With studies showing that the ketogenic diet (very low-carb, high fat diet) is effective for weight loss, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, brain health, and epilepsy, and with celebrities like Halle Berry using it to help control blood sugar levels for type 2 diabetes, it is clear why the Keto diet has recently proved popular.
If you are new to the Keto diet plan you are probably asking what your food options are. This article lists ten popular and common keto-approved foods that are perfect for creating ketone bodies from fatty acids, which is the required source of energy for ketosis. The primary way keto works.
When you need to carb count, when shopping for nutritious foods it is important to know which foods are a great fit for keto. The ten food types in this article are perfect for a low carb diet.
This article is designed to be a "clean Keto" food list, so includes whole foods, and preferably organic to increase your health. Fast food is generally not Keto-friendly, and it is difficult to carb count fast food. If cooking a sauce make sure, if it is store-bought, that it doesn't contain excess sugars and carbs. Sauces are usually packaged with a lot of sugar so should be avoided.
This article doesn't talk about the difference between total carbs and net carbs; I will link to that article when it is ready. All carbs mentioned are total carbohydrates for each food so the tables might present exaggerated number of carbs when the foods are actually consumed; this is essentially the difference between total and net carbs. This Keto food list is designed for beginners, more advanced dieters might still learn something from it.
This article also includes a table for each of the ten keto-friendly food types. This includes essential information for Keto dieters such as carb and protein content and calories. I have also added information about micronutrients sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium; these are all essential for a healthy Keto diet. So perfect if you are also looking for low sodium foods that are also Keto-friendly.
Please be aware that all figures in the tables are for a serving of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) for each food.
Fish are a particularly good source of protein on the Keto diet. Salmon are rich in B vitamins and potassium, yet practically carb-free. If you are overweight/obese or diabetic salmon, mackerel, sardines and other fatty fish are very high in omega-3 fats, which lowers insulin levels which should help lower blood sugar levels. Frequent fish consumption has also been linked to a decreased risk of disease and improved cognitive health. The American Heart Association recommends that your weekly diet should include at least one but preferably two seafood meals. So seafood are an important part of Keto and general health.
However, while fish are recommended on the Keto diet shellfish may not be appropriate. The carbohydrates in several kinds of shellfish may be too high for Keto. While most crabs are free from carbs and shrimp are very low in carbohydrates, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of clams, mussels, octopus, oysters, and squid contain between 3 and 10 grams of carbs which is probably too much. Shellfish can still be part of your Keto diet, you just need to be very careful with how much you eat per day. If you are eating shellfish you might want to cut down on carbs in other meals to ensure you remain within your carb-counting limit.
Fresh meat and poultry are widely considered to be the main type of foods to eat on Keto. Fresh red meat (like beef, pork and lamb), poultry, and chicken breast contain no carbs and are rich in B vitamins and a number of other important minerals, see the table below. Meat and poultry are also an excellent source of high-quality proteins, which is important to help preserve muscle mass while on a very restricted carb diet. In fact, a study found that in older women consuming fatty meats led to an increase of 5% of HDL (good) cholesterol levels, source. Consuming food raised on a grass-fed meat is highly recommended where possible; grass-fed animals produce meat with an increase of omega-3 fats and antioxidants than are not present in meat from grain-fed animals.
Processed meats like sausages should be avoided as they can contain so much sugar and artificial flavors.
Protein-rich meats should be eaten with some caution, as protein can be converted into glucose. Therefore, if you eat too much protein you may go over your allowable daily intake of carbs, so make sure to double check what you are eating is suitable for Keto.
There are some vegetarian alternatives to all this meat, you can find those here in my longer Keto food list article.
Eggs are incredibly versatile and are one of the healthiest foods. Importantly, eggs are low in carbs; one large egg contains 1 gram of carbs and 6 grams of protein, making eggs perfect for the Keto diet.
Eggs also increase feelings of satiety as they trigger hormones that increase feelings of being full after eating a meal containing eggs.
As the majority of an egg’s nutrients are found within the yolk it is important that the entire egg is eaten. And while the yolk is high in cholesterol, for most people this does not increase levels of cholesterol in the blood. In fact, consuming eggs appears to modify the size of LDL (bad) cholesterol particles in the blood which actually reduces the risk of heart disease, I have written more about this here.
