The keto diet is often associated with eating large amounts of bacon and butter, but according to a keto expert, there are 10 foods you need to be loading up on instead if you really want to reap the benefits of the diet.
The Ketogenic Diet (or Keto for short), is a diet very low in carbohydrate, high in fat and low to moderate in protein. The reduction in carbohydrate intake puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis where your body uses ketones as an alternative source of energy instead of glucose.
When we eat very few carbs or very few calories, ketones are produced by the liver from fat. The ketones are then used as a fuel throughout the body, especially for the brain, which can’t utilise fat directly and can only run on glucose or ketones.
In a nutshell, when you’re on a ketogenic diet, your body’s main fuel supply is fat instead of glucose. That’s what being ‘fat adapted’ means.
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The best way to induce ketosis is fasting or creating a ‘ketogenic ratio’ of 4-parts fat to 1-part protein and carbohydrate, which equates to around 80 per cent of calories in the diet from fat. The protein recommendation is 1.2-3g of protein per each kilogram of body weight per day, and the rest of your daily calorie allowance is from carbohydrates.
At 60kg and 2000 kcal per day, the exact macros would be:
- Fat: 1600 kcal (178g)
- Protein: 288 kcal (72g)
- Carbohydrate: 112 kcal (28g)
This can be quite difficult to maintain and you can actually achieve great results by trying a modified ketogenic diet with 60-75 per cent of calories from fat if you use MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides). That way you can have more carbohydrates and protein.
What to eat on a ketogenic diet and how to calculate net carbs?
The most important thing in reaching the state of ketosis (and staying in it) is not having too many carbs. You’ll likely need to keep carb intake under 50 grams of net carbs per day, ideally below 20 grams. If you give your body carbs, your insulin will go up and your body will use blood glucose instead of fat.
In Australia, it’s pretty easy to simply follow the Carbohydrates figure shown in the nutrition information panel. However, when checking the carb content for US / Canadian labels, you should subtract Dietary Fibre from Carbohydrates to get Net Carbs (Total Carbs minus Fibre = Net Carbs). Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest which means it does not affect our blood sugar levels so it’s fine to work off Net Carbs.
The second important thing is choosing healthy foods. Sure, you can ingest lots of fat and little carbs by eating sausages, bacon and cream, but this kind of diet will not only rob you of essential nutrients necessary for your health and performance, but it’s also inflammatory and carcinogenic.
Top ten healthy foods to eat on the keto diet
1. Low carb vegetables
You can use them to replace your starchy favourites by making cauliflower rice, zucchini pasta, spinach bread. Vegetables must remain on your menu no matter what diet you are on. They are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. You need them for a healthy gut and colon and for your daily vitamin and mineral intake.
Have a good variety and lots of fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. Go for wild-caught.
3. Meat and poultry
Just 100g of organic liver contains 50 per cent of your daily vitamin and mineral requirement. Always choose grass-fed, and organic if available.
They have a very low net carb count and very high potassium and fat content.
Eggs are the perfect keto food as they have less than 1g carbs and 6g of protein. The yolks are packed with nutrients including antioxidants
6. Coconut and olive oil
Use olive oil for cold dishes and coconut oil for cooking and baking. Coconut contains MCTs, which are converted to ketones more rapidly than other fats.
7. Nuts and seeds
They are high in fat and fibre and low in carbs. You can use them for a snack or to give your salad a crunch. You can also use any nut meal (groundnuts) to replace flour in baking. Try making zucchini bread made from zucchini, almond meal, eggs and olive oil.
They are low in carbs and high in fibre and antioxidants. The perfect keto sweet treat, especially when you put them into your coconut yoghurt or blend with coconut cream.
9. Konjac noodles
These noodles have almost no calories and virtually no carbs, making them perfect for the keto diet.
10. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder
It has to be high in cocoa to be suitable for keto. 100 per cent cocoa is the best but you can start with 80 per cent to get used to it. It has lots of good stuff in it such as antioxidants. It’s only healthy in small amounts as an occasional treat.
Veronika Larisova is a Nutritionist, Exercise Physiologist, Fitgenes practitioner and Educator who has worked with a wide range of clientele ranging from Olympic athletes to weekend warriors. She is also the Co-Founder of Chief Nutrition.