Instead of thinking about the total carbs you’re eating, assess what those carbs provide to you. Do the majority of your carbs come from fruit and vegetables, with a payload of fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants? Fantastic. Or are you consuming them in the form of added sugars (cookies, candy, soda) or refined flour? If you are, you know what to do.
Protein: Keep in mind that keto is high-fat, and not high-protein, so you don’t need to eat very much meat. Too much protein turns into glucose in the body, making it harder to stay in ketosis. Stick to fatty cuts of grass-fed, pasture-raised, or wild meat, and wild-caught fish. Red meats, offal/organ meats, pork, eggs (preferably pastured), fish, shellfish, and whey protein concentrate.
Fats are great if you want to add flavor and texture to your meals, and will help you feel full. Some people believe swear by coconut oil, and whether or not the claimed health benefits are actually present, it’s one of the fats that you might want to add to your diet. Butter is an excellent choice, as is ghee (Indian clarified butter). Duck fat is highly prized. Avocado oil is a great choice when making dressings or sauces, as it’s liquid at room temperature and has a mild flavor. The fats and oils listed here are primarily saturated, and they are the least likely to go rancid and produce free radicals and inflammation in the body (5, 6).
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LCHF is a plan that is very similar to an Atkins approach, but the focus is placed on the higher ingestion of fats, and a perpetual restriction of carbohydrates to less than 20 grams per day, and in some cases nearly 0 grams a day are consumed. There is no specific restriction of artificial or manufactured foods, only that the fat is kept higher, around 70%-85% of the diet.
Basically, fat within your blood travels as lipoproteins, along with cholesterol, proteins, and phospholipids. In order for an artery to be “clogged”, there needs to be a small tear in its inner wall first. These tears can be due to stress, smoking, a highly-processed diet, etc. In order for the walls to be repaired and thus prevent “clogging”, Vitamin E must be used. Vitamin E, being a fat-soluble vitamin, requires fat in order to be available for your body to use. Therefore, the consumption of fat can help your arteries self-heal and thus prevent “clogging”.
If you’d like to try intermittent fasting, it’s best to start by gradually decreasing your feeding window. Start with not eating for a 12 hour stretch, including the time that you’re sleeping. For example, you could stop eating at 8 in the evening, then have breakfast at 8 in the morning. Ultimately, you’ll want to be mostly done with digestion by the time you go to bed, and not be hungry until late morning, so for most people a feeding window of 10am to 6pm would be a good goal.
It comes down to simple mathematics. In order to stay in ketosis, you need to eat a very very low number of carbs. And if you eat too much protein, this can actually knock you out of ketosis as well. Therefore, if you’re eating almost no carbs, and you are eating moderate amounts of protein, the ONLY remaining macronutrient you can consume to fill you up each day would be fat. Add in that consuming fat allows you to stay in ketosis, and you are consuming a high fat, medium protein, low carb diet.
The removal of many grains and fruits with such a large emphasis on fats can bring about its own set of side effects. “If not done properly — with most of your carbohydrates coming from fiber-rich vegetables — you may not be getting enough fiber, which can lead to constipation,” says Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, a sports dietitian based in Louisville, Kentucky, and co-owner of MohrResults.com. (5)
According to the USDA, a 100-gram serving of red tomatoes has 3.89 grams of carbohydrates.43 You may add this fruit to your ketogenic diet safely and gain its beneficial nutrients, particularly lycopene. Researchers from Ohio State University suggest that this antioxidant may help protect your skin from sun damage, which may result in a lowered risk of skin cancer tumors.44
• Cancer: Early experimental research suggests that the keto diet may have anti-tumor effects, likely because it reduces overall calorie intake (and circulating glucose) for tumor growth. In one 2014 review of animal research, a ketogenic diet was found to be successful at reducing tumor growth, colon cancer, gastric cancer and brain cancer. More research on humans with larger sample sizes is needed, but it's definitely food for thought.
“One of the best meal planning tips I’ve ever received is to structure breakfast and lunch so that you don’t have to think too much about it,” says Emily Bartlett, co-founder of Real Plans. “If you’re okay with repetition, it’s ideal to have a simple selection of recipes for breakfast—including some that can be taken on the go. For lunch, go ahead and use your leftovers with a fresh green salad, and be sure to include a dressing that you really love.”
Aside from the various keto-friendly foods mentioned in this article, you may be wondering if there are other options that may help support your ketogenic diet. If you find that the ketogenic diet is limiting when you start out, don't worry. There's actually a lot you can add to your diet that's "keto" as long as consumption is controlled. Here are some commonly asked questions:
“A lot of folks find that batch cooking once or twice a week saves a tremendous amount of time and keeps you from spending every evening in the kitchen,” Weaver says. “When keto meal planning, you want to follow general good meal planning practices, like shopping for the week’s food all at once, which helps to save money, and prepping your vegetables when you get home. These 10 keto recipes are so good you’ll forget you’re on a diet.
Oh man, this is a great read. Entertaining and full or resources and digestible content even though it is a long article. But I appreciate the research you went through it. I remember 5 years ago researching about Keto diet took forever because of how spread out the sources were. This is great work as a guide. Thanks for the article. Before reading this article I thought the requirements were too strict, but now that I read it, I am already doing a third of that list. I am trying IF right now, but I think this will help me with my satiety problem with meals, plus help me with weight loss. Thanks for the motivation and information Steve. I am starting my plan of attack and try a Keto diet.
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