Eggs also contain antioxidants that help protect eye health.
There are many hundreds of different types of cheese. Fortunately, the majority contain very low levels of carbs and high levels of fat making cheese perfect for Keto. For example, 28 grams (one ounce) of cheddar cheese contains 1 gram of carbs, 6.5 grams of protein, as well as a rich source of calcium. Importantly, while cheese is high in saturated animal fats this has not been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. Indeed some studies have shown that cheese may actually help protect against heart disease.
Cheese has other weight loss benefits too as it contains conjugated linoleic acid, a fat associated with fat loss and improvements in body composition. Eating 210 grams (seven ounces) of cheese every day can help protect against some of the affects of aging by increasing muscle strength and reducing the loss of muscle mass, source.
All low fat cheeses should be avoided.
Use caution when sprinkling parmesan on your dishes as its carbs-per-100 grams is much higher than other cheeses.
If adding American cheese to your food, one slice (1oz/28g) contains 1 gram of carbs, which is relatively high, so you should not have more than one slice per day. Preferably none, as American is super processed.
So far I have mostly been focussing on meat, fish, and dairy products. Just like when you were a child eating your greens is an indispensable part of Keto. So what vegetables can you eat on Keto? Most vegetables contain very few carbs so most vegetables are suitable for a low carb diet. Organic farmed whole food vegetables are the best for nutrients and taste.
Non-starchy, vegetables are low in calories and carbs, but are also high in many other essential nutrients such as vitamin C, plant fats, and a number of other minerals, so the table below.
One cup of raw spinach contains 1 gram of carbohydrate whereas one cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains 7 grams of carbs, so just with every other food type you need to be selective and mindful of carbs even with veggies.
Vegetables also contain antioxidants that help protect against free radicals and vegetables like kale, broccoli, and cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables have been associated with decreased risk of cancer and heart disease. What is more, some low carb vegetables can replace high carb foods in recipes. For instance, recipes that contain rice or mashed potatoes can be converted into plant-based recipes by using cauliflower instead, noodles can be replaced with spiralised courgette/zucchini or with shirataki noodles, spaghetti squash can replace spaghetti.
Salads are an important part of the diet . Making them extra Keto-approved usually means removing or withholding salad dressings and condiments. In addition, egg salads can really make you feel full, which is perfect for losing weight as you end up eating less food.
Aubergine (egg plant), asparagus, avocado, bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, courgette (zucchini), cucumber, green beans, green peppers, kale, lettuce, olives (including olive oil), shirataki noodles, spinach, tomatoes are all excellent low carb vegetables to include in your Keto diet.
However, “starchy” root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and beets must be avoided as eating even one meal containing any of these could put you over your entire carbohydrate limit for the day which will have a detrimental affect on ketosis.
Plain Greek yogurt and kefir are both healthy and excellent yogurts for Keto. Both are low in carbs, though they are relatively high in protein so they should be consumed with some caution. Greek yogurt can help to decrease appetite and increase feelings of feeling full, like eggs, as I mentioned above. Greek yogurt can also be used as a Keto snack which can help when you are first starting, especially when sprinkled with finely chopped almond or cinnamon.
Plain yogurt and soy yogurt are high in carbs so you need to be careful if introducing these into your Keto diet regimen.
Do nuts contain carbs? As we briefly mentioned in the Greek yogurt section nuts and seeds can be eaten as part of the Keto diet as they are healthy and have the combination of high fat and low-carbs. Consuming nuts daily has been linked with reducing many conditions including depression, certain cancers and other chronic diseases. Eating nuts has also been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, so nuts have many health benefits in addition to being excellent for Keto.
Like, eggs and Greek yogurt, eating nuts can increase feeling full which helps eat fewer calories which aids weight loss.
