Keys to Ketogenic Diet Success

5 Keys To Keto Success

My 5 Keys to Keto Success

The idea behind the ketogenic diet is simple… Get your body into a state of fat-burning (ketosis) and you’ll lose weight and improve your health. But there are so many details, and I get so many questions about what my journey was like, how many grams or macros or calories you should or shouldn’t have, as though there’s a magic set of numbers or a formula that is going to guarantee success.

I have some good news, and some bad news.

There isn’t a simple formula to winning back your health with keto. But, there are a number of simple ideas (with some more complex knowledge behind them) that will help you get the early success you need to put you on the path to your goals.

This post is about sharing those “lightbulb” moments where something really clicked on and I understood what my body was doing and why, and more importantly how I could control both my mental state and my body very effectively with what I put in my mouth.

This knowledge came to me in five key realizations…

  • Hormones Control Your Mind and Your Body
  • Eating Healthy Fat, Not Fiber, is the Key to Not Being Hungry
  • Your Body Needs Real, Bio-Available Electrolytes
  • Many Plants, Even Good Plants at the Wrong Times, Cause Inflammation
  • Healthy Whole Grain Goodness is a Horrible Lie

Keto

I’m calling these my 5 Keys to Keto Success, and I hope by sharing them with you that it will accelerate your keto journey.

I’m going to talk about each of these below, and why they have a huge effect on your body. And where these pieces of advice run counter to the conventional wisdom we have all been exposed to, I’m also going to try to explain why that conventional wisdom is not only misguided, but in some cases an outright lie that can ruin your health.

As always, I am not a doctor, and if you’re under the care of a professional you should involve them in your health decisions. Every person, and every person’s body, is different. But these keys have changed my life and the lives of my family so much for the better, and I’m hoping they will do the same for you!

Hormones Control Your Mind and Your Body

We all think we’re in charge. You couldn’t be more wrong.

When you’re hungry, and I mean really hungry, there isn’t anything that’s going to come between you and that syrup drenched waffle with the strawberries on top. And it’s not because you’re weak, or because you don’t know better, or because your rational mind doesn’t want to say no. It’s because our bodies respond in a much stronger way to the chemical signals in them that have kept our species alive and kicking. That pitiful bit of strength that you think of as “willpower” is no match for biology.

These chemical signals are called hormones. Hormones drive our behavior, and the hormones our bodies produce in response to the foods we do or don’t eat are some of the most powerful in our body. They are an opponent bigger than any of us and you’ll lose if you fight them head on.

Keto is hormone jiujitsu. Instead of blocking and punching your hormones to try to fend off hunger, you meld with them and use their momentum and power to your own advantage.

So let’s understand what the key dietary hormones are and what they do in our bodies. Here’s the first two.

  • Insulin. Everyone hears about insulin because diabetes is becoming a worldwide epidemic. You probably know insulin goes up when you eat sugar. Actually, insulin goes up to some extent when you eat anything. It just goes up A LOT when you eat carbohydrates. But why? Insulin’s job in your body is to signal fat cells in your body to pull glucose (carbohydrate energy) out of your blood and store it. Elevated glucose in your blood will destroy your kidneys, so your pancreas cranks out insulin to tell your liver, muscle and fat tissues to start soaking it up to protect the body. And, it also shuts down production of our next hormone, glucagon.
  • Glucagon. Glucagon is insulin’s mirror twin. Where insulin tells your fat cells to save glucose, glucagon is the hormone that signals the release of fat back into the blood stream. This is because our body needs energy, and there’s not a ready supply elsewhere, so we need to go get that energy out of the long term storage (which is to say your big belly or your thighs or where ever that adipose tissue has made a not-so-welcome home on you.)

An important thing to understand is that insulin and glucagon are opposites, and your body treats them this way. If your insulin is turned on, you are in fat storage mode and your body will not produce glucagon. Similarly, if glucagon is turned on, your body is in the mode of releasing stored fat (not storing it), and insulin is turned off. Your body simply does not produce both of these hormones at the same time, and one or the other of them is always on depending on what your body needs.

