The Keto diet is a weight loss plan that is based on the principle of a high-fat, low-carb eating plan. To be on the Keto diet you need to eat 75% of your daily calories are made up of fats, 20% are made up of proteins and just five % are made up of carbohydrates.
A keto diet can be especially useful for losing excess body fat without hunger, and for reversing type 2 diabetes. A ketogenic diet typically limits carbs to 20–50 grams per day. While this may seem challenging, many nutritious foods can easily fit into this way of eating.
The “keto” in a ketogenic diet comes from the fact that it allows the body to produce small fuel molecules called “ketones”. This is an alternative fuel source for the body, used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply.
Ketones are produced if you eat a keto diet of very few carbs (that are quickly broken down into blood sugar) and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can also be converted to blood sugar).
The liver produces ketones from fat. These ketones then serve as a fuel source throughout the body, especially for the brain.
The brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day, and it can’t run on fat directly. It can only run on glucose… or ketones.
How to burn fat 24-7
When you eat a keto diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off.
This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy. This may help keep you alert and focused.
When the body produces ketones, it enters a metabolic state called ketosis. The fastest way to get there is by fasting – not eating anything – but nobody can fast forever.
A keto diet, on the other hand, can be eaten indefinitely and also results in ketosis. It has many of the benefits of fasting – including weight loss – without having to fast.
6 lesser known healthy foods to eat on a ketogenic diet
#1 Ketogenic Superfood: Seafood
Fish and shellfish are very keto-friendly foods. Salmon and other fish are rich in B vitamins, potassium and selenium, yet virtually carb-free. However, the carbs in different types of shellfish vary. For instance, while shrimp and most crabs contain no carbs, other types of shellfish do.
While you can eat shellfishon a keto diet, it’s important to account for these carbs when you’re trying to stay within a narrow range.
Here are the carb counts for 3.5-ounce (100-gram) servings of some popular types of shellfish:
- Clams: 5 grams
- Mussels: 7 grams
- Octopus: 4 grams
- Oysters: 4 grams
- Squid: 3 grams
Salmon, sardines, mackerel and other fatty fish are very high in omega-3 fats. These fats lower insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese people.
In addition, frequent fish intake has been linked to a decreased risk of disease and improved mental health. Aim to consume at least two servings of seafood weekly.
#2 Ketogenic Superfood: Avocados
Avocados are incredibly healthy.
3.5 ounces (100 grams), or about one-half of a medium avocado, contain 9 grams of carbs.
However, 7 of these are fiber, so its net carb count is only 2 grams.
Avocados are high in several vitamins and minerals, including potassium, an important mineral many people may not get enough of. What’s more, a higher potassium intake may help make the transition to a ketogenic diet easier.
In addition, avocados may help improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
In one study, when people consumed a diet high in avocados, they experienced a 22% decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and an 11% increase in “good” HDL cholesterol.
Avocados contain 2 grams of net carbs per serving and are high in fiber and several nutrients, including potassium. In addition, they may improve heart health markers.
#3 Ketogenic Superfood: Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has unique properties that make it well suited for a ketogenic diet.
To begin with, it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Unlike long-chain fats, MCTs are taken up directly by the liver and converted into ketones or used as a rapid source of energy.
Coconut oil is used to increase ketone levels in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders of the brain and nervous system.
The main fatty acid in coconut oil is lauric acid, a slightly longer-chain fat. Coconut oil’s mix of MCTs and lauric acid promotes a sustained level of ketosis.
What’s more, coconut oil may help obese adults lose weight and belly fat. In one study, men who ate 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of coconut oil per day lost 1 inch (2.5 cm), on average, from their waistlines without making any other dietary changes.
For more information about how to add coconut oil to your diet, read this article. You can also shop online for coconut oil.
#4 Ketogenic Superfood: Shirataki Noodles
Shirataki noodles are a fantastic addition to a ketogenic diet. You can find them online.
They contain less than 1 gram of carbs and 5 calories per serving because they are mainly water.
Made from a fiber called glucomannan, the noodles absorb 50 times its weight in water.
Viscous fiber forms a gel that slows down food’s movement through your digestive tract. This can help decrease hunger and blood sugar spikes, making it beneficial for weight loss and diabetes management.
Shirataki noodles come in a variety of shapes, including rice, fettuccine and linguine. Great for substituting for regular noodles in all types of recipes.
#5 Ketogenic Superfood: Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder
Dark chocolate and cocoa are delicious sources of antioxidants. Cocoa is a “super fruit,” because it provides at least as much antioxidant activity as any other fruit, including blueberries and acai berries.
Dark chocolate contains flavanols, which may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and keeping arteries healthy.
Somewhat surprisingly, chocolate can be part of a ketogenic diet. However, it’s important to choose dark chocolate that contains a minimum of 70% cocoa solids, preferably more.
One ounce (28 grams) of unsweetened chocolate (100% cocoa) has 3 grams of net carbs. The same amount of 70–85% dark chocolate contains up to 10 grams of net carbs.
#6 Ketogenic Superfood: Berries
Most fruits are too high in carbs to include on a ketogenic diet, but berries are an exception.
Berries are low in carbs and high in fiber.
In fact, raspberries and blackberries contain as much fiber as digestible carbs.
Berries have antioxidants that reduce inflammation and protect against disease.
Here are the carb counts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of some berries (68, 69, 70, 71):
- Blackberries: 5 grams net carbs (10 grams total carbs)
- Blueberries: 12 grams net carbs (14 grams total carbs)
- Raspberries: 6 grams net carbs (12 grams total carbs)
- Strawberries: 6 grams net carbs (8 grams total carbs)
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