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Keto Diet: What to Eat, Benefits, and More

Head and shoulders photograph of Anju Mobin
Woman preparing a smoothie on kitchen counter
The idea behind the keto diet is simple: cut out carbs, increase fat intake, and eat moderate amounts of protein. Ketones are produced when the body burns stored fat, and consistent production of ketones helps achieve ketosis. The wrong foods will quickly kick you out of ketosis, so eating the right keto foods on a keto diet is vital.

Keto, also referred to as the keto or ketogenic diet, is a diet plan that follows a regimen of high-fat (55-60%), medium protein (30-35%), and low carbohydrate (5-10%) intake to achieve the desired benefits (1).

The benefits of following the keto diet have made it a popular diet worldwide. Today, anyone can follow the keto diet using meal delivery services like Home Chef and Blue Apron. There are even services dedicated to keto meal delivery.

What Foods May Be Eaten on a Keto Diet?

Choosing keto foods that have a high-fat content and adequate protein is important. The following foods can be consumed in sizeable portions while on the keto diet:

  • Meat Fresh meat, including beef, mutton, pork, lamb, and duck, is high in fat and a great protein source.
  • Seafood This includes fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and shellfish such as shrimp, scallops, and oysters. Those with shellfish or other seafood allergies can increase their intake of other fatty foods.
  • Eggs Organic eggs from ducks, chickens, and quails can be a staple in keto diets as they have a good fat and protein content.
  • Dairy Milk, cheese, ghee, cream, and plain yogurt can be consumed in moderation.
  • Nuts and seeds Many nuts and seeds, including pecans, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds, make for a tasty and filling snack when consumed in small quantities. Just make sure the nuts you consume are low in carbohydrates.
  • Vegetables To add variety and make meals more wholesome, experiment with various vegetables low in starch, such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, leafy greens, and eggplants.
  • Fruits Include keto-friendly fruits such as tomatoes, strawberries, peaches, and kiwi to add variety to your meals.
  • Oil Virgin or extra-virgin coconut, olive, MCT, and avocado oil are some of the oils that are well-suited for the keto diet.
  • Natural sweeteners This includes monk fruit, stevia, and erythritol.
  • Drinks Besides plenty of water, bone broth, diet sodas, tea, and sugar-free bulletproof coffee are perfect for a keto diet. Occasionally indulging in alcoholic drinks such as dry wine, whiskey, vodka, and tequila is allowed in small quantities.

What Food Should Be Avoided on a Keto Diet?

Restricting consumption of the following foods is mandatory during keto diets to ensure the body continues to use fat for energy:

  • Sugary foods This includes candy, chocolate, cake, cookies, ice cream, soft drinks, and fruit juices.
  • Natural and artificial sweeteners This includes honey, corn syrup, maple syrup, coconut sugar, agave nectar, and cane sugar.
  • Grains, cereals, legumes, and beans Avoiding rice, wheat, quinoa, oats, corn, beans, chickpeas, and lentils is best.
  • Starchy vegetables and fruits Peas, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and beets must be restricted. Fruits such as bananas, grapes, mangoes, and dates should be avoided.
  • Nuts High-carb nuts such as chestnuts, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, dried coconuts, and acorns should be avoided.
  • Processed foods Avoid pasta, pizza, bread, fast food, and canned food.
  • Low-fat and sweetened dairy products Flavored milk, condensed milk, flavored yogurt, and pudding should be avoided.
  • Vegetable oils This includes margarine and sunflower, canola, and peanut oil.
  • Alcohol Ciders, sweet wines, beer, and cocktails must be avoided as they are higher in carbs.

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a process that occurs when the body converts dietary or stored fat into ketones and burns them for fuel. A state of ketosis can be reached when following a keto diet, which involves consuming fewer carbs and more fats.

What Are the Benefits of the Keto Diet?

The keto diet can produce good health benefits when the body achieves a constant state of ketosis. Here are some of the most significant benefits a keto diet brings to the table.

Weight Loss

People worldwide follow the keto diet to lose weight. Keto diets are designed to melt stored body fat for energy, resulting in weight loss. Since fats and proteins increase satiety, appetite and food cravings are lowered, leading to sustained weight loss over time (2).

Improved Insulin Functions

Keto diets can lower insulin resistance and increase the body’s response to insulin. This can help lower blood sugar and make Type 2 diabetes easier to control(3).

Better Cardiovascular Health

Research shows that restricted carb diets can improve lipid markers and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases for improved health.

Enhanced Brain Functions

Keto diets can have neuroprotective effects on the brain. These effects can possibly aid the treatment of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and might delay or even prevent the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Fewer Seizures for Epilepsy Patients

Keto diets were originally developed to aid in the treatment of epilepsy in children. Despite limited studies available for adults, research indicates that keto diets might lower the frequency of seizures and possibly help with improved cognition.

Better Looking Skin

Reduced carb intake is good for your skin too. Following a keto diet may reduce the risk of inflammatory skin diseases and acne.

Reduced PCOS Symptoms

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that can affect women of reproductive age. One of the key causes of this condition is insulin resistance. Since a keto diet drastically reduces carbs, it lowers body weight, possible leading to improved insulin resistance and better regulated hormone functions.

Potential Drawbacks of the Keto Diet

Every diet is not without its disadvantages. Those following a keto diet may experience certain symptoms that range from mild to severe. Some of the common side effects include the following.

Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

Restricting whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can result in low vitamin and other nutrient availability. Nutrient deficiencies can lead to lack of concentration, fatigue, paleness, improper sleep cycles (keto insomnia), and more.

Leg Cramps

Inadequate water intake, especially at the start of keto diets, can cause electrolyte deficiencies that can result in leg cramps.

Potential Heart Problems

An increased fat intake can increase cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease, especially in people with other conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Keto Rash, Keto Breath, and Keto Flu

The drastic diet change that happens during keto can trigger flu-like symptoms and a metallic or ammonia-like taste in the mouth. Sometimes, intense carb restriction can induce what is known as a keto rash too. However, these conditions should disappear once the body adjusts to ketosis.

Should You Try a Keto Diet?

Well, the decision is entirely yours! The keto diet is highly suitable for people who are obese or suffering from a metabolic syndrome that increases the risk of several medical conditions. However, every individual is unique and needs to make a conscious decision about following the keto lifestyle.

Consider why you would like to start the keto diet and seriously weigh the pros and cons. If you are prepared to face the challenge of strictly following the keto diet, rest assured that this lifestyle has plenty of great benefits.

Resources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19641727/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33163300/
Head and shoulders photograph of Anju Mobin
Anju Mobin is a certified nutritionist and has worked in numerous medical clinics. She specializes in nutrition and fitness content with over a decade of experience as a writer and editor.

*The information on this site is based on research, but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new diet plan, we recommend consulting with a physician or other professional healthcare provider. Results may vary based on various health factors, individual weight loss plans and adherence to the meal plan.