A ketogenic diet can be used to achieve weight loss, blood sugar control, and other health-related goals. 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.
To reap all the health benefits of a ketogenic diet, consume these 16 foods on a regular basis.
1. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder
Dark chocolate and cocoa are delicious sources of antioxidants.
In fact, cocoa has been called a “super fruit,” because it provides at least as much antioxidant activity as any other fruit, including blueberries and acai berries (1).
SUMMARY: Dark chocolate contains 3–10 grams of net carbs per ounce, is high in antioxidants and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
2. Unsweetened Coffee and Tea
Coffee and tea are incredibly healthy, carb-free drinks.
What’s more, coffee and tea drinkers have been shown to have a significantly reduced risk of diabetes. In fact, those with the highest coffee and tea intakes have the lowest risk of developing diabetes (8, 9).
SUMMARY: Unsweetened coffee and tea contain no carbs and can help boost your metabolic rate, as well as physical and mental performance. They can also reduce your risk of diabetes.
Olives provide the same health benefits as olive oil, only in solid form.
Oleuropein, the main antioxidant found in olives, has anti-inflammatory properties and may protect your cells from damage (10).
SUMMARY: Olives are rich in antioxidants that may help protect heart and bone health. They contain 1 gram of net carbs per ounce.
Shirataki noodles are a fantastic addition to a ketogenic diet.
They contain less than 1 gram of carbs and 5 calories per serving because they are mainly water.
In fact, these noodles are made from a viscous fiber called glucomannan, which can absorb up to 50 times its weight in water (13).
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 (14, 15).
SUMMARY: Shirataki noodles contain less than 1 gram of carbs per serving. Their viscous fiber helps slow down the movement of food through your digestive tract, which promotes fullness and stable blood sugar levels.
5. Butter and Cream
Butter and cream are good fats to include on a ketogenic diet. Each contains only trace amounts of carbs per serving.
For many years, butter and cream were believed to cause or contribute to heart disease due to their high saturated fat contents. However, several large studies have shown that, for most people, saturated fat isn’t linked to heart disease.
SUMMARY: Butter and cream are nearly carb-free and appear to have neutral or beneficial effects on heart health, when consumed in moderation.
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.
- 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)
SUMMARY: Berries are rich in nutrients that may reduce the risk of disease. They provide 5–12 grams of net carbs per 3.5-ounce serving.
7. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are healthy, high-fat and low-carb foods.
Furthermore, nuts and seeds are high in fiber, which can help you feel full and absorb fewer calories overall.
Although all nuts and seeds are low in net carbs, the amount varies quite a bit among the different types.
- Almonds: 3 grams net carbs (6 grams total carbs)
- Brazil nuts: 1 gram net carbs (3 grams total carbs)
- Cashews: 8 grams net carbs (9 grams total carbs)
- Macadamia nuts: 2 grams net carbs (4 grams total carbs)
- Pecans: 1 gram net carbs (4 grams total carbs)
- Pistachios: 5 grams net carbs (8 grams total carbs)
- Walnuts: 2 grams net carbs (4 grams total carbs)
- Chia seeds: 1 gram net carbs (12 grams total carbs)
- Flaxseeds: 0 grams net carbs (8 grams total carbs)
- Pumpkin seeds: 4 grams net carbs (5 grams total carbs)
- Sesame seeds: 3 grams net carbs (7 grams total carbs)
SUMMARY: Nuts and seeds are heart-healthy, high in fiber and may lead to healthier aging. They provide 0–8 grams of net carbs per ounce.
8. Olive Oil
Olive oil provides impressive benefits for your heart.
As a pure fat source, olive oil contains no carbs. It’s an ideal base for salad dressings and healthy mayonnaise.
Because it isn’t as stable as saturated fats at high temperatures, it’s best to use olive oil for low-heat cooking or add it to foods after they have been cooked.
SUMMARY: Extra-virgin olive oil is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. It’s ideal for salad dressings, mayonnaise and adding to cooked foods.
9. Plain Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese
Plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are healthy, high-protein foods.
