(StatePoint) The low-carb, high-fat diet known as keto has Americans looking at healthy food consumption in a whole new light. Keto programs have proven effective for weight loss, but how heart-healthy are they? As with all things, moderation is key.
To get you started, the experts at South Beach Diet -- a more accessible version of the keto diet – recommend these five keto-friendly, heart-healthy foods:
1. Full-fat dairy: “Full-fat dairy is healthy,” says Dr. Arthur Agatston, creator of the South Beach Diet. “For example, you should be eating full-fat yogurt, not low-fat yogurt.”
With zero net carbs, items such as butter and cream are rich in healthy fats. While large amounts are associated with obesity and may cause heart disease, according to many experts, the opposite is true when consumed in moderation, as shown in studies published by the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” Stick to recommended serving sizes of rich keto foods such as sour cream, cream cheese and yogurt.
2. Eggs: Despite receiving a bad rap for high cholesterol content, eggs are low in carbs and high in protein and amino acids. And according to the Mayo Clinic, the effect of egg consumption on blood cholesterol is minimal when compared with the effect of trans fats and saturated fats, and their high protein content helps stabilize blood sugar levels. Egg whites contain no cholesterol and are high in protein; while the yolk provides the majority of the egg’s nutritional content. Eaten sensibly, eggs are both keto- and heart-friendly.
3. Shrimp: Shrimp is a versatile superfood, high in protein and contains more than 20 vitamins and minerals, including selenium, which reduces inflammation and promotes heart health. Seek out wild-caught shrimp to avoid antibiotics. Frozen just after they’re caught, frozen shrimp is usually a good bet, however, if you buy fresh, be sure the shells don’t feel slimy or soft or have a fishy, ammonia-like smell.
4. Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and have been proven to lower the risk of heart attack and heart disease. Flaxseed also contains 800 times more of a cancer-fighting phytochemical called lignan than any other food. For maximum nutritional benefits, choose ground flaxseed and refrigerate for longevity. Try mixing it into olive oil-based mayo or blending it into your favorite protein shake.
5. Olive-oil or avocado-oil based mayonnaise: This often-maligned condiment is high in heart-healthy, monounsaturated fats, and is a keto staple with its zero grams of net carbs.
“Look for varieties without added sugar, which just contributes additional calories without any other nutritional benefits,” says Courtney McCormick, manager, clinical research and Nutrition at South Beach Diet.
“Phase one of the South Beach Diet has always been keto-friendly. Get rid of all the white stuff -- white flour, breads and pasta,” says Dr. Agatston. “Once you eliminate them from your diet, your body starts burning fat, and you will feel so much better.”