The ketogenic diet’s increasing popularity owes largely to its potential benefits for weight loss and blood sugar control (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
Early evidence also suggests that this low carb, high fat diet may help treat certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions. Still, higher quality research is still needed to determine this diet’s long-term safety and effectiveness (1Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
The keto diet typically limits carbs to 20–50 grams per day. While some people on keto count their total carb intake, others count net carbs, which is total carbs minus fiber. That’s because fiber is indigestible, so it can’t be broken down and absorbed by your body.
While this diet may seem challenging, it allows for many nutritious foods.
Here are 20 healthy foods to eat on the keto diet.
1–3. Animal proteins
Fish and shellfish are very keto-friendly. Salmon and other fish are not only nearly carb-free but also rich in B vitamins, potassium, and selenium (8Trusted Source).
However, the carb count in shellfish varies by type. While shrimp and most crabs contain no carbs, oysters and octopus do. You can still eat these foods on the keto diet, but it’s important to carefully track these carbs to stay within your range (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).
Additionally, salmon, sardines, mackerel, and other fatty fish are very high in omega-3 fats, which have been associated with lower insulin levels and increased insulin sensitivity in people with overweight and obesity (13Trusted Source).
Frequent fish intake is linked to improved brain health and a decreased risk of disease (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
The American Heart Association recommends eating 1–2 seafood meals per week (16Trusted Source).
- Meat and poultry
Meat and poultry are considered staple foods on the keto diet.
Fresh meat and poultry contain no carbs and are rich in B vitamins and several important minerals. They’re also a great source of high quality protein, which may help preserve muscle mass during a very low carb diet (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
One study in older women found that a diet high in fatty meat led to 8% higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol than a low fat, high carb diet (20Trusted Source).
It may be best to choose grass-fed meat, if possible, since it has more omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than meat from grain-fed animals (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
Eggs are an extremely healthy protein source.
Because each large egg contains less than 1 gram of carbs and about 6 grams of protein, eggs are ideal for keto (23Trusted Source).
In addition, eggs have been shown to trigger hormones that increase feelings of fullness (24Trusted Source).
It’s important to eat whole eggs rather than egg whites, as most of an egg’s nutrients are found in the yolk. This includes the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect eye health (25Trusted Source).
Although egg yolks are high in cholesterol, they don’t appear to increase your risk of heart disease (26Trusted Source).
Most animal proteins, such as eggs, beef, pork, poultry, and seafood, are low in carbs and appropriate for the keto diet.
4–7. Dairy and dairy alternatives
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There are hundreds of types of cheese, most of which are very low in carbs and high in fat, making them a great fit for the keto diet.
Just 1 ounce (28 grams) of cheddar cheese provides 1 gram of carbs, 6 grams of protein, and a good amount of calcium (27Trusted Source).
Cheese is high in saturated fat, but it hasn’t been shown to increase your risk of heart disease. In fact, some studies suggest that it may help protect against this condition (28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source).
Cheese also contains CLA, which has been linked to fat loss and improvements in body composition (30Trusted Source).
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 ate 7 ounces (210 grams) of ricotta per day experienced less loss of muscle mass and muscle strength than those who didn’t eat this amount of cheese (31Trusted Source).
Here are some cheeses that are lower in carbs for a keto diet.
- Keto cheese list
- blue cheese
- colby jack
- cottage cheese
- cream cheese
- goat cheese
- pepper jack
- string cheese
- Swiss cheese
- Plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
Plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are healthy, high protein foods. While they contain some carbs, you can eat them in moderation on keto.
Both yogurt and cottage cheese have been shown to help decrease appetite and promote feelings of fullness (32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).
Either one makes a tasty snack on its own, but you can combine them with chopped nuts, cinnamon, or other spices to make a quick keto treat.