So you can probably guess, we want glucagon to be turned on most of the time if we’re trying to lose weight. That’s simple enough. But it sounds like turning off insulin and turning on glucagon means is going to translate into something like “hungry” in our metabolism. So it’s a good thing that our mental “hungry” state isn’t tied directly to these two hormones!

Let’s talk about our next two hormones, the ones that directly relate to that sense of hunger:

  • Ghrelin. The sense of needing to eat, right now, urgently, pass the potatoes and oh just one more cookie comes from ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. It’s the sumo wrestler in the room and it will not be ignored. When your ghrelin is high enough, you will eat whatever is in front of you, no matter what it is, no matter how unhealthy. Ghrelin is produced directly by your stomach and it signals the animal instinct parts of your brain, including the hypothalamus and the reward system pathways in the amygdala that deal with addiction and emotions. Ghrelin’s nickname is “hangry” in case you didn’t know.
  • Leptin. Leptin is the hormone that signals you to stop eating. That sense of being full and satisfied is leptin doing its job. You can think of leptin as the easy-going referee that rings the bell and tells our sumo wrestler ghrelin to go take a break in the corner. The easiest way to control leptin is to put foods in your body that turn leptin production on. We’re going to talk about what foods do that in the next section, and you should prepare to be shocked.

Ghrelin SumoLike insulin and glucagon, leptin and ghrelin are active at different times in the body and one or the other is predominately at work at any given point in time. When we’re trying to lose weight, it’s advantageous to have leptin raised and ghrelin low. When ghrelin is asleep, it’s not hard to pass on the waffles.

In a healthy person, it takes at least four hours after your last meal before your hormones “switch” between modes. Ironically, this is roughly the window of time that many nutritionists recommend spacing your daily snacks and meals. So while you’ll never be (very) hungry, your insulin level is never going to drop and you’ll never be burning any body fat. Longer eating windows and intermittent fasting aren’t about calorie restriction as much as they are about insulin reduction. And low insulin is an enormous enabler of good health.

If you know at a high level how these hormones work, you already have some very powerful tools for understanding how to get the results you want out of your body without willpower or mental fatigue. But before we leave this topic, it’s worth pointing out what happens when our cells stop responding to these hormones properly because they’re drowning in one or the other of them all day long.

All of these hormones have an effect on our brain and our behavior, and that’s a good thing. When we need food, it’s important that our body tells us, especially thousands of years ago when food might be scarce. It told us what was needed and what we should be doing, like when it is time to turn off the TV and go out hunting.

We live in different times now, and food is plentiful, so these signaling mechanisms are less important to actual survival. But they can still be life-or-death for some of us, especially if our bodies stop responding to them. It’s like an alarm clock that never stops ringing. You pay a lot of attention at first, but later you have no choice but to ignore the racket. Hormone resistance, where our cells essentially start ignoring these ringing chemical signals, will slowly but surely kill you.

The major hormone resistance disease we are all familiar with is diabetes. Type 2 diabetes begins where your cells stop responding to insulin, and as a result those cells stop taking up glucose from the bloodstream. Your pancreas doesn’t understand. It just keeps seeing glucose floating around, so it makes more insulin. Because there’s so much insulin in the bloodstream, the cells become even more likely to ignore it, becoming even more resistant. The pancreas is working overtime and is eventually headed for burnout (pancreatitis or cancer), but it eventually just gives up. The kidneys are trying to pick up the slack and working as a last resort to get glucose out of the blood. The excess blood sugar starts wreaking havoc on the circulatory and nervous systems, leading to neuropathy, blindness and other complications.

Excess glucose is bad news, but the other thing you should know about insulin is that it too is a powerful inflammatory agent that affects your entire body. High levels of insulin actually irritate the lining of your blood vessels, which plays a role in coronary artery disease. Some cardiologists are starting to look not just at blood lipids in general, but inflammation, as risk markers for cardiac events. And it may be that lipids and cholesterol actually are protective responses to inflammation, not the source of the problem. Some neurologists even associate high levels of insulin with inflammation of the nervous system. You might know nervous system inflammation by the names Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Diabetes, and all its complications, along with several other major health problems is related to the side effects of having too much circulating insulin.

