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16 Foods to Eat on a Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic
has become quite popular recently.

Studies have found that this very low-carb, high-fat diet is
effective for weight loss, diabetes and epilepsy (1,
2, 3).

There’s also early evidence to show that it may be beneficial
for certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and
other diseases
, too.

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.

Here are 16 healthy foods to eat on a ketogenic diet.

Healthy Low Carb Foods

1. Seafood

and shellfish are very keto-friendly foods. Salmon and other
fish are rich in B vitamins, potassium and selenium, yet
virtually carb-free (4).

However, the carbs in different types of shellfish vary. For
instance, while shrimp and most crabs contain no carbs, other
types of shellfish do (5).

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.

Here are the carb counts for 3.5-ounce (100-gram) servings of
some popular types of shellfish (6, 7, 8, 9, 10):

  • Clams: 5 grams
  • Mussels: 7 grams
  • Octopus: 4 grams
  • Oysters: 4 grams
  • Squid: 3 grams

sardines, mackerel and other fatty fish are very high in
omega-3 fats, which have been found to 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 (12, 13).

Aim to consume at least two servings of seafood weekly.

Summary: Many types of seafood are carb-free
or very low in carbs. Fish and shellfish are also good
sources of vitamins, minerals and omega-3s.

2. Low-Carb Vegetables

A Pile of Spinach Leaves

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
. However, consuming one serving of “starchy”
vegetables like potatoes, yams or beets could put you over your
entire carb limit for the day.

The net carb count for non-starchy vegetables ranges from less
than 1 gram for 1 cup of raw spinach to 8 grams for 1 cup of
cooked Brussels sprouts (14, 15).

Vegetables also contain antioxidants that help protect against
free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause cell
damage (16, 17).

What’s more, cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and
cauliflower have been linked to decreased cancer and heart
disease risk (18, 19).

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

3. Cheese

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

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
(21, 22).

Cheese also contains conjugated
linoleic acid
, which is a fat that has been linked to fat
loss and improvements in body composition (23).

In addition, eating cheese regularly may help reduce the loss
of muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging.

A 12-week study in older adults found that those who consumed 7
ounces (210 grams) of ricotta cheese per day experienced
increases in muscle mass and muscle strength over the course of
the study (24).

Summary: Cheese is rich in protein, calcium
and beneficial fatty acids, yet contains a minimal amount of

4. 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 (25).

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 (26, 27).

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

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.

5. Meat and Poultry

Steak and Grilled Vegetables

Meat and poultry are considered staple foods on a ketogenic

Fresh meat and poultry contain no carbs and are rich in B
vitamins and several minerals, including potassium, selenium
and zinc (29).

They’re also a great source of high-quality protein,
which has been shown to help preserve muscle mass during a very
low-carb diet (30, 31).

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 (21).

It’s best to choose grass-fed
, 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

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.

6. Eggs

Soft Boiled Egg and a Teaspoon

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 (33).

In addition, eggs have been shown to trigger hormones that
increase feelings of fullness and keep blood sugar levels
stable, leading to lower calorie intakes for up to 24 hours
(34, 35).

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

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 (37).

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

7. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil
has unique properties that make it well suited
for a ketogenic diet.

To begin with, it contains medium-chain
(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 (38).

The main fatty acid in coconut oil is lauric acid, a slightly
longer-chain fat. It has been suggested that coconut oil’s mix
of MCTs and lauric acid may promote a sustained level of
ketosis (39, 40).

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
(41, 42).

For more information about how to add coconut oil to your diet,
read this

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.

8. Plain Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese

Bowl of Yogurt with Cranberries

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.

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5 ounces (150 grams) of plain Greek yogurt provides 5 grams of
carbs and 11 grams of protein. That amount of cottage cheese
provides 5 grams of carbs and 18 grams of protein (43, 44).

Both yogurt and cottage cheese have been shown to help decrease
appetite and promote feelings of fullness (45, 46).

Either one makes a tasty snack on its own.

However, both can also be combined with chopped nuts, cinnamon
and optional sugar-free sweetener for a quick and easy keto

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.

