Keto Diet: What to Eat (And What Not to Eat)

by | Nutrition

Dec 20, 2021

The Keto diet is a diet with a low amount of carbohydrates and a relatively higher amount of fat. 

When we eat the keto diet like this, what we are doing is reducing our intake of carbohydrates while simultaneously increasing our intake of fat. 

Carbohydrates and their derivatives, during normal body conditions, are the body’s primary energy.

So, when we consume less carbohydrates than we normally would, our body cells and tissues, sensing the shift, turn to use fat as an alternative energy source instead of carbohydrates.

This means:

  • More fats would be burned.
  • Weight will be kept healthy.
  • The body sugar level would be maintained.
  • Heart function kept optimal. 

Here is a list of what to avoid and what to eat when on the keto diet:

Keto Diet—What to Eat:

1. Seafood

Most seafood is low in carbohydrates yet high in ‘good’ fatty acid and protein content. 

Shrimp, for example, seldom contains any Carbohydrates. This can be said of most shellfish. 

Others like codfish contain a lot of antioxidants. These antioxidants have inflammatory properties—this means that they can mediate the body’s inflammatory responses, hampering the inflammation of organs and blood vessels by their antagonism with free radicals. 

Seafood is rich in proteins and has a high Omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can help improve heart function.

You can consume seafood in a variety of recipes. You can use them in soups, grill them; whatever recipe works for you, as long as there isn’t a high-carb constituent present, is fine. 

2. Cheese

There are quite a lot of cheese varieties, and each one comes in different shapes and sizes. 

But, one thing is common amongst all types of cheese: (no, it’s not that they taste good), they are essentially low in carbohydrates yet rich in fat. 

The fats contained in cheese are highly saturated. One of these fats is conjugated linoleic acid. 

It is believed to have an impact on the cardiovascular system. That is, it may protect against heart diseases. 

A slice or some slices of cheese should come in handy for your keto diet. Prepare them however you want, but make sure to keep high-carb meals out of the recipes. 

Cheese can be eaten as lunch and even as dinner. In fact, cheese is a recommended night snack. 

3. Meat

Meat is a food derived from the body parts of animals. Generally, meat does not contain carbohydrates. Still, it contains a high amount of proteins, micronutrients, fatty acids, and vitamins. 

Meat is essentially rich in Vitamin B, also known as riboflavin, which is important in the formation and repair of cells. 

The proteins contained in meat are essential for the growth and repair of worn-out tissues. A high-protein meal will see an increase in your muscle mass. Proteins also direct most cellular functions of the body. 

Fatty acids in meat have anti-inflammatory properties. This is also true of the many other antioxidants present in meat. 

The macronutrients present in meat include potassium, calcium, manganese, etc., all of which mediate cell function.

4. Berries

Berries are not your regular fruits, in that, unlike most fruits which are a storehouse for carbohydrates, berries have a low carbohydrate content. 

They are rich in fiber, which helps lower bowel movement and function. Fibers prevent constipation and facilitate easy bowel movements. 

Berries also contain a number of antioxidants. These antioxidants work to stop free radicals, thereby performing anti-inflammatory roles within the body. 

Free radicals are known to be a risk factor in cancer and other cellular diseases. So, more antioxidants mean less risk of cancer. 

You can have berries at any time of the day. Even as a late-night snack. 

5. Chicken

Chicken is white meat. White meat is generally considered safer than red meat. While it contains a low amount of carbohydrates, it is essentially rich in ‘good’ fatty acids and cholesterol and is stuffed with proteins. 

The ‘good’ cholesterol in chicken helps maintain circulatory body function by removing cholesterol from blood vessels, taking them to the liver where they would be processed properly.

Proteins in chicken help the repair of body tissues. 

Chicken also contains vitamins and minerals, including potassium, calcium, etc. 

You can include chicken in a number of recipes when on the keto diet, as long as high sources of carbohydrates are not included in the recipes. 

6. Low-Carb Vegetables

Some vegetables contain a relatively high amount of carbohydrates. This is typically about veggies like sweet potatoes. Still, others don’t.