It seems counter-intuitive to think that something our body makes and is so central to processing food could be associated with these devastating diseases, but there is increasing research tying all of these conditions together. What should be clear is that limiting the amount and the total time that insulin is circulating in your bloodstream is good for so much more than just managing your body weight.

If you are eating three meals a day four or five hours apart, and fitting snacks in between meals, your insulin levels are never down, and you are training your body to be both insulin and leptin resistant. Yet somehow, that’s the advice we’re given.

And the foods that produce glucose (and encourage ghrelin) aren’t just white sugar. It’s any carbohydrates. Metabolically, all starches from all carbohydrates are ultimately converted to blood glucose and require insulin secretion. Some may be “faster” or “slower” (their glycemic index), some may cause a huge insulin burst instead of a longer term release, but they all get processed by exactly the same metabolic machinery.

We’ve been getting decades worth of advice to shovel in carbohydrates morning, noon and night that spike our insulin and train our bodies to store fat continuously. Is it any wonder so many of us are starting to look like our mental picture of Sumo Ghrelin or fighting the muffin top bursting out our of spandex tights?

Our goal is to lower our insulin for a large part of the day. That means eating less often if we can, allowing those windows of time to open up where our glucagon is elevated and our body starts to enjoy burning stored fat again.

So how do we do that without being hungry? What do we eat instead of carbohydrates?

Eating Healthy Fats, Not Fiber, is the Key to Not Being Hungry

WHOA.

So again, the conventional wisdom is wrong. We have been told over and over again to eat a low-fat diet. We hear “you are what you eat” and we’re told to stay away from butter or avocados or coconut oil because they will go “right to your thighs.” This advice seems appealingly obvious and we want to believe it because it’s so super simple. But it’s dead wrong.

Your fat cells do not store fat that you eat. In fact, when you eat fat, your body has to go through a number of complex extra steps to turn it into energy that can be passed around in the bloodstream. In contrast, carbohydrates are readily and immediately processed into glucose, and that glucose triggers insulin which triggers fat storage. Remember how important those hormones are?

If we eat the right types of fat, our digestive processes and our liver break these down into a different type of molecular energy that our cells can use for energy. Some of these fatty acids and dietary protein can be processed even further by the liver and turned into a small amount glucose for body functions that demand that fuel source (our brain is one example), but this process is so complex it makes your typical “complex carbohydrate” meal look like a bowl of fruit loops in comparison.

You get fat because of carbohydrate intake. You do not get fat because of the fats you eat.

Rather, you can see that dietary fat does very little to raise insulin levels. It still provides energy. And it elevates the sense of being hungry so that you’re full and satisfied for much longer after a meal. One of the most powerful ways to turn on leptin (the “full and satisfied” hormone) is to eat healthy fats. Fats take longer to digest, so your stomach stays fuller longer and you naturally increase the time between meals without even thinking about it.

The hormone response to fat is so strong that you just about can’t overeat it. You’ll get sick, almost to the point of throwing up, if you over eat fats. Compare that to carbohydrates. Nobody stops eating carbs until you reach the bottom of the potato chip bag. Often, not even then. There’s no hormone signal to tell you to stop, nothing to signal you’re satisfied, just an endless race back and forth to grocery store for more cereal and sugar.

When your cells are using fatty acids for fuel, whether from dietary sources or as a result of glucagon encouraging the release of stored fat from adipose cells, your body is in a state of ketosis. Ketosis does not mean your body is starving. It just means it’s using fats instead of carbohydrates to keep the lights on. It’s like your body switched over from burning diesel fuel to running on solar power.

And that’s not just a random analogy. Your cells burning ketones instead of glucose produces much less “pollution” to get the same amount of work done. But that’s an article for another day.

But what about fiber? That’s the other macronutrient that comes up as a way to satisfy hunger. We need fiber to keep the digestive processes working smoothly, and there are certain kinds of fiber that are especially helpful for establishing and maintaining healthy bacteria in your intestines.

