The ketogenic diet is a diet that switches from using carbs to ketones as the primary energy source. These ketones are produced in the liver from broken down fat particles. You will therefore not be surprised that a ketogenic diet largely consists of the consumption of fat.
Your body is going to use fat as an energy source because consumption of carbohydrates is restricted to a minimum. In a typical regular American diet, over half of the calories consumed consist of carbohydrates, with the rest coming from fat, and proteins.
In a ketogenic diet, the above proportions of macronutrients (ratio among carbohydrates, proteins, fat) are rattled considerably.
The consumption of carbohydrates in a ketogenic diet is reduced to 5% of your daily calorie consumption. This means that over the course of one day you will eat between 20-50 grams of carbs.
The ketogenic diet has the reputation that it is a somewhat stern diet in the sense that it puts an entire group of nutrients out of bounds. This is because the goal of the diet is to bring your body into a ketogenic state of ketosis.
Ketosis is a natural reaction of your body to survive when you eat little. Your body makes so-called ketones during this process. These are matters that arise when the liver breaks down fats.
You can and will lose fat, by eating more fat.
You will see which types of food, you can achieve the best results.
Macronutrients in the ketogenic diet
Before discussing the different food groups, it is essential to address the structure of different nutrients within the ketogenic diet.
To get into and stay in ketosis you will have to keep your macronutrients in the right balance.
The distribution of your macronutrients should consist of approximately 70% fat, 25% proteins, and 5% carbs.
This amounts to about 20 to 30 grams of net carbs per day. To calculate the number of net carbohydrates, take the total number of carbohydrates minus the non-digestible carbohydrates (fibers and polyols).
Besides the fact that it is crucial to minimize your intake of carbohydrates, it is equally important not to consume too much protein. Your protein intake must be moderate, not high.
Now you may be thinking proteins are not carbohydrates, so why do I have to pay attention to this?
Because the body prefers glucose as an energy source, it has a mechanism that is capable of converting proteins into glucose. This process is called gluconeogenesis.
Within a ketogenic diet you want to avoid this process for two reasons:
When the body addresses proteins as fuel, this prevents your body from getting into ketosis. So you will not encounter the benefits of ketosis, your body remains dependent on glucose as fuel instead of fat.
Also, it is not desirable that your body convert proteins into glucose because you can lose your own muscle mass in this way. Muscles consist of proteins, and when gluconeogenesis befalls, your body breaks down muscle mass to use as fuel. So instead of fat, you burn your own muscles!
So let’s look now at the most important macronutrient.
On a keto diet, you will get most of your calories from fats. Of course, you can take your own preferences into account. Oil and fat can be processed in various ways in your meals; in dressings and sauces, for example, but also simply by applying a knob of butter to meat.
Fats are essential for our bodies, but if you eat too many of the wrong types, they can also be dangerous. With a keto diet, you have to deal with the different types of fat.
Different foods usually combine various types of fat, but the unhealthy fats are reasonably easy to avoid.
Within the ketogenic diet, three types of fats are permitted: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats. Let’s see which foods belong to this.
It may be that now the alarm bells are ringing at you, and you think about saturated fats, However are they unhealthy?
For years, saturated fats have been in a bad light because they were thought to be bad for the cardiovascular system.
However, recent scientific studies have shown that there is no link between the consumption of saturated fats and cardiovascular diseases.(1) In fact, there are even proven health benefits related to healthy saturated fats.
Recommended sources of saturated fats within the ketogenic diet:
- Egg Yolk
- Cocoa butter
- Fat from Red Meat
- Coconut oil
In contrast to saturated fats, monounsaturated fatty acids have a good reputation for years. Scientific research has shown that they are good for HDL cholesterol and better insulin sensitivity. (2)
Recommended sources of monounsaturated fats within the ketogenic diet:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Nuts and Nut oils
Polyunsaturated fats carry proven health benefits that are attributed to the presence of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are essential nutrients, which means that your body can only get them through nutrition.
However, it is vital to monitor the correct ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. The ideal omega ratio is 1: 1.
In the standard American diet, however, this ratio is much higher, so everybody has an omega-6 imbalance.
Try to focus on the consumption of healthy omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish, and you can supplement them with a fish oil supplement such as krill oil.
