Just like how the Mediterranean diet claimed 2017's top spot for the most talked-about diet, the ketogenic diet has taken over in 2018. It seems like every key player in the wellness community, from nutritionists to celebrities (like Halle Berry), has commented—if not enlisted themselves—on this eating regimen. Its premise is simple: Cut back on carbs and load up on healthy fats and protein because, believe it or not, the term "healthy fats" is not an oxymoron. They do exist. The goal of the keto diet is for the body to reach a state of ketosis, which, according to Kelly LeVeque, is when "there is a decrease in the production and utilization of glucose. There is also a decrease in the breakdown of protein (found in your muscles) to be used for energy. So your body burns fat without sacrificing any muscle."
Meet the Expert
Kelly LeVeque is a holistic nutritionist, wellness expert, celebrity health coach, and best-selling author of Body Love. Her A-list clients include Jessica Alba, Molly Sims, and Chelsea Handler. She is based in Los Angeles, California.
In other words, your body learns to burn an alternative energy source for fuel, not the traditional carbohydrates or protein. Instead, it burns fat as its main energy source, which can lead to weight loss, muscle retention, and maintenance of metabolic rate. Cool, right? In order to reach ketosis, though, you need to know what to eat. We're talking about keto-approved healthy fats that will fuel your body while keeping you feeling full and satiated. Keep scrolling to see the 10 healthy fats that nutritionists recommend eating as part of a healthy keto diet. Spoiler alert: Avocados made the list.
According to Lyuda Bouzinova, co-founder of Mission Lean, ACE-certified fitness nutrition specialist, and personal trainer, "Healthy fats are those that come from single-ingredient, all-natural foods like avocado, nuts, and salmon. They are listed under monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat on the nutrition label. They are important to consume for general health—to avoid disease, improve heart health, and boost your brain functioning." A good place to start when incorporating healthy fats into your diet is with walnuts, which are rich in omega-3s (which are themselves a type of healthy fatty acid).
"The macronutrient 'fat' is not responsible for making anyone fat," Bouzinova continues. "What makes people overweight and unhealthy is a diet consistently filled with saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and unnatural, processed foods. Consuming the proper amount of healthy fats is crucial for your body and mind to function properly and stay healthy."
That's why she recommends eating Brazil nuts, which are a natural source of healthy fat, much like walnuts. We like the fact that they're easy to incorporate into a number of dishes, especially when it comes to breakfast. By the way, if you want to pair healthy fats with something sweet, reach for some strawberries. "Strawberries have a low amount of sugar and carbs (compared to all other fruit), so they are an acceptable snack on the keto diet when you are really craving something sweet," she says.
Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition, recommends stocking up on hemp seeds if following a ketogenic diet. They're rich in ALA, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid. "There are a variety of different fats (made up of fatty acids) out there," she says. "We always hawk the omega-3s because historically, Western diets don't consume enough to be beneficial (anti-inflammatory) in the body. We consume too may omega-6s, and we should ideally maintain a ratio of one to one. Americans hover more around 15 or 17 to one (or six to three)." Hemp seeds can help even out this ratio, providing omega-3s instead of omega-6s.
Chia seeds are kind of a wunderkind of the wellness community. Although the buzz that surrounds them is relatively new (at least it is in the States), they've been around for millennia, boasting some serious health benefits all the while. Sprinkle some in your morning smoothie, on salads, or in nut butter.
Olive oil is another healthy fat recommended by Moreno. Funnily enough, this is a staple of both the ketogenic and Mediterranean diets, so it's a good ingredient to cook with if you're looking to combine the two in a happy medium.
See? We weren't lying when we said avocado is allowed. In fact, it's encouraged. It provides healthy fats that will nourish the body and satiate the stomach, so as not to leave us reaching for snacks post-meals. Just know that it is indeed possible to eat too much of a healthy fat. As Moreno explains, "An overconsumption without expending ANY calories, whether it comes from carbohydrate, fat, or protein, will lead to weight gain. So it's not that you won't gain weight if all you eat are walnuts (high in omega-3s). It's that these fatty acids are essential to your body's functions and fight disease."
In other words, it's important to create a diet that's rich in a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, regardless of what specific eating plan you follow. Incorporate avocado into smoothies, salads, and baked dishes, along with other foods. Don't eat them alone as if they're a full meal. It doesn't matter if they're approved for the keto diet or not, eating too much of one thing will never do you any good.
Salmon is a classic keto food since it's rich in healthy fatty acids. It's tasty, too. As long as you don't follow a vegan diet, eating fresh salmon can encourage a state of ketosis while also providing you with a lot of necessary protein.
The same goes for other meat. Moreno says beef, venison, bison, and sardines are all adequate sources of protein and fatty acids. Just make sure they're fresh and grass-fed if possible so as to avoid extra preservatives or additives.
On that note, if you're vegetarian, the keto diet is still entirely possible. Click here to learn more.
Eggs are naturally low in carbs and high in protein, which makes them an ideal food to incorporate into a keto lifestyle. We like the fact that they're so versatile. Eat them hard-boiled, scrambled, in a quiche, or in an omelet. The possibilities are endless.
Certain dairy products are keto-approved, which may surprise you considering the recent buzz surrounding dairy-free living. Many dairy products happen to be low-carb, which is why they make the cut (no, ice cream does not). Cheese does, as does full-fat yogurt and even real cream. You know what this means, right? Our current Sunday brunch situations can still be salvaged since charcuterie boards are on the table.
Next, read all about the differences between the ketogenic diet and the Whole30 diet. Hint: It's simpler than you think.