Keto foods must be low carb or high fat—and ideally both. But to truly lead a healthier lifestyle, these foods should also be real food. What do we mean by this?
When food is highly processed it’s far removed from its natural state, with sugars and oils added or fat removed. Low-fat yoghurts, flavoured nuts and vegetable oils are examples of these1.
Conversely, real food is as close to its natural state as possible and retains its natural nutritional density. Fresh vegetables, full-fat cheese, free-range meat and cold-pressed olive oil are all real foods2…and keto-friendly foods too.
The traditional human diet has always been made up of real food, with fat and protein being the two most essential macronutrients (types of food) to our overall health3.
By eating keto foods and following a real food diet, you can reduce – or even eliminate – the impact that disease has on your body. This lifestyle has been shown to help you lose weight, increase insulin resistance in type 2 diabetics, lower high blood pressure and reduce cholesterol4.
In this guide to keto foods, we’ll explore ‘What is real food?’, looking at each type of food in relation to your keto diet. So that you can make the healthiest choices as you continue your keto journey.
What is Real Food?
Real food is food in its most natural form. It’s colourful and packed with nutrients5 that your body needs to function and keep you healthy, such as vitamins C and D, iron, zinc and more6. In relation to keto, this food can be separated into groups, called macronutrients: Fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Fat is essential to a ketogenic diet. It can come from eggs, fish, meat, avocados, olives, lard, butter, goose fat drippings, full-fat dairy products and some low-carbohydrate nuts like almonds, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts and walnuts. Avoid seed oils and ultra processed fat sources, as these are known to be highly inflammatory.
The ketogenic diet works by using fats in these foods to fuel your body and brain, as an alternative to glucose (sugar).
💻 RELATED: To learn more about ketosis, read our article 👉 How the Keto Diet Works
As part of a real food keto diet, try to eat fat from food that is only minimally processed. Skin-on whole chicken and line-caught fish are examples.
There’s also a big difference between healthy and unhealthy fat.
Healthy fats are unsaturated fats found in nuts and olives, and polyunsaturated fats from meat, fish, dairy products and some seeds.
Unhealthy fats come in the form of trans fats, which have been banned in Europe and the USA. While they are still found in food in the UK, with the label “mono and diglycerides of fatty acids”, you can easily avoid them on the keto diet. They’re found mainly in highly-processed foods like cakes, pastries, ice cream and fast foods9.
Proteins are the building blocks of your body. They make up most of your muscles and organs, and carry the haemoglobin in your blood. This makes them a crucial part of your keto diet – or any diet.
When we think of protein, it’s common to think that it’s just fish and meat which have a high level of protein. There are many other keto-friendly foods which can help you to keep your protein intake consistent during a keto diet.
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, flaxseeds and chia seeds are all packed with proteins and can be used to top your keto lunch or enjoyed as a snack on the go. Vegetables like asparagus and broccoli can also support your protein intake10.
The carbohydrates in your food have a rollercoaster effect on your blood sugar. The insulin response they create also causes us to store more fat.
💻 RELATED: Read more about this biological process in our article 👉 What is a Low-Carb Diet
Because keto works to eliminate sugar from your body (which is important for sufferers of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes), there is no place in the keto diet for high-carb foods like regular pasta, potatoes, bread, pizza and crisps.
However, even on a very low-carb diet, you will be eating some carbohydrates.
Vegetables that grow above the ground—or non-starchy vegetables—are low in carbs but high in many essential nutrients and fibre. Tomatoes, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, courgette, aubergine, salad leaves, cucumber…all of these vegetables will help you stay healthy and well while on a keto diet.
Some people might find it difficult to think about a diet that doesn’t include their favourite foods.
We’ve put great care and research into finding companies who are prepared to take on board our ethos of real food. Our selection of low-carb and keto-friendly food, like bread, pasta, ready meals and pizza, give you convenience along with the ratios of macronutrients you need to maintain your low-carb or keto diet.
There is some debate about the role of artificial sweeteners in the keto diet.
On the face of it, because artificial sweeteners contain no calories, they appear to be an ideal substitute for those with a sweet tooth.
And if you’re on a low-carb diet, especially if it’s one designed to control your type 2 diabetes, they really could be a helpful addition as you make your lifestyle change in the short term11. However, there is much research being done into the link between artificial sweeteners, cardiovascular disorders12 and cancers13.
Eating foods that contain any kind of sweetener also maintains your taste for sugary foods. If you’re trying to kick your sugar habit, you might find it more useful to eliminate the use of sweeteners until your tastebuds begin to recognise the natural sweetness of food14.
When you stimulate your sugar cravings using artificial sweeteners, you could also be stimulating your appetite and begin to feel hungry—even when you’re not. The result can be over-eating, ending in weight gain15.
Experiments show that our bodies are very sensitive to fat and as soon as they have had enough, they switch off the appetite16. When thinking about your keto foods, try to add fatty foods to your diet instead.
But make sure these foods haven’t been artificially sweetened. If you disguise the fat with a sweetener, it could dull your body’s ability to recognise the fat and cause you to overeat.
It's not just about what's in your real food, or how it's been made. How it's grown and the supply chain is just as important.
Pesticides, which also include herbicides and fungicides, kill insects and other living things which can interfere with crop production and growth.
Glyphosphate is the most common pesticide used on crops worldwide. As well as negatively impacting the biodiversity of the areas where it’s used, studies show it can have a devastating impact on our own health17.