Recommended sources of polyunsaturated fats:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Linseed and flaxseed oil
- Avocado oil
- Fatty fish including salmon, sardines, mackerel
- Chia seeds
- Hemp oil
During the heating of the above oils, free radicals are created that are harmful to your body. The oils oxidize and lose their healthy properties so you want to drizzle these on your meals.
If you like to bake your food, preferably opt for ghee, non-hydrogenated lard, tallow, or coconut oil, as they have a higher smoke point than other types of oil. As a result, you have fewer problems with oxidation of the oil, which means that you get more of the essential fatty acids.
Keto Protein Requirements
About a quarter of your daily calorie intake should consist of protein on a ketogenic diet.
It is essential to pay attention to this because if your protein consumption is too high, your body will switch to a process called gluconeogenesis. This means that your body breaks down proteins into amino acids and then makes glucose out of them.
The result of too high a protein consumption is that your body will still use glucose as fuel, so you do not get or remain in ketosis.
A tip with which you can balance proteins with fats is by supporting the proteins in your meals with creamy side dishes and sauces. If you want to eat lean beef, you have to be extra careful with the portions of protein as it will add up fast.
Low-fat protein bars and snacks can quickly finish your days worth of proteins, so make sure you always combine these types of products with something fatty – cheese for example!
Recommended sources of proteins are:
- Fatty cuts of Beef
- Fatty cuts of Pork
- Ground Meats
- Pork Chops
- Minced beef
- Chicken Thighs, Legs and Drumsticks
Fatty Fish Including
Organ meat is not everyone’s preference. It can be the taste or the texture of the meat that sometimes takes some getting used to. Nonetheless, organ meat is a true superfood and full of vitamins and nutrients. The liver is known as mother natures multivitamin.
So try to eat kidneys, liver, tongue or heart. Prepared in the right way it can be delicious and therefore very nutritious. An easy way to incorporate it into a keto diet is grinding it up and adding to ground beef/pork.
Butters are also good ways to get proteins and fats. Choose unsweetened and fattier variants such as almond, hazelnut, and macadamia butter.
Beware of overconsumption because otherwise, you will get too much omega-6 fatty acids. Macadamias and pecans have one of the best ratios of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids of all nuts.
When you use a ketogenic way of eating you will want to get the majority of your carbohydrates through vegetables such as leafy green vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and virtually all other vegetables that grow above the ground.
The rest of the carbohydrates that you will get from nuts, seeds, dairy and occasionally fruits such as berries.
Fruits and vegetables
The best types of vegetables for a ketogenic diet contain many nutrients and few carbohydrates. These are, as you probably already guess, especially the green leafy vegetables. Everything that mirrors spinach or kale falls into this category and is the best you can add to anything you want.
Try to choose cruciferous vegetables that grow above the ground. Go for organic if possible as there are fewer residues of pesticides. However, studies show that organic and non-organic vegetables still have the same nutritional value. Both frozen veggies and fresh is fine.
You should avoid starchy vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips, and corn because of their high carbohydrate content.
Within the keto diet, you can use many different dairy products, as long as they are full fat. Organic and raw goods are also preferred due to pasteurization.
By far the most used dairy products on keto are cream for hot beverages such as tea and coffee, butter and cheese for additional fat during meals.
Dairy products that you absolutely want to avoid are the low-fat dairy products because the valuable fats have been removed here, while the fats have to serve as fuel for our bodies.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts can be an excellent source of fats, but remember that they contain many additional carbs to go with the healthy fats.
It is also important to note that nuts also contain proteins. Especially nut flour can quickly accrue large amounts of protein, so be cautious with the amount you use.
Nuts can also contain many omega-6 fatty acids, so even in this regard, it is good to deal with the amount you consume consciously. In general, you can choose the fattier nut varieties with relatively few carbohydrates.
As with the oils, the best kind of nuts is pecans and macadamia as they contain good amounts of omega 3.
Where some nuts quickly lead to a skewed link between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the macadamia separates itself by containing few of the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
Also, the macadamia and pecans are plentiful in healthy monounsaturated fats.
Other fatty, low-carbohydrate nuts are almonds and brazil nuts.
