Well, now that you know what is the keto diet and what are its benefits for your health, it’s time to dig deeper and talk about the practical stuff.
Every diet is all about the eating recommendations - so what can you eat on the keto diet?
Ketogenic Eating: The Basics
High in fat, average in protein, extremely low in carbohydrates - that’s the keto diet in a nutshell. Specifically, most experts recommend sticking to the following breakdown of macronutrients:
Fats - 70-75%
Proteins - 20-25%
Carbohydrates - 5%
For example, a 25-years-old male weighing 180 pounds would need about 2700 calories per day to maintain his body weight. Now, to lose weight most diets would recommend restricting the amount of daily caloric intake. Ketosis works differently.
Instead of cutting down on the calories, adjusting the macronutrients is all it takes. For instance, this man would have to get his daily calories in the following fashion:
Fats - 70% - 1680 calories
Proteins - 25% - 600 calories
Carbohydrates - 5% - 120 calories
Easy as that. At the time being, the common opinion states that calorie restriction plays a secondary and optional part in the ketogenic diet. As long as you stick to the right macronutrients ratio and eat as little carbs as possible - you can expect to lose excess body fat and reap all the additional keto benefits along the way.
Now, let’s get specific.
Fats will make the lion’s share of your daily menu, so picking the right ones is a crucial matter. Besides following your personal preferences, another important factor to consider is the type of fats you’ll eat, as they’re not equally healthy. The general rule is to look for organic and grass-fed sources of the following nutrients:
- Saturated fats. You can recognize them by the fact that they stay solid at room temperature. Butter, coconut oil, lard, ghee - these are all keto-friendly. Previously demonized and shunned as «unhealthy» fats for the heart, saturated fats have been proven great to reach ketosis - a state that eventually lowers cholesterol and reduces cardiovascular risk.
- Monounsaturated fats. They stay liquid at room temperature, and all of them are keto-friendly. Examples include virtually all kinds of oils you can imagine - olive oil, sesame seed oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, and so on.
- Polyunsaturated fats. These largely depend on the source. For instance, natural polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable and seed oils, nuts, certain kinds of fish and meat - just like monounsaturated fats. Margarine, however? Nope. Stay away.
- Trans-unsaturated fats, or trans fats for short, are fats that were artificially altered (hydrogenated) to improve taste, shelf life, and culinary properties. These are utterly unhealthy, both for keto and for life. Avoid at all times.
Here goes a brief list of keto-friendly sources of fats: fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), egg yolks, butter, tallow, ghee, all naturally occurring animal fat, olive oil (opt for cold-pressed varieties), coconut oil, avocado oil, nuts (macadamia, Brazil), MCT oil.
The second staple component of a successful keto diet: the proteins. Just like with fats, picking the right sources of proteins is an important matter, but also a much simpler one: the trick is to opt for animal products.
Not only they are quite low in carbs (which is good for your ketosis), but also provide you with enough building blocks for the building of muscle mass, a bit of extra fats for supreme ketosis, and keep you satiated for hours on end. The general advice is the same as with fats - opt for grass-fed and organic sources whenever possible.
Oh, and don’t forget that the keto diet is moderate in protein by definition. Getting more than 25% of your daily calories from proteins can lead to lower ketosis effectiveness.
Here goes a brief list of keto-friendly sources of proteins: grass-fed beef, all poultry, egg whites, fish, shellfish.
Just about 5 to 10% of your daily calories should be from carbohydrates if you want to reach and maintain ketosis. But where should you get them from? This question is better answered from the other way around by taking a good look at the sources of carbs you’d better avoid:
- All kinds of sweeteners that are non-zero in calories. This includes sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, corn syrup, any other kind of syrup as well. These foods are extremely dense in carbs, so going over the recommended carb limit would be almost inevitable.
- All grains. Rice, barley, corn, wheat, oat, all cereals. Yes, they are healthy carbs in most cases, not exactly keto-friendly.
- Starches. Even though these are mostly complex carbs, they are known to significantly reduce ketosis effectiveness, and thus are better to avoid as well.
- Most fruit. Especially apples, bananas, figs, dates, grapes, as these are among the sweetest ones.
Now, what sources of carbs are acceptable then? Most of your fat and protein sources will have a certain amount of carbs in them, and that’s important to remember. Additionally, look for the following options:
- High-fat dairy (soft cheese, yogurt, cream)
- All nuts and seeds (especially hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, and pecans)
- All leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach, kale
- Most above-ground vegetables and legumes, such as broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, beans
Looking for the low-carb options will allow you to eat more of the food in question, savor its taste, and still be in the safe zone for maintaining ketosis.
As you see, there’s a whole lot of delicious foods you can eat to achieve and maintain ketosis. An unusual set? Probably, taking the account of how most of us are used to flours, starches, sweets, and all of the kind.
But the eventual benefits are absolutely worth the trouble of going through the adaptation period known as the keto flu. Just use the list of foods provided above as your to-go shopping list - and cook whatever your imagination and creativity will suggest you to!