Fiber can also be an incidental help with controlling hunger, but it’s not nearly as powerful as a signal from fat. Fiber will serve as bulk in your stomach, which can help to slow ghrelin production down, but it doesn’t do much of anything to raise leptin. Without fats to slow down the gastric process, that fiber is only going to stay briefly in your stomach before it moves on, setting the stage for ghrelin to jump back into the spotlight.

There’s another bigger reason to be wary of fiber as the end-all, be-all solution for appetite control. A lot of fiber comes attached to something else that we’re trying to avoid. Carbohydrates. Whole wheat, whole corn, whole rolled oats, whole legumes, basically anything to which the evil marketing monkeys have attached the “whole” word, are going to include as part of their “wholesomeness” a healthy dose of whole glucose and whole inflammation.

No amount of insulin surge is going to be worth whatever fiber you’re getting from these food choices. Get your fiber from whole lettuce, whole broccoli or whole cauliflower, but slather them in avocado oil or butter to keep you satiated.

You may still not be convinced, and you’re hanging onto grandma’s low-fat advice. And margarine. Good gracious.

And certainly, there are many kinds of fat that are bad for you. Almost universally, the oils that come from grains are filled to the brim with inflammatory fats that you should minimize. This includes corn oil, canola oil, vegetable shortening and all their cousins. And, you should look carefully at animal fats when those animals were raised on diets eating grains. Cows were meant to eat grass, not the equivalent of a junk food diet of concentrated corn, soy and wheat carbohydrates. The milk and dairy products from these animals is one step removed from your actually haven’t eaten these same carbohydrate dense foods yourself, and the products of those animals will be both nutrient deprived and inflammatory.

Your body needs fats. Many nutrients are fat soluble, and they won’t be absorbed by your body unless you eat fat with them. Even cholesterol, that horrible villain we keep hearing about, plays a hugely important role in your body. Your cell walls and membranes? Your skin? They are made of cholesterol. Hormones? Most of them start out as a product of cholesterol. That inconsequential organ sitting between your ears? For all intents and purposes, it’s a huge cholesterol blob.

So by all means, go cook up some bug-fed, pasture raised eggs, yolks and all, in a bunch of grass fed butter. Not only will you be amazed at how long you stay satisfied, but the rest of your body will be loving the nutrition you’re passing along with all those healthy fats.

Your Body Needs Real, Bio-Available Electrolytes

At this point, you understand the basic change you can get from controlling your hormones, and you have a basic idea of what change you want to make in your diet to do that. But if you’ve been on the insulin inflammation treadmill for years, your body is still going to push back a bit.

A common condition many new keto dieters encounter is the so-called “keto-flu” that comes along with adapting to a fat metabolism. Any change is uncomfortable, but this initial discomfort has some biology attached to it as well. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix.

When you start out on keto, you’re probably coming from a very carbohydrate rich metabolism, where both your liver and your muscles will have grabbed as much glucose as they can and stored it as glycogen. When you start cutting carbohydrates out of your diet, your body will initially use its stores of liver and muscle glycogen as energy before the glucagon hormone switches on enough to release stored body fat.

Glycogen ties glucose up with a fair bit of water, so when you use this energy your body will release this excess water pretty readily. The good news is that means a quick bit of early weight loss, but you’ll also be flushing along quite a lot electrolytes as this weight leaves your body.

Additionally, once you do start burning stored fat, that metabolic process results in waste carbon dioxide and more water from burning ketones. Your natural instinct will probably be to drink more water as a means of staying satiated as well, so there’s plenty of water that your body is processing.

The lost electrolytes are a big part of why many keto dieters feel fatigued during the adaptation period. A good way to minimize this is to supplement with good quality electrolytes, especially magnesium. Normally we get a lot of magnesium as part of the chlorophyll in green plants, but even if you’re eating an organic vegetable rich diet, so many vegetables are grown in tired, nutrient poor soil and more people are unknowingly magnesium deficient from the get go. Keto adaption just makes it worse.

To help avoid this, generously use natural salts when cooking, for example sea salt or pink Himalayan salt, which has a wide range of minerals in naturally occurring concentrations. Avoid highly distilled bottled water, which has been stripped of all of its mineral content and will attempt to rebalance itself by taking minerals from your body before it leaves you. Drink high-mineral content spring water such as San Pellegrino.

