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The Ketogenic Diet: What You Need To Know About Vegetables

The ketogenic diet has become very popular in recent years.  Its foundations are rooted in helping manage epilepsy, though it is also used as a possible means for health concerns including weight, diabetes, and certain neurological conditions.

A ketogenic diet offers a high amount of dietary fats, an adequate amount of protein, and minimal carbohydrates.  To reach ketosis – a state where the body mobilizes stored fats for fuel – very few foods with carbohydrates are allowed.  That means that foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, meats, eggs, butter, and dairy foods are often allowed, while grains and grain-based foods, fruits, starchy vegetables, and other foods with carbohydrates are limited.

If vegetables are limited, a ketogenic diet could present some concerns.  This is because vegetables also offer a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.  One recent study demonstrated that a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet offered less iron, magnesium, and fiber when compared to a diet higher in carbohydrates. (1)  When unplanned and unbalanced, a ketogenic diet could put someone at risk for unpleasant results.

Because of this, it is important to address the question: if someone chooses to consume a very low carbohydrate or ketogenic-style diet in a non-clinical setting, how can they make sure they are getting vegetables, too? 

Here are my tips on ketogenic veggies for someone considering a ketogenic diet.

Tip #1: Enjoy a variety of non-starchy vegetables often.

Ketogenic friendly vegetables include the following vegetables offered by Foxy Produce:

  • Leafy salad greens: leaf lettuce, kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, and romaine
  • Cruciferous vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, baby broccoli, and cabbage
  • Other veggies: celery, leeks, and asparagus

Since these vegetables offer few carbohydrates per serving alongside vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, they are worthy additions to a ketogenic diet.

Tip #2: Add good fats to your non-starchy veggies.

Fats are the hallmark of the ketogenic diet.  But not all foods with fats are the same.  A 2004 study demonstrated that a ketogenic diet offering mostly polyunsaturated fats produced better outcomes than a ketogenic diet mainly providing saturated fat. (2) 

Polyunsaturated fats are in nuts, seeds, avocados, and some oils.  So, try to include more polyunsaturated fats alongside your vegetables.  Use olive oil to sauté your spinach, add sunflower seeds to your leafy green salads, or snack on walnuts (and non-starchy veggies like celery!) dipped into cauliflower hummus.

Tip #3: Make your vegetables taste good. 

Even though the ketogenic diet offers few carbohydrates, it should still provide plenty of flavor!  Combine your vegetables with herbs like parsley or cilantro, acidic additions like vinegar, lemon or lime juice, or fat-rich dips like pesto or tzatziki sauce for vegetables that are rich in flavor without bumping you out of ketosis. 

And remember, you can include your veggies in a variety of ways: raw, roasted, grilled, stir-fried, steamed, mashed, diced, or in a smoothie!

Tip #4: A ketogenic diet does not mean a "no-carb" diet. 

While keto often means very low carb, it doesn't mean "absolutely no carb.”  While a qualified healthcare provider should tailor your total daily carbohydrate needs in an individualized manner, some ketogenic diets allow for around 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.(3)

When fitting in carbohydrate foods to a ketogenic diet, make sure they come from nutrient-rich sources, like berries.  Many nutritious fruits – like strawberries – offer carbohydrates.  For example, a half-cup of halved strawberries lends 6 grams of carbohydrates.  And, in doing so, it also provides important substances, including fiber, vitamin C, and folate.  

Tip #5: Work with a healthcare provider to determine if a ketogenic diet is right for you. 

Though there may be potential benefits of a ketogenic diet, there may also be possible consequences if a ketogenic diet is not well planned.  This is why it is of utmost importance to work with a healthcare provider.  

The truth is, the ketogenic diet may or may not be the right fit for you, so talking to your doctor or a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help you make sure that your chosen way of eating is well planned and well balanced. 

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The bottom line: vegetables (and fruits!) are essential, even if you don't follow a strict ketogenic diet.  Find enjoyable ways to include vegetables in your daily meals and snacks.  Foxy Produce offers several ways you can add more veggies.  Get started using the delicious recipes here.

  

References: 

1.    McSwiney FT, Doyle L. Low-Carbohydrate Ketogenic Diets in Male Endurance Athletes Demonstrate Different Micronutrient Contents and Changes in Corpuscular Haemoglobin over 12 Weeks. Sports (Basel). 2019;7(9):201. Published 2019 Aug 30. doi:10.3390/sports7090201 

2.    Fuehrlein BS, Rutenberg MS, Silver JN, et al. Differential metabolic effects of saturated versus polyunsaturated fats in ketogenic diets. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004;89(4):1641–1645. doi:10.1210/jc.2003-031796 

3.    Abbasi J. Interest in the ketogenic diet grows for weight loss and type 2 diabetes. JAMA. 2018;319(3):215-217.

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