Low-carb veggies are a recommended constituent of keto diets. 

Here is a list of low carb veggies:

— Broccoli: is rich in vitamin C; this is a great keto meal. 

— Cauliflower

— Avocado: avocado contains quite a small amount of carbohydrates but is a storehouse for many nutrients such as healthy fatty acids and vitamins.

— Zucchini

— Cucumbers: cucumbers taste good, contain a lot of water, and are rich in fiber. Cucumbers also contain Cucurbitacin E, which is believed to be beneficial to health.

— Cabbages: Cabbages contain proteins, fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, and other nutrients. They also contain antioxidants such as polyphenols. 

These antioxidants mop out free radicals from healthy cells and hence, promote healthy cellular functions.

— Pumpkin leaves 

— Carrots: carrots are root vegetables. They taste good and do not contain a high amount of carbohydrates. They are a great source of vitamin A, which also helps the normal functioning of our eyes.

7. Eggs

Eggs are amongst the most nutritious foods on the planet. Being an animal source of protein, they contain close to zero carbohydrate content. 

So it could be concluded that, of the 77 calories present in eggs, almost all come from either protein, healthy fatty acids, essential proteins, or macronutrients. 

A full-sized egg contains about 6 grams of protein and a corresponding 5 grams of fatty acid. 

Eggs contain vitamin A, which is essential for eyesight, folate, many classes of Vitamin B, phosphorus, selenium, choline ( a great constituent of the nervous system ), and a couple of antioxidants, including zeaxanthin and lutein. 

An egg meal can increase your body’s concentration of HDL. HDL, termed ‘good cholesterol,’ is an abbreviation for High-Density Lipoprotein. 

HDLs function to mop cholesterol from your peripheral tissues, delivering them to your liver, where they can be processed properly. 

8. Olives

Olives are great for the heart. Although they do not contain a lot of carbohydrates, they contain natural oils, which are beneficial to health. 

They can also be added to a keto diet.

Keto Diet—What Not to Eat

Here is a list of foods to stay away from if you are on a ketogenic diet.

1. Grains

Grains are a rich carbohydrate source. For this reason, they are discouraged when one is on a keto diet. 

Remember, a keto diet aims to prevent the body’s use of fat as its primary energy source, using fat instead. 

When you eat a rich carbohydrate meal like grains such as rice and oats, or pasta, the body reverts back to using carbohydrates, thereby abandoning fat. 

2. Sugars/Sweeteners

Sugars are a rich source of carbohydrates. On a ketogenic diet, they are very discouraged. 

This is especially true about processed sugars, like the ones contained in beverages and other processed foods and snacks.

Sweeteners can cause weight gain and increase appetite, thereby making you want to eat more and more.

Since they are high in calories, sweetened foods are a no. 

3. Some Vegetables

Earlier, we listed a number of vegetables that can be taken when on a keto diet. Now, we are going to list a number of vegetables that are discouraged when one is on a keto diet. 

They include:

— Sweet Potatoes:

Sweet potatoes are rich in starch and carbohydrates. So, they are discouraged when one is on a keto diet. 

— Corn: corn is also quite rich in carbohydrates. 

— Potatoes.

4. Most Fruits

With the exception of lemons and berries, most fruits are a rich source of carbohydrates. 

Bananas, for example, have a high amount of carbohydrates and are discouraged when one is on a keto diet.

5. Alcohol

What alcohol does is quite fascinating. Since it cannot be stored in the body in any form, it has to be broken down and then excreted as soon as possible. 

The process it takes to break down alcohol has a negative impact on the breakdown of fat, upon which the very essence of a ketogenic diet is hinged. 

Essentially, alcohol delays the breakdown of fat. Therefore, less fat will be broken down and ketosis delayed. 

6. Energy Drinks

Energy drinks contain a lot of sugars and should be avoided when on a keto diet. 

Summary

The aim of a ketogenic diet is to make the body turn to fat as its energy source. This means that fat will be broken down since less carbs are available. 

The benefits of this diet include weight loss, lowered risk of heart disease and diabetes. The Keto diet also boosts metabolism and reduces hunger-stimulating hormones.

Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

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