A category of nuts that you can consume in moderation are the fatty nuts with an average amount of carbohydrates.
- Pine nuts
There are some nuts you want to limit as they are carbohydrate-rich and so you should rarely eat.
- Cashew nuts
- Pistachio nuts
Remember that snacking will decrease your weight loss goals.
Flour of nuts and seeds is a perfect replacement for regular flour. Seeds and nuts are regularly found on a keto diet in recipes for bread and desserts. Nuts and seeds flour are common but must be eaten in moderation.
In general, you can mix various types of flour to get a realistic structure in baking recipes. By combining flours and experimenting, you can create recipes with considerably fewer carbohydrates.
Remember that different types of flour also have different properties. For example, coconut flour would only require half of the amount of almond flour you use for a recipe. Coconut milk absorbs much more moisture and usually requires more liquid.
You can not only use these flour types in baking recipes but also instead of breadcrumbs if you want to bake or fry meat or poultry and you can even use as a pizza crust.
If you use your creativity, there is always a way to make a favorite dish a low-carbohydrate version.
Water and other drinks
The ketogenic diet has a diuretic effect drawing water out of your body.
This means that you lose not only more fluid but also electrolytes. Dehydration symptoms are common in most people at the beginning, also known as keto flu. If you are prone to inflammation of the urinary tract or bladder, it is extra important that you are prepared for this.
An excellent way to prevent the loss of electrolytes and dehydration symptoms is to consume more salty water or beverages.
The eight recommended glasses of water a day? Drink it, and then another pair. Assuming that we have about two-thirds of water, hydration plays an essential role in our everyday life. We encourage you to drink a gallon of water a day to help flush toxins out of the system.
By adding a little sea salt to the water, you can absorb the loss of electrolytes. Also, the liquid is absorbed faster in your body in this way.
The loss of electrolytes and minerals can be absorbed by using more sea salt.
Sea salt contains many minerals and trace elements that your body requires.
Not only does it contain sodium, chloride, and iodine, it also includes phosphorus, calcium, potassium, bromine, zinc, boron, iron, manganese, magnesium and copper.
Together these minerals are essential for a healthy functioning body. For example, sodium ensures the binding of water in the body, in the body’s cells and beyond. This provides good hydration.
Salt has gotten a bad name over the last decades because it increases your blood pressure and in this process stimulates the heart and vascular diseases.
However, several scientific studies have been conducted in which a limitation of salt consumption has not proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.(3)
Indeed, in the case of a ketogenic diet, where you drive more salt through the urine, you will have to increase salt intake to replenish minerals.
Bone broth is also an excellent way to supplement your electrolytes. The best way is to cook a broth yourself from animal bones. You will get the valuable nutrients of the bones and bone marrow in this way. It is also a natural source of collagen.
Coffee and Tea
Many people struggle to reach the required fat every day and add fats to their beverages. Many consume Bulletproof coffee or tea in the morning to boost energy levels, in combination with added fats. Although this is completely fine, it is also important to limit drinks with a taste.
This is even more true in the case of caffeine since too much of it can slow down your weight loss; so try to keep it with a maximum of two cups of coffee or other caffeine-containing drinks.
Dairy Free Milk
You can use the unsweetened versions such as coconut or almond milk to replace your beloved dairy products. Ideal for smoothies and hot drinks.
Although they do not contain carbohydrates, some sweeteners can still interfere with ketosis. It can cause insulin spikes because they are related to sugar. This can, therefore, lead to more appetite in sugars and starches. Besides, sweeteners are often artificial and therefore not approved.
If you’re going to drink for a special occasion then choose a strong liquor and drink in moderation. Beer and wine contain too many carbohydrates. Regular use of alcohol hinders weight loss so it is best not to drink at all.
Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices are a risky part of a ketogenic diet, but people regularly use it to add flavor to their dishes. The easiest way to stick to the macros is to avoid processed products.
There are many low carb seasonings. Some are great, but the majority contains sweeteners with a high glycemic index – which you want to avoid.
Herbs also contain carbohydrates, so make sure you count them. Sea salt is preferred over table salt.
Most ready-to-eat spice mixes contain added sugars, so read the labels, so you know what you’re buying. If you have the choice, never choose added sugar.
