A ketogenic diet is known for its health benefits and thermogenic effect, helping followers of the protocol burn excess body fat with ease. But excluding simple carbs and sugar is only part of the picture when eating a healthy low-carb, high-fat diet.
Comprising your meal plan of predominantly fats is crucial on keto, but not all fats—or other low-glycemic foods—impact the body equally, even if they're completely void of carbs.
Highly processed, partially-hydrogenated, and some forms of saturated fat can prove less than ideal for overall health, even if the number on the scale continues to drop as you consume them in your diet.
Eating on a ketogenic diet is more about making wiser choices than depriving yourself of certain foods. So first, let's take a look at the excellent fatty foods to enjoy on keto. Then we'll cover those we advise eating judiciously or eliminating to optimize your low-carb, high-fat journey to fat-adaptation and improved overall health.
While it's wise to limit or eliminate some fats in your diet, others aid in boosting nutrition and satiety and facilitate effortless weight loss; here are some of the best foods to enjoy on a low-carb, high-fat diet:
- Avocado: This creamy delight is likely our favorite keto-friendly fruit. It's creamy, delicious, and packed with essential minerals like potassium, along with loads of heart-healthy fat that promotes satiety and weight loss.
- Olive Oil: Pouring a drizzling over a massive colorful salad or some homemade pizza adds a lush glisten that's hard to match. Plus, the combination of cooked tomatoes and olive oil offers heart benefits, as seen with those following a low-carb Mediterranean diet.
Avocado Oil: Choosing avocado oil is terrific when cooking at high heat as it maintains its integrity. Plus, avocado oil is rich in oleic acid, an incredibly healthy fat.
Also, avocado oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and lutein to support heart and eye health significantly.
Nuts and Nut Butters: Eating low-carb nuts and nut butter is beneficial for many reasons. Nuts are nutrient-dense, packed with plant-based protein, and are abundant in healthy fats.
Plus, several nuts like almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, cashews, and pecans provide ample fiber with minimal carbs.
- Chia Seeds and Flaxseed: Seeds are tiny in appearance yet mighty in nutritional value, especially those like chia and flax that aid in boosting energy, fullness, and satiety for hours while offering gut-regulating fiber to promote optimal digestion.
- MCT Oil: Adding a tablespoon or two to coffee or smoothies is an excellent way to include more healthy fat via medium-chain fatty acids and highly bioavailable energy, which can prove particularly helpful pre-workout on keto.
Now that we’ve touched on the best fatty foods to include in your keto diet, here are the ones to source wisely, minimize consumption of, or avoid altogether:
Healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil offer heart-healthy benefits and aid in satiety. However, highly-processed trans fats (a.k.a, trans-fatty acids) are linked with an increase in LDL (or bad cholesterol) while lowering beneficial HDL (good cholesterol) levels over time.
As a result of its impact on cholesterol levels, consuming trans fats may contribute to a higher risk of heart disease, the leading killer of adults in the U.S., among other maladies. So, it’s best to avoid trans fats entirely.
Plus, along with ditching trans fats and all forms of hydrogenated fat, like margarine, it's essential to limit the following low-carb foods if high cholesterol is of particular concern:
- Cheese: Although it's an excellent source of calcium and a welcomed addition to burgers and loaded bowls of nachos topped with this melted delight, cheese is high in saturated fat, and excessive consumption can elevate cholesterol levels higher than desired for optimal health. So, tread lightly.
- Cream: Whether whipped into sweet stiff peaks or added to your morning coffee, heavy cream is a popular ingredient on keto. But, like cheese, it contains loads of saturated fat in a tiny yet highly concentrated serving making it easy to over-consume with a couple of colossal cups of coffee—so beware.
- Coconut Oil: Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, an excellent fuel source, easily assimilated by the body. However, it's wise to incorporate unsaturated fats, like extra virgin olive oil, into your pantry stock to support heart health.
- Butter: Grass-fed salted butter adds a touch of indulgence to any dish or even a hearty slice of keto bread, but it contains loads of saturated fat, as well. Again, diversify fats, ensuring you get a balanced intake of fatty acids without overdoing it and potentially adversely affecting your lipid levels.
Avoid Highly-Processed Foods
It's exciting to try the wide variety of foods catering to the keto foodie that seem to be everywhere you look in even smaller supermarkets across the country. The keto way of life is a wave that doesn't show any signs of fading away soon, and retailers are taking notice and stocking shelves accordingly.
However, it's easy to lean heavily on the pre-packaged and processed foods that are macro-friendly but may be lacking in the area of freshness and dense nutrition needed to craft a properly well-rounded low-carb diet.
Also, it's vital to watch your intake of the sugar alcohols often found in sugar-free foods. Consuming them in excess may lead to digestive issues, including bloating and stomach aches.
There's no need to demonize any particular food. Still, it's always wise to compose your meal plan primarily with low-glycemic foods you shop around the market's perimeter—eating fresh, whole, organic foods paired with premium fat sources whenever possible.
Also, it's essential to focus on sourcing the highest quality with healthy fats as the centerpiece of any low-carb, high-fat meal plan. Select cold-pressed, organic oils or grass-fed and grass-finished animal-derived fat sources (e.g., lard or tallow, etc.) to ensure you're using the healthiest and most nutrient-rich options available within your budget.
Lastly, packaged foods serve their purpose, but consuming fresh, whole, and organic ingredients are always an ideal approach to the keto diet—a means to eat the most nutrient-rich food possible to support optimal function and vitality, sans sugar.
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