9. Olive Oil

provides impressive benefits for your heart.

It’s high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that has
been found to decrease heart disease risk factors in many
studies (47, 48).

In addition, extra-virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants
known as phenols. These compounds further protect heart health
by decreasing inflammation and improving artery function
(49, 50).

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

10. Nuts and Seeds

Brazil Nuts, Cashews and Other Nuts in a Bowl

and seeds are healthy, high-fat and low-carb foods.

Frequent nut consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of
heart disease, certain cancers, depression and other chronic
diseases (51, 52).

Furthermore, nuts and seeds are high in fiber, which can help
you feel full and absorb fewer calories
overall (53).

Although all nuts and seeds are low in net carbs, the amount
varies quite a bit among the different types.

Here are the carb counts for 1 ounce (28 grams) of some popular
nuts and seeds (54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64):

  • Almonds: 3 grams net carbs (6 grams total
  • Brazil nuts: 1 gram net carbs (3 grams total
  • Cashews: 8 grams net carbs (9 grams total
  • Macadamia nuts: 2 grams net carbs (4 grams
    total carbs)
  • Pecans: 1 gram net carbs (4 grams total
  • Pistachios: 5 grams net carbs (8 grams total
  • Walnuts: 2 grams net carbs (4 grams total
  • Chia seeds: 1 gram net carbs (12 grams total
  • Flaxseeds: 0 grams net carbs (8 grams total
  • 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.

11. Berries


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.

These tiny fruits are loaded with antioxidants that have been
credited with reducing inflammation and protecting against
disease (65, 66, 67).

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)

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.

12. 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
isn’t linked to heart disease.

In fact, some studies suggest that a moderate consumption of
high-fat dairy may possibly reduce the risk of heart attack and
stroke (72, 73, 74).

Like other fatty dairy products, butter and cream are rich in
conjugated linoleic acid, the fatty acid that may promote fat
loss (23).

Summary: Butter and cream are nearly
carb-free and appear to have neutral or beneficial effects on
heart health, when consumed in moderation.

13. Shirataki Noodles

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 (75).

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 (76, 77, 78).

Shirataki noodles come in a variety of shapes, including rice,
fettuccine and linguine. They can be substituted for regular
noodles in all types of recipes.

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.

14. Olives

provide the same health benefits as olive oil, only in solid

Oleuropein, one of the main antioxidants found in
olives, has anti-inflammatory properties and may protect your
cells from damage (79).

In addition, studies suggest that consuming olives may help
prevent bone loss and decrease blood pressure (80, 81).

Olives vary in carb content due to their size. However, half of
their carbs come from fiber, so their digestible carb content
is very low.

A one-ounce (28-gram) serving of olives contains 2 grams of
total carbs and 1 gram of fiber. This works out to a net carb
count of 1 gram for 7–10 olives, depending on their size

Summary: Olives are rich in antioxidants
that may help protect heart and bone health. They contain 1
gram of net carbs per ounce.

15. Unsweetened Coffee and Tea

Woman's Hands Holding a Cup of Coffee

and tea are incredibly healthy, carb-free drinks.

They contain caffeine,
which increases your metabolism and may improve your physical
performance, alertness and mood (83, 84, 85).

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 (86, 87).

Adding heavy cream to coffee or tea is fine, but stay away from
“light” coffee and tea lattes. These are typically made with
non-fat milk and contain high-carb flavorings.

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.

16. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder

Four Pieces of Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate
and cocoa are delicious sources of

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 (88).

Dark chocolate contains flavanols, which may reduce the risk of
heart disease by lowering blood pressure and keeping arteries
healthy (89, 90, 91).

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 (92, 93).

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.

The Bottom Line

A ketogenic diet can be used to achieve weight loss, blood
sugar control and other health-related goals.

Fortunately, it can include a wide variety of nutritious, tasty
and versatile foods that allow you to remain within your daily
carb range.

To reap all the health benefits of a ketogenic diet, consume
these 16 foods on a regular basis.

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