingredients such as cream for example, to make a simple but delicious sauce.
Rosemary is a herb that is rich in antioxidants that also happens to go incredibly well with lamb and other richer red meats, as well as with garlic to enhance vegetable side dishes.
Tarragon has been found to regulate blood sugar levels and it goes very well with chicken.
Then there’s sage, which is a match made in heaven when used with pork.
You can even add a selection of different herbs and combine them with roasted garlic and butter to make a flavoured butter to really take your dishes to the next level.
Keto-Friendly Eggs and Dairy
On keto, eggs are fantastic as they are versatile, high in protein, rich in choline for the brain, as well as other minerals and B vitamins, and healthy fats from the yolk.
Dairy on the other hand, is a tricky one. On the one hand you can use butter and cream, and cheese, though it should be used sparingly. On the other hand, milk is not permitted because it contains a naturally occurring sugar in the form of lactose.
Finally, we have nuts. Nuts on the keto diet make fantastic snack foods, plus they can be used in savoury and sweet dishes to enhance the taste and texture.
Nuts are fantastic because they’re high in protein, there are so many to choose from, they contain healthy fats, and they are often ready to consume right away. Some of the best nuts on keto include:
- Cashew nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
If buying nuts, avoid ones coated in honey or sugar, and try to avoid flavoured ones as some seasonings may contain carbs.