Whether it's mental, emotional, or physical, we've all felt the effects of stress over the last few years. And the more we learn about health and wellness, the more obvious it becomes that chronic stress can undermine even the healthiest of diets and exercise plans. But here's the thing: The very diet and lifestyle changes you are implementing are the exact same strategies that are actually best for de-stressing.
In fact, a well-constructed ketogenic diet can naturally decrease stress, especially when you focus on eating certain stress-fighting keto foods! But eating a diet full of health-promoting keto foods has been shown to do so much more, from supporting healthy weight management to healthy blood sugar levels—both of which can help to decrease your internal physiological stress.
So, let’s more closely explore keto foods—what they are, how they work, and why certain stress-fighting keto foods should be part of your regular diet if you’re looking to de-stress.
What Types of Foods Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?
Here’s the most common question about the keto diet: What foods can I eat on keto? Perhaps the second most common? What are foods to avoid on keto? And there’s a great reason for that.
In a nutshell, on the keto diet, it is important to focus on high-quality keto-friendly foods so that you stay in ketosis. But if you’re new to following the keto diet, this can be a bit confusing. So, let’s review the top keto diet macros before diving into each one.
Keto Diet Macros
In order to stay in ketosis and reap the full benefits of a keto diet, it’s important to make sure you prioritize consuming the top keto diet macros in the best way.
You’ll need to eat plenty of good fats (also known as “keto fats”) such as avocado, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter; incorporate a moderate amount of quality protein such as grass-fed beef, wild salmon, and pasture-raised eggs; and include some high-fiber, yet low-carb plant foods such as non-starchy veggies (kale, broccoli, zucchini, artichokes), nuts, and seeds.
Let’s take a closer look at these top macros and keto diet foods and break down exactly what your diet should look like to support your overall health and stress response. By focusing on your keto macros, you’ll likely naturally displace some of the higher carb, more processed foods in your diet and avoid the trap of dirty keto.
Fats (70–80% of Daily Calories)
When starting a keto diet, you need to make sure you eat plenty of healthy fats. In fact, they should make up 70 to 80 percent of your overall caloric intake. Assuming you’re on an 1,800-calorie diet, that means you’ll be consuming approximately 150 grams of healthy fats each day to help support your body’s ability to enter into fat-burning mode (aka ketosis).
Now, I say “healthy fats” because not all fats are created equally. Healthy fats fall into one of these categories: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as some saturated fats. These fats come from whole foods and are known to help support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from your food. Conversely, avoid unhealthy trans fats (anything processed or fried), as these only cause inflammation and other undesired effects.
Best examples of keto fats:
Healthy fats are sourced from whole foods, including vegetables, fruit (especially avocados), nuts, seeds, oils, and fatty fish. Some saturated fats can serve as healthy sources as well. These include whole fat dairy, coconut oil, and even pasture-raised beef.
Protein (10–20% of Daily Calories)
In addition to healthy fats, you should also be consuming a moderate amount of protein-based keto foods. Proteins should make up 10 to 20 percent of your overall caloric intake. So, once again assuming you’re on an 1,800-calorie diet, that means you’ll be consuming approximately 70 grams of protein each day.
Eating a moderate amount of protein is important on the keto diet because protein is known to help reduce your levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone). Additionally, eating protein supports satiety and can help reduce hunger cravings, which supports your efforts on the keto diet. That’s why protein-based foods are considered to be essential keto foods.
Best examples of keto protein:
Healthy proteins are sourced from both plant-based and animal-based foods. Some of the top keto proteins include nuts, seeds, legumes, whole-fat dairy, eggs, pasture-raised beef, organic and free-range poultry, and wild-caught fish.
Carbohydrates (5–10% of Daily Calories)
Finally, you’ll want to limit your carbohydrate intake while on the keto diet, meaning you’ll eat less of this macro than the other. Carbs should make up 5 to 10 percent of your daily caloric intake, meaning that if you’re following an 1,800-calorie per day diet, you’ll be consuming about 35 grams of carbs.
Now, once you’re more accustomed to the keto diet and get to know more about what keto foods to avoid versus the best keto foods to eat, you can begin to calculate net carbs (total carbs minus fiber intake), which allows for a slight increase in carb consumption. But you need to be careful when you’re first starting out, and counting total gross carbs can be a bit easier to track.
Another trick is to focus on eating high fiber carbs, as the fiber content will help to naturally keep your net carb intake low. Plus, having a higher intake of fiber can help support digestion as you’re transitioning to a high-fat diet. You can learn more about the benefits of following this type of keto diet in my bestselling book High Fiber Keto. Just always keep this in mind: fat first, carbs last.
Best examples of keto carbs:
The best healthy carbs are hydrating, non-starchy, fibrous vegetables such as arugula, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, leeks, peppers, seaweed, spinach and more. For a comprehensive list, check out my article on all things keto diet!
10 Keto Foods That Fight Stress
If you’re looking for a keto foods list specifically for fight stress, here are the top keto foods to consume on a regular basis.
1. Avocados—high in potassium, which helps to protect the normal function of muscle and nerve activity.
2. Berries—high in anti-oxidants, which protect against free radicals, and high in immune-supporting vitamin C as well. (Keep in mind that going keto doesn’t mean giving up all sweets. Just focus on fibrous berries that provide a powerful antioxidant punch to satisfy that sweet tooth.)
3. Dark chocolate—high in antioxidants and shown to help reduce cortisol and other stress hormones when 70 percent cacao is consumed in one-ounce portions.
4. Dark green vegetables—high in both magnesium and molybdenum, a mineral that helps to regulate breathing and heartbeat, and loaded with fiber and magnesium, which is known to support stress response and allows your muscles and nerves to relax.
5. Fermented foods (such as sauerkraut and kimchi)—high in probiotics and help promote a healthy gut microbiome. Imbalances of gut bacteria have been linked with anxiety and other mood issues.
6. Free-range poultry—high in tryptophan, an amino acid that can help with sleep and elevating mood.
7. Grass-fed beef—high in B vitamins and the mood-stabilizing nutrients zinc and iron.
8. Mushrooms (such as cremini and shiitake)—rich in pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), which improves your ability to respond to stress by supporting your adrenal gland health.
9. Nutritional yeast—high in B Vitamins, which are essential for your nervous system, heart palpitations, and balanced mood.
10. Wild-caught salmon—rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are shown to combat mood swings and improve cognitive performance.
As you begin eating more keto foods, I recommend using an online tracking tool in order to make sure that you are eating around 75 percent of your daily calories from fat. And if you’re looking for easy and delicious ideas for keto meals that will keep you on track and help in your efforts to de-stress, make sure to check out some of my recipes, such as my High Fiber Keto Smoothie, to get the hang of what this breakdown looks like.
You may also want to consider using supplements to support your efforts as you consume more keto-friendly foods. Those that support satiety and fight cravings, such as saffron, as well as those that support healthy blood sugar levels, such as berberine, are great places to start if you’re just starting your keto journey.
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