Supplements can be helpful, but it is important to research which ones provide the best bioavailability. There are many types of magnesium supplements, and some are absorbed more effectively than others by different tissues in your body. The cheapest magnesium supplements usually contain magnesium oxide, which is very difficult for your body to absorb. Magnesium citrate is a better alternative, or chelated magnesium (magnesium glycinate) is much better absorbed.

Consider Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths, possibly with other added mineral salts. Not only are these extraordinarily relaxing, but minerals are absorbed very effectively through your skin. Our Sunday evening bath is an amazing end to a the usual hectic weeks here, and I sleep like a baby after a hot magnesium soak.

When people, especially physically active folks, hear the word “electrolytes” often their first thought goes to sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade. Even if these drinks weren’t loaded with artificial sweeteners, colors and preservatives, the electrolytes in these beverages are synthetically produced and much further away from the natural sources your body is eager to take up. After a hard workout, a liter of natural mineral water is going to quench your thirst in a much more satisfying way than any of these noxious Crayola colored concoctions, and it’s probably cheaper too… That’s a rarity on this diet!

Many Plants, Even Good Plants at the Wrong Times, Cause Inflammation

A big part of feeling good through the adaptation process and beyond is avoiding inflammation.

After reading about the role of insulin-induced inflammation in many diseases, you know I’m very attuned to this now. As we switched to keto and started eating larger portions of a wider variety of vegetables, our whole family became much more aware of how specific vegetables affected each of us. In learning more about this, one of the topics I discovered later than I wished was lectins.

There are many plants that you’ll find are entirely benign. If you think about it, have you ever encountered anyone who has an allergy to something like lettuce?

But there are many plants that provoke reactions from people, and it turns out this isn’t as random as you might think. And many plants that don’t seem to have a visibly adverse effect on you personally may not actually be as good for you as you think.

Many plants evolved chemical defenses to discourage insects or even mammals from eating them regularly. This allowed the plants to survive and spread more easily. This is really no different from plants developing thorns or needles to protect them. By discouraging predators from chewing them to pieces, those plants were afforded more opportunity to thrive.
Many plants have obvious “do not eat” signs on them. Many plants are acutely toxic and will kill you if you eat them. But many plants we eat on a regular basis have, for exactly the same reasons, low levels of toxins in them that may not make you noticeably sick unless you eat them in large quantity. Those same plants may be tolerable in smaller amounts, but worse, they’ll make you sick slowly over time, seemingly without cause.

A good example is many fruits. Fruits are ripened in a way that makes them attractive for birds and mammals to eat, so that the seeds are carried away from the parent plant and deposited somewhere that they have a chance to grow. But before those fruits are naturally ripe, many varieties have toxins on their peels and skins to prevent predators from harvesting the fruit before the seeds might be fully ready. If you’ve ever had a fruit tree and wondered why the birds and bugs don’t feast on all the immature fruits growing on a tree, but suddenly once everything ripens, the whole bushel comes under attack in the space of a few days, this is the reason. The natural consumers of this plant bounty know when it’s ripe and when it’s ready to eat. You have these same instincts when you’re at the grocery store squeezing things.

These natural proteins that protect seeds and plants and fruits are called lectins. They’re nature’s insecticides and they’re designed to discourage you from eating things that either aren’t ripe, or that aren’t really good to eat at all. Many lectins can be neutralized by cooking, and that’s a big reason so many cultures have evolved traditions for cooking many types of foods in very specific ways.

Think about potatoes for a minute. You probably wouldn’t consider for a minute the idea of eating a raw potato, and instinctively you may have some idea that it would make you feel a little sick. But a raw carrot sounds great. Some of this may be conditioning, that you’ve grown up cooking potatoes and eating carrots raw, but somehow this information is in your head and regardless of how it got there, you know you’d better boil that potato thoroughly before it makes its way into your digestive tract.