While they contain some carbs, they can still be included in a ketogenic lifestyle.
Either one makes a tasty snack on its own
SUMMARY: Both plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese contain 5 grams of carbs per serving. Studies have shown that they help reduce appetite and promote fullness.
10. 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.
In fact, coconut oil has been used to increase ketone levels in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders of the brain and nervous system (47).
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 (50, 51).
For more information about how to add coconut oil to your diet, read this article.
SUMMARY: Coconut oil is rich in MCTs, which can increase ketone production. In addition, it may increase metabolic rate and promote the loss of weight and belly fat.
Eggs are one of the healthiest and most versatile foods on the planet.
One large egg contains less than 1 gram of carbs and fewer than 6 grams of protein, making eggs an ideal food for a ketogenic lifestyle (52).
It’s important to eat the entire egg, as most of an egg’s nutrients are found in the yolk. This includes the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect eye health (55).
Although egg yolks are high in cholesterol, consuming them doesn’t raise blood cholesterol levels in most people. In fact, eggs appear to modify the shape of LDL in a way that reduces the risk of heart disease (56).
SUMMARY: Eggs contain less than 1 gram of carbs each and can help keep you full for hours. They’re also high in several nutrients and may help protect eye and heart health.
12. Meat and Poultry
Meat and poultry are considered staple foods on a ketogenic diet.
Fresh meat and poultry contain no carbs and are rich in B vitamins and several minerals, including potassium, selenium and zinc (56).
One study in older women found that consuming a diet high in fatty meat led to HDL cholesterol levels that were 8% higher than on a low-fat, high-carb diet (59).
It’s best to choose grass-fed meat, if possible. That’s because animals that eat grass produce meat with higher amounts of omega-3 fats, conjugated linoleic acid, and antioxidants than meat from grain-fed animals (60).
SUMMARY: Meat and poultry do not contain carbs and are rich in high-quality protein and several nutrients. Grass-fed meat is the healthiest choice.
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 (61).
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 (62, 63).
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 (64).
SUMMARY: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.
Cheese is both nutritious and delicious.
There are hundreds of types of cheese. Fortunately, all of them are very low in carbs and high in fat, which makes them a great fit for a ketogenic diet.
One ounce (28 grams) of cheddar cheese provides 1 gram of carbs, 7 grams of protein and 20% of the RDI for calcium (65).
Cheese is high in saturated fat, but it hasn’t been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. In fact, some studies suggest that cheese may help protect against heart disease (66).
SUMMARY: Cheese is rich in protein, calcium and beneficial fatty acids, yet contains a minimal amount of carbs.
15. Low-Carb Vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables are low in calories and carbs, but high in many nutrients, including vitamin C and several minerals.
Vegetables and other plants contain fiber, which your body doesn’t digest and absorb like other carbs.
Therefore, look at their digestible (or net) carb count, which is total carbs minus fiber.
Most vegetables contain very few net carbs. However, consuming one serving of “starchy” vegetables like potatoes, yams or beets could put you over your entire carb limit for the day.
Low-carb veggies make great substitutes for higher-carb foods. For instance, cauliflower can be used to mimic rice or mashed potatoes, “zoodles” can be created from zucchini and spaghetti squash is a natural substitute for spaghetti.
SUMMARY: The net carbs in non-starchy vegetables range from 1–8 grams per cup. Vegetables are nutritious, versatile and may help reduce the risk of disease.
Fish and shellfish are very keto-friendly foods. Salmon and other fish are rich in B vitamins, potassium and selenium, yet virtually carb-free (74).
However, the carbs in different types of shellfish vary. For instance, while shrimp and most crabs contain no carbs, other types of shellfish do (75).
While these shellfish can still be included on a ketogenic diet, it’s important to account for these carbs when you’re trying to stay within a narrow range.
- Clams: 5 grams
- Mussels: 7 grams
- Octopus: 4 grams
- Oysters: 4 grams
- Squid: 3 grams
To reap all the health benefits of a ketogenic diet, consume these 16 foods on a regular basis.