It has been the subject of a US$billion settlement involving people who’ve developed non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (a form of cancer) as a direct result of glyphosphate exposure and can be linked to autoimmune diseases, reproductive issues and chronic neurological disorders18.
Of course, the best option is to buy organic food where possible. But for many, this is not an affordable option.
The Pesticide Action Network’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ (a list of the fruits and vegetables that contains the highest levels of pesticide residue) contains some keto-friendly foods, including spinach, herbs, pre-packed salad, lemons and strawberries19. If you can afford to buy some organic food, these are the ones to splash out on.
Many of the livestock farms in the UK keep their animals permanently housed, which is considered an intensive farming process20.
An independent report by the Farm Animal Welfare Council found that “further progress is needed such that British citizens can be assured that each and every farm animal has had a life worth living” 21.
It’s also been found that manure from intensively farmed animals, which is commonly used for fertiliser, can have a negative impact on the environment.
As an example, sulphonamide, used to treat bacterial infections, is found in field fertilisers. Studies show that it can affect the normal development of plant species exposed to it, putting the environment at risk and polluting our food chain.
This is why we actively encourage grass-fed meat, line-caught fish and free-range eggs and chickens to be part of a real food keto diet.
How we Select our Products
We understand that everyone is at different stages of their journeys and that not all journeys are the same.
It’s our mission to help people who have chosen a low-carb or keto lifestyle to be healthier, by helping them choose real foods.
We’ve established a core product range based on the keto foods that we’ve struggled to find in UK supermarkets.
🛒 Our aim is to give customers enough choice through a one-stop online shop so that they can easily fit their low-carb or keto diet into their busy lifestyles.
Breads are a perfect way to put functional ingredients into your body, rather than empty calories. By simply switching a single staple food, such as bread rolls or chapatis, away from wheat standard flour, huge changes can be made to the nutritional balance of meals.
✅ The low-carb, high-fibre breads that we stock have a minimal blood-glucose impact. Baked from a specially developed low-carb, high-fibre flour, they contain less than 2% carbohydrates. Which makes them ideal for diabetics, weight-loss programs and low-carb dieters.
You can also have a go at baking your own low-carb bread at home, using our low-carb bread recipe. You’ll find all the ingredients you need in our shop.
Much of the chocolate we sell contains polyols, as a replacement for sugar.
Polyols, or sugar alcohols, are organic substances that are extracted from certain fruits and vegetables. Because our bodies cannot process all of the polyols, not all the carbs they contain are picked up and taken into our bloodstream.
Erythritol is considered the best polyol, with almost zero digestible carbs. This means it can be used as a sweetener without it interfering with our blood-sugar levels or causing sudden changes in glycemic levels.
Our Food Labelling
When you visit our shop, you’ll notice that every product has a nutrition tab that looks like this:
We analyses every product to make sure that it’s suitable for the range of diets we cater for.
We’ve developed this system to make it quick and easy for you to identify the product that’s right for you.
1. The Public Health Collaboration Healthy Eating Guidelines available at https://phcuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Healthy-Eating-Guidelines-Weight-Loss-Advice-For-The-United-Kingdom-Public-Health-Collaboration.pdf (Accessed on 7th March 2022)
4. Harvard School of Public Health Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/ (Accessed on 7th March 2022)
5. Fenton x TedMed The Obesity Crisis (video) available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2012/09/21/the-obesity-crisis-fake-food-vs-real-food/ (Accessed on 7th March 2022)
6. Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition and Immunity available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/ (Accessed on 7th March 2022)
7. The Public Health Collaboration Healthy Eating Guidelines available at https://phcuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Healthy-Eating-Guidelines-Weight-Loss-Advice-For-The-United-Kingdom-Public-Health-Collaboration.pdf (Accessed on 7th March 2022)
8. Harvard School of Public Health Types of fat available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/ (Accessed on 7th March 2022)
9. Diabetes.co.uk Trans Fats available at https://www.diabetes.co.uk/food/trans-fats.html
10. Harvard School of Public Health Protein available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/ (Accessed on 7th March 2022)
11. Circulation Low-Calorie Sweetened Beverages and Cardiometabolic Health: A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association available at https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000569 (Accessed on 8th March 2022)
13. Soffritti et al. The carcinogenic effects of aspartame: The urgent need for regulatory re-evaluation available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24436139/ (Accessed on 8th March 2022)
14. Wang et al. Sucralose Promotes Food Intake through NPY and a Neuronal Fasting Response available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27411010/ (Accessed 21st April 2022)
15. Yang Q. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892765/ (Accessed on 8th March 2022)
17. Pesticide Action Network UK Glyphosate available at https://www.pan-uk.org/glyphosate/ (Accessed on 8th March 2022)
18. The Real Food Campaign Weed killer sandwiches anyone? available at https://realfoodcampaign.org.uk/weed-killer-sandwiches/ (Accessed on 8th March 2022)
19. Pesticide Action Network UK Dirty Dozen Published September 2021
20. Sustainable Food Trust Leading in animal welfare? available at https://sustainablefoodtrust.org/articles/leading-in-animal-welfare/ (Accessed on 8th March 2022)
21. The Farm Animal Welfare Council Farm Animal Welfare in Great Britain: Past, Present and Future available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/319292/Farm_Animal_Welfare_in_Great_Britain_-_Past__Present_and_Future.pdf (Accessed on 8th March 2022)