So to answer the question, do nuts have carbs? The answer is that not all nuts are created Keto-equal: 28 grams (1 ounce) of flaxseed, Brazil nuts, chia seed each contain 1 gram or fewer of carbohydrate. For the same quantity almonds, macadamia, pecans, pumpkin seed, sesame seed and walnuts contain two or three grams of carbohydrate. Whereas cashews (8 grams) and pistachios (5 grams) contain the most carbs so should be eaten in moderation when on Keto. These numbers are different from those in the table below, this is due to the difference between total carbs and net carbs.
Most fruits are high-sugar fruits and therefore must be excluded when on Keto due to their level of carbs. Fortunately for fruit lovers berries are relatively low in carbs making them suitable for Keto, when eaten in smaller serving sizes. Berries have other healthy eating properties such as being rich in nutrients and loaded with antioxidants which help reduce inflammation and protect against many diseases.
Watermelon as well as berries is great for Keto, as long as the carb content fits within your daily total. As berries are naturally higher in carbs, portion control is very important. Kiwifruits have the highest allowable carbs.
Tropical fruits such as bananas and mangoes are too high in sugar and carbs for Keto.
Here is a table of the important information for different fruits.
No, as the table above shows bananas contain too many carbs to be compatible with Keto. Even one small banana might exceed your daily carb allowance. You can of course have half a banana and no other carbs for the rest of the day, but a more balanced diet is recommended.
Butter and cream are high in fat content with negligible levels of carbs, making them ideal Keto fats. For many years butter and cream were believed to be responsible for heart disease due to the high levels of saturated fat. However, several large-scale studies have shown that saturated fat is unrelated to heart disease, source. In fact, some studies have suggested that consuming a moderate amount of high fat dairy products in your diet can actually reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, source. Like other fatty dairy products such as cheese, butter and cream are rich in conjugated linoleic acid which, as I mentioned above in the cheese section, promotes fat loss.
Is dark chocolate good for you? Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are excellent sources of antioxidants and they are of course delicious. In fact, cocoa provides at least as much antioxidant benefits as any other fruit, including blueberries. Dark chocolate contains flavanols, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping arteries healthy and lowering blood pressure.
However, not all chocolates are suitable for Keto. Dark chocolate containing a minimum of 70% cocoa solids, preferably more are suitable for the Keto diet, but of course only in moderation. Twenty-eight grams (1 ounce) of 100% dark, unsweetened chocolate contains only 3 grams of carbs, making it perfect for the Keto diet, however as the percentage of cocoa solids decreases the number of carbs increases. Milk chocolate is not suitable for Keto as it contains way too many carbs.
So far I have talked about what foods you can eat on Keto. What about drinks? Water is obviously fine, and water is an essential part of keto due to the need to stay hydrated. But what if you get bored of water? Don't worry there are others to choose from.
To digest all these delicious Keto foods most can be washed down with unsweetened coffee or teas (including herbal teas); most are generally low carb, though teas enthused with fruit might not be suitable. As with most of Keto it is what you add to food and drink which can often make something Keto or not. Add cream instead of milk, for the extra fat with fewer carbs. Coconut milk is another good alternative to dairy milk.
Fruit juices are obviously difficult on Keto due to the carbs and the higher concentration of sugars. Though homemade vegetable smoothies should be fine, though be mindful that juicing can remove most of the nutritious fiber, unless you keep the pulp/bits in. Store bought juices tend to add excess sugars so they should be avoided.
Soda drinks are generally high in carbs (non-diet Coke for instance is absolutely packed with sugars), but check the labels carefully before consuming.
Soft diet sodas like Coke Zero, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi and other diet soda drinks are Keto-friendly. They do however contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, which can damage healthy gut bacteria and increase sugar cravings, so they are best avoided. Sparkling water is better as artificial sweeteners are very rarely used to sweeten it.
You might be asking is alcohol Keto? There are a few Keto-friendly alcoholic drinks to choose form.
Dry white wine is relatively low in carbs but sweet wines contain too much sugar and carbs. Champagne is low carb, so perfect for a treat when you have reached your weight loss target. Pure alcohol drinks like gin, rum, vodka, etc. generally contain no carbs.
Beer generally contains too many carbs to be compatible with Keto, though there are a few lights beers which are.
As with general guidance, moderation when drinking alcoholic drinks is key. Just because pure alcohol-drinks are very low in carbs is not an excuse to drink in excess!