7 Keto Friendly Foods for a Healthier Gut
The ketogenic diet has gained a popular following in recent years as a way to aid weight loss, improve blood sugar and lipids, and promote brain health. But its impact on the gut is less understood and even shrouded in controversy with claims that the diet can disrupt the normal gut functioning.
Infact various studies have found the keto diet can both disrupt, alter or improve gut health like many other diets. The difference may very well lie in the diet quality and how this compares to the previous diet and lifestyle of the . A well-planned ketogenic diet rich in whole foods high in fibre, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables while avoiding processed foods can improve your gut health. If you’re on a keto diet and want to give your gut a boost, consider adding some keto foods for a healthier gut.
What Is Keto?
Keto is short for “ketogenic” and refers to a low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet that puts the body in ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state different from your body’s usual state of burning glucose to make energy. When you are in ketosis, your liver is metabolizing fat to make ketones, which then serve as alternative fuels to glucose.
The ketogenic diet was originally designed to treat epilepsy but eventually grew in popularity as an overall health-promoting and weight loss diet. However, keto is controversial. The diet essentially turns the food pyramid upside down and contradicts everything normally associated with healthy eating. Just take a look at the keto macronutrient ratio:
- 5-10% calories from carbohydrates
- 20-25% calories from protein
- 70-80% calories from fat
How do these macro ratios look in practice? A plate with halloumi cheese fried in butter, one sliced avocado, two dollops of sour cream, some cucumbers on the side, drizzled with some olive oil and walnuts is an example of meal with the above keto ratio.
Are Keto Foods Gut-Friendly?
Most keto foods are high in fat and low in carbs. Many studies show dietary fat not to be good for gut health, while certain types of carbohydrates definitely are. Does this then mean that keto food is bad for your gut? In a nutshell, no.
A study done in patients with multiple sclerosis found that, after 12 weeks on the diet, gut bacteria numbers and diversity increased. However, the same study also found that keto initially reduced gut microbiota before leading to improvements within the following 24 weeks.
Furthermore, a study in mice published recently found that keto increased the abundance of beneficial gut bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Akkermansia muciniphila, the latter of which is understood to help reduce inflammation.
A possible explanation for microbiota enhancing effect of keto cold lie in its anti-inflammatory effect. Inflammation disrupts normal gut functioning, and low-carb diets help curb inflammation for better gut health. And if your keto diet consists of gut-benefiting foods, the more likely your gut microbiota will improve.
Benefits Your Gut Can Get from Keto Foods
There are many other ways keto can benefit gut health besides potentially helping improve gut flora. Here are just some of those benefits explained.
1. Keto can protect the gut lining
Improvements in gut flora reduce inflammation in the bowels and small intestine, leading to better gut lining health and functioning. And with a healthier gut lining, your overall health improves as well.
2. Keto can help with IBS
3. Keto can reduce colon cancer risk
The ketogenic diet is known to starve cancer cells of their primary fuel – glucose. Studies found this low-carb diets, especially when enriched with omega-3 fatty acids, suppressed colon cancer growth.
4. Keto can starve bad bacteria
Overgrowth of bad gut bacteria and reduction in microbiota diversity is common with Western-style diets. Keto eliminates refined carbs and processed food, which helps kill off bad bacteria and boost microbiota diversity.
7 Keto Foods for a Healthier Gut
While the ketogenic diet indirectly promotes gut health, eating more gut-friendly food on this diet will definitely have a direct impact on gut health. But what foods are both keto-friendly and good for your digestive system? Below are top 7 choices to consider.
The mighty avocado is a major keto diet staple. This popular fruit is high in fat, low in digestible carbohydrates, high in fiber, and dense in essential nutrients.
One whole avocado contains around 13g of fiber, which is 54% of the daily value for this nutrient.
You need fiber in your diet to feed good gut bacteria and help give stool bulk so it passes more quickly. Avocados are also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), for which studies show support gut microbiota balance.
2. Nuts and Seeds
There are at least dozens of nuts and seeds are allowed on a keto diet. Most are rich in fiber and MUFAs, and there’s evidence their regular consumption leads to a better microbiome. However, fiber and fat content can vary significantly among different nuts and seeds. A handful of walnuts, for example, provides only 1.9g of fiber and over 2.500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. The same serving of pistachio nuts provides 3g of fiber and only 73mg of omega-3s. Eat a variety of nuts and seeds to get the most benefits.
3. Cruciferous Vegetables
Most cruciferous vegetables are low in carbohydrates, which is why they’re recommended on keto. Examples of cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, kale, and cabbage. Studies on cruciferous veggies found they contain antioxidant compounds that support gut lining health and immunity. They also found cruciferous vegetables change gut bacteria for the better.
Butter is a natural source of butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that gut bacteria produce and that provide energy for cells in the gut lining. Butter contains 3-4% butyric acid, which is high compared to other cultured dairy. Other sources of butyric acid include cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, goat’s cheese, and ghee.
5. Coconut oil
Another gut-friendly fat to include in your keto diet is coconut oil. Coconut oil has unique effects on overall health, but especially the gut microbiome. A study in mice published recently found that virgin coconut oil increased the abundance of probiotic bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, Allobaculum, and Bifidobacterium. Coconut oil antifungal properties were also found to reduce candida overgrowth in the gut.
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and goji berries are some of the rare fruits allowed on keto. Berries can help boost your daily fiber intake. However, berries also contain phenolic compounds that studies found inhibit the growth of bad gut bacteria while increasing good bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus acidophilus.
Cultured dairy products like kefir are also allowed on keto. Kefir is one of the best dairy foods to consume for better gut health. It’s relatively low in lactose while containing over 50 different bacteria and yeast cultures. It reduces oxidative stress, inflammation, and colon cancer risk also by improving digestion and stool frequency.
Because fat is considered bad for gut health and because keto is a high-fat diet, many people think that switching to this diet will have a negative impact on gut health. But this is simply not true. Keto is known to promote good health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, and this definitely shows on gut health.
And if you include a range of gut-friendly keto diet foods, then there’s no chance you will disrupt your gut microbiota on this diet. Include these 7 keto diet foods to support normal digestion and microbiome diversity.