Ketogenic Diet Food List: Everything You Need to Know

Fat — what is it good for? Absolutely everything, especially if you’ve decided to jump on the ketogenic diet (aka keto diet) bandwagon that is currently gaining momentum in the world of wellness. To be more specific we’re talking about healthy fats, as ketogenic nutrition is anchored in meals comprised of high-fat, moderate-protein and low-carb foods. Your ketogenic diet food list should contain a wide variety of fresh produce that is rich in healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and MCT (medium-chain triglycerides).

Though following a ketogenic meal plan has a host of health benefits and can contribute to weight loss or weight management (should that be your goal), it also comes with a few health risks and isn’t suitable for everyone. As such, it’s essential to consult a medical professional or personal medical practitioner before embarking on any drastic change to your regular diet and investing in a list of low-carb keto foods. Take time to assess whether this kind of nutritional path is right for you and your long-term health and well-being.

Initially, the keto diet was a therapeutic nutritional approach developed by medical health practitioners for the treatment of neurological disorders and pediatric epilepsy. The exact mechanisms for the positive impact on these conditions are unclear. However, it’s thought to be related to the high-fat content and use of ketone bodies, instead of glucose, as fuel. This process is known as ketosis – hence the name of the diet.

Which leads us to our next topic…

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Ketosis and weight loss

What exactly is ketosis and is it safe? Well, ketosis is a metabolic state, as mentioned above, where the body starts to burn fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. One of the many side effects of entering a state of ketosis is weight loss – intended or not. Like any low-carb diet, nourishing your body the ketogenic way will have a stabilizing impact on your blood sugar levels, as many of the items found on a ketogenic diet food list are low on the glycemic index. In layman’s terms, reducing spikes and crashes in blood sugar, which can lead to insulin resistance and in some cases weight gain or worse, conditions like type 2 diabetes.

When going keto, take all the precautions necessary for a healthy, sustainable experience.

Ketosis side effects

We already touched on one of the side effects of the ketogenic diet, but here are a couple more to be mindful of:

  • Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting: Just like any detox, as your body eliminates certain ‘toxins,’ it can result in episodes of nausea or, in some cases, vomiting.
  • Headaches, muscle cramps and fatigue: When insulin decreases, your kidneys release electrolytes like sodium, which results in dehydration.
  • Irritability and compromised concentration: Your brain’s preferred source of fuel tends to be glucose. When you switch to burning fat for energy, your brain requires an adjustment period.
  • Sugar cravings: Sugar can increase serotonin levels for short bursts of time, so cutting it out would naturally result in mild withdrawal symptoms.
  • Keto flu: When starting a ketogenic diet without the proper food preparation, some people will experience flu-like symptoms.

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List of keto foods and benefits

Now that you’re up to speed, let’s dive into what you need to add to your ketogenic diet food list:

Healthy fats

  • Avocado – MUFA, short for monounsaturated fatty acids, keep that heart of yours pumping at full capacity
  • Walnuts – Plant-based omega-3 for all you vegetarians and vegans out there
  • Macadamia nuts – Selenium for reproductive health and hormonal balance
  • Almonds – Vitamin E, so your skin stays supple, soft and radiant
  • Almond butter – Magnesium-rich, which can relieve muscle cramps/tension and anxiety
  • Coconut oil – Antibacterial properties as well as lauric acid for optimal gut health
  • Olive oil – Powerful anti-inflammatory properties, for a happy immune system
  • Ghee – Conjugated linoleic acid that helps prevent certain types of cancer
  • MCT oil –  Medium-chain triglycerides, acts as a fat-burning catalyst

Protein

  • Free-range chicken – B vitamins for sustainable energy and elevated moods
  • Grass-fed beef – Pumps iron, and we’re not talking about the iron at the gym
  • Wild salmon – Omega-3 to keep your nervous system well oiled
  • Canned tuna – Aids melatonin production for improved quality of sleep
  • Eggs – Vitamin D for balanced moods
  • Tofu – Calcium for healthy, strong bones
  • Bacon – Just yum
  • Cheddar cheese – Phosphorus to keep your chops a’ chomping, i.e. dental health

Carbohydrates

  • Asparagus – Full of  fat-soluble vitamins A and K, for bright, healthy eyes and good bone density; drizzle some healthy oil on top to increase nutrient absorption
  • Brussels sprouts – Part of the cruciferous family, these can help protect against carcinogens or cancer-causing agents
  • Tomatoes – The skin on tomatoes contains a high concentration of carotenoids, critical for brain and eye development
  • Spinach – High in vitamins A and C for glowing skin and shiny hair
  • Mushrooms – Full of B vitamins to improve your brain and body’s management of stress
  • Cauliflower – The sulfur compounds in this veggie lend it that distinct odor and are vital in the prevention of certain cancers

Foods to avoid

  • Processed meats: It’s wise to be wary of processed meats like sausages and deli meats, which are known to contain preservatives and flavorings – nitrates and nitrites – linked by the WHO (World Health Organization) to cancer.
  • Yogurt: Often considered to be a good source of protein, when following a low-carb keto diet, it’s important to be aware that yogurt also contains carbohydrates in the form of milk sugar, lactose. The amount of lactose is  dependent on the fat content. Aim for full-fat versions to reduce your total carb count.
  • Packaged cheeses: Just like yogurt, cheese – especially packaged cheese — contains hidden carbs like potato and cornstarch.
  • Low-carb or sugar-free packaged snacks: Whether you are following a ketogenic diet or not, low-carb or sugar-free treats have next to no nutritional value. Packed with artificial ingredients, sweeteners and preservatives, they will disrupt your blood sugar levels and take you out of ketosis.
  • Carbohydrate-rich vegetables: It’s best not to eat carb-rich veggies such as carrots, peas, and potatoes if you want to maintain ketosis.
  • High-carb fruits: Swap out high-sugar and carbohydrate-packed bananas, pineapple, grapes, peaches, and their corresponding juices with low-carb fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and avocados.

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Bottom line

As with any drastic diet change, do extensive research and consult your doctor beforehand. Remember that following a ketogenic diet for weight loss purposes can be healthy, but only if researched extensively in advance and with the support of a primary care physician. If you don’t have access to these resources, then you might want to consider trying an 8fit Pro meal plan that excludes high-carbs foods first. You’ll develop healthy, sustainable habits without giving up the foods you love.