The keto diet is known as an eating plan that involves the consumption of low-carb and high-fat foods. The result of eating such foods is weight loss, which is beneficial for those who are trying to manage their weight. This is due to the massive reduction in one’s carb intake, which is replaced by fat instead. And it is because of this that the body reaches the natural metabolic state known as ketosis. Consequently, the body becomes highly efficient in burning fat to be used for energy. It has also been observed to convert ketones in the liver into energy, which is used to power one’s brain.
Ketosis and Fat Burning
When in a state of ketosis, the body’s blood glucose reserves become too low to allow for normal fat oxidation. This makes the body unable to supply glucose to the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS can’t use fatty acids bring a source of fuel. This is because free fatty acids can’t cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). After 3 to 4 days without carbs, the CNS will have to look for alternative sources of fuel.
One of these sources is the ketone bodies (KBs), particularly β-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate, and acetone. These are primarily created through ketogenesis, which takes place in the liver, and within the mitochondrial matrix. Ketone bodies are a significant source of energy when the body is fasting state or if there’s a lack of carbohydrates.
Foods to Eat While on Keto
Even if you know what a low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet is, you won’t exactly know what foods to eat while on a keto diet. Here is a list of foods you can eat, those you can limit, and those that you can take moderately while following the keto diet.
Fish and Seafood
Fish is loaded with selenium, potassium, and B vitamins. It is also rich in proteins and free of carbs. Examples of these are mackerel, sardines, salmon, albacore tuna, as well as other fatty fish. All these have high omega-3 fat content, which is known to improve hemoglobin A1c levels. This is a type of test that measures your blood sugar levels for three months. A published review showed that frequent consumption of fish is linked to a decrease in risks of chronic disease and it also improves mental health.
Meat and Poultry
Meat is a great source of lean protein. It is only known as a staple on the keto diet. Poultry and fresh meat don’t contain carbs. They are rich in B vitamins as well as other minerals, which include zinc, potassium, and selenium. Processed meats are allowed while on keto but they are not heart-friendly, and they may also increase the risk of certain cancers.
Nonstarchy vegetables have low calorie and carb content, but they are loaded with many other nutrients including vitamin C and other minerals. They are also loaded with antioxidants that can help in protecting them against free radicals that are hazardous to cells. Look for nonstarchy veggies that have less than 8 grams of net carbs for every cup.
Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are loaded with calcium and are high in protein content. A 2019 published study revealed that protein and calcium can suppress appetite and boost fullness.
Seeds, Nuts, and Healthy Oils
Seeds and nuts are loaded with healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats along with protein and fiber. They are quite low in net carbs. Olive oil and coconut oil are highly recommended on keto. Olive oil has a high content of oleic acid, and it is often associated with a lower risk of heart disease. On the other hand, coconut oil is rich in saturated fat but it has medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are known to increase the production of ketones. MCTs are linked to an increase in metabolic rate. They also help eliminate weight loss and loss of belly fat.
Coffee and Tea without Sugar
Plain tea and coffee have no carbs, protein, or fat. They are approved for the keto diet. A 2022 published study revealed that drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee daily lessens the risk of cardiovascular disease. Tea is loaded with antioxidants and has less caffeine content than coffee. A 2021 review also showed that tea comes with multiple health-promoting properties that offer cancer protection, high blood pressure prevention, and cognitive function improvement.
Foods to Consume Less on Keto Diet
The keto diet is designed to be low in carbs. This means that some foods that are high in carb content have to be limited.
Rice, crackers, pasta, cereals, beer, and bread are loaded with carbohydrates. You may use low-carb options like shirataki noodles or spiralized vegetables. Sugary breakfast cereals and whole grain cereals are loaded with carbohydrates. They must be consumed moderately. A slice of bread has 11 grams of carbs. You can consume a lot of veggies for that amount of grams. Beer can be enjoyed moderately while on a low-carb diet.
Sugary Fruits and Starchy Vegetables
Starchy vegetables have more digestible carbs compared to fiber. These should be limited when you’re following the keto diet. Examples of these are potatoes, corn, beets, and sweet potatoes. You also have to limit your intake of high-sugar fruits. These have more carbs than berries and may cause a spike in your blood sugar.
Whether it’s natural or not, juices are high in fast-digesting carbs that can increase your blood sugar level. You have to stick to water.
Any Form of Honey, Syrup, and Sugar
Limit your intake of sugar, maple syrup, honey, and other forms of sugar, which are all loaded with carbs and quite low in nutrients.
Gluten-Free Baked Goods
Gluten-free doesn’t mean carb-free. A lot of gluten-free muffins and bread are high in carbs just like the usual baked goods. They tend to lack fiber too.
It is okay to sometimes consume milk as well as beans and legumes. A cup of milk has 12 grams of sugar. For low-carb consumption, you may opt for almond, coconut, or a different low-carb milk.
Beans and legumes are high in carbs. Small amounts of these can be integrated into a keto diet. Nonetheless, they make up a large amount of your carb intake.
Who Should Avoid the Keto Diet
Health practitioners don’t recommend the keto diet to everyone. People who have a history of a serious condition or eating disorder and those who are lethargic and allergic to some foods and skinny and those who require a specific gram of carbs must not follow the keto diet. This is why before you undergo the keto diet or any diet at that, it’s important to undergo a health checkup including the blood sugar level.
Benefits of the Keto Diet
The keto diet has been observed to be effective in treating several diseases such as epilepsy, diabetes, PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Parkinson’s, rare cancers, and chronic diseases like kidney stones and heart disease as well as autism in both children and adults.