Below is a summary of some common herbs and spices you can use on a keto diet. Always remember that herbs contain carbohydrates and that you will have to adapt your diet accordingly.
- Cayenne Pepper
- Chili Powder
Both salt and pepper can be used to flavor your meals without having to worry about nutritional values.
Sauces and Dressings
When it comes to sauces, gravy, and spices on a ketogenic diet, there is a large gray area. If you want to eat keto strictly, you should avoid all ready-to-eat sauces and seasonings, except those listed below. They may contain added sugars or sweeteners that do not fit within the ketogenic diet.
If you feel like making your own sauces and gravy, consider buying xanthan gum. These are thickeners that are known in the world of modern cooking techniques, and that comes in handy if you want to thicken low carb but rather watery dishes.
Fortunately, there are many sauces that you can choose from that contain a lot of fat and few carbohydrates. If you need a sauce, consider using butter to top off your meat.
Although it sounds great for your health and theory, it is entirely possible that for you, like for many other people, it does not fit into your schedule to make everything yourself. Although it differs from brand to brand (always read the labels), you can basically use the following ready-made seasonings during the ketogenic diet:
- Hot Sauce
- Unsweetened Vinaigrettes
- Caesar Dressing
- Ranch Salad Dressings
Be on the cautious side when it comes to ready-to-use sauces. Make your sauces and gravy with thickeners and try to create your own flavors if possible. Always check the nutritional values and ingredients carefully to ensure that the product matches your dietary requirements.
What you can do best is to stay away from anything that tastes sweet. Limit your cravings to a minimum, which is the basis of a successful utilization of the keto diet. If you really want something sweet to replace sugar, there are some options you can choose from.
If you are looking for sweeteners, try to find liquid versions, since they contain no binders. If you follow the keto diet, you can adhere to it easier with sweeteners with a lower glycemic index.
Incidentally, note that this is only a short list of the sweeteners that people use on a keto diet. There are a vast number of brands to choose from. We like to use a mix of stevia, xylitol, and erythritol in our low carb recipes.
However, it is possible that you find something that fits better with your personal taste; only use it if it falls under the permitted sweeteners.
In principle, you want to stay away from brands that use fillers such as maltodextrin and dextrose, or high-glycemic sweeteners like maltitol. Many products that are claimed to be low in carbohydrates use these sugar alcohols. Many sweets that are ‘sugar-free’ also contain these sweeteners. Avoid them if possible. In your body, these specific sweeteners have the same effect as sugar.
If a sweetener has a low glycemic impact (or a low glycemic index), then it has little effect on your blood sugar. The higher the glycemic index is, the worse your blood sugar will peak when you consume the substance. Here you can see which ‘0-GI’ sweeteners we recommend:
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, also called polyol, which occurs naturally in fruits and fermented foods. This is an excellent replacement with a zero glycemic impact. It is a unique substance because it leaves our body undigested and is separated without taking up carbohydrates.
This is a less general sweetener that is usually combined with other sweeteners. Although it is less well-available, it is a well-balanced sweetener.
One of the most used sugar substitutes on the market today. Incredibly sweet without glycemic impact. The liquid form is preferred.
If you are looking for something similar to sugar, you can use Xylitol. It is a natural sweetener that is found in the fibers of many types of fruit and vegetables.
This sweetener can be used in almost the same way as sugar and also the taste is close, but it has a slight glycemic impact. It is a great keto friendly food, but please bear in mind that it is very toxic to animals and will slightly increase your insulin level. These are the two most common reasons for not using Xylitol.
In this dietary list of the ketogenic diet, all foods are discussed that you can eat within the ketogenic diet. In short, you can compose your menu from the following foods:
Meat and animal products such as fish, beef, lamb, poultry, and eggs
Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale.
Vegetables that grow above ground, such as cauliflower and broccoli.
Full-fat dairy foods, such as cheese, whipped cream, and butter.
Nuts and seeds, such as macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
Avocado and berries, such as raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and other berries with a low glycemic index.
Sweeteners such as stevia, erythritol, monk fruit and other sweeteners with a low carbohydrate content
Fats, such as coconut oil and animal saturated fats.
These foods will make your ketogenic way of eating a successful one!