Another culprit is beans. Beans contain enormous amounts of lectins, and if you work with beans in a recipe you know there’s a specific protocol for soaking, rinsing and cooking them. If you don’t follow this procedure, the people who enjoy your cooking can wind up very sick. The neurotoxin ricin is extracted from castor beans, and it’s actually a lectin. Beans are full of powerful lectins that are virtually impossible to neutralize even with proper cooking technique. That’s why we simply don’t eat them at all here.

There are lectins of some sort or another in most plants, but there are certain families of plants that fit into that category of things that seem harmless so we eat a ton of them even though we shouldn’t. Potatoes would be on the do-not-eat list on carbohydrate basis alone, but others like squash, zucchini, cucumber and eggplant are all full of lectins that can trigger strong responses. My husband isn’t prone to any sort of allergies, but if he even picks around a salad that has cucumbers tossed into it, he’s stomach makes him miserable for hours afterwards.

Learn what vegetables you’re sensitive to, and what vegetables might be good candidates to consider eliminating. If you’re one of those people who thought that green leafy stuff in general just didn’t sit well with you, you might be selective about what you’re putting on your salad until you identify specific culprits. And you may find you can still enjoy those ingredients if you prepare them differently, for example most of the lectins in tomatoes are in the skin and the seeds, so they can be seeded, blanched and peeled to remove them.

For fruits, be aware that many store-bought fruits are chemically ripened with ethylene, leaving most of the lectin content in the fruit’s skin. Because that fruit is shipped while it’s still firm, what you get at the store looks a lot better than what you’d have gotten had they picked it ripe off the tree and shipped it, but it’s not the same as having been ripened on the plant. Try to buy locally grown fruit, in season from organic farmers. The taste will amaze you even if you don’t get to enjoy some of these treats year-round.

Know your body, but also research what foods are good and at what times of year. You’ll probably find several that might have been bothering you in subtle ways that you didn’t fully understand.

Healthy Whole Grain Goodness is a Horrible Lie

Finally, I want to touch on one more big myth that has been literally forced down our throat for so many years that many of you will think I’m a crazy conspiracy theorist.

We know that eating refined carbohydrates are bad from a hormonal perspective, and you can trace much of the rise in diabetes and obesity not just to consumption of sugar but also white flour. Flour is a grain product, so essentially it is the seed portion of the wheat. These tiny wheat berries are packed with all of the essential needs that a baby wheat stalk needs to spout and grow where ever it may fall.Wheat lectin hazard

Nature did not leave these little nuggets of vital energy unprotected, however. The outer casing of a wheat grain is designed to deter insects or omnivores and contains powerful lectins to do exactly that.

Wheat has an interesting history. Humans actually haven’t been eating grains for a very long period of time. Agriculture is something that’s been going on for only a few thousand years, and prior to that we existed by hunting and gathering, eating whatever food we could catch along with what wound up naturally in season. Your body is not designed to eat grains, much less industrial grains, much less industrial grains in the quantities we consume today. The advent of agriculture allowed us to grow mass quantities of calories that could be harvested and stored for long periods and is in many respects the enabler of modern civilization. Unfortunately, it also enabled a modern epidemic of metabolic disorders.

If you still have reason to doubt my thoughts on wheat and grains in general, consider also the history of white bread. In the not too distant past, it was only the wealthy that could afford white flour that had the lectin rich bran and germ removed, and they were roundly ridiculed as having insensitive stomachs that couldn’t handle “peasant” bread made from whole wheat. Beyond that, this white flour bread was typically made using yeasts that fermented for a day or more, another learned social process that deactivated the lectins in the bread flour.

Today, most whole wheat bread not only still contains its full dose of lectins, but instead of being leavened with yeast, chemical rising agents are used to produce bread faster without the delays of resting, rising and fermenting. This leaves the full dose of lectins intact for the consumer. Couple that with the rising use of industrial pesticides and farm soils depleted of minerals that traditionally added a lot of nutritional value to these foods and you can start to appreciate why whole wheat bread is actually a chemical neutron bomb that has no business in your diet.

Obviously, the most well-known lectin in wheat is gluten. It’s that magic ingredient that does so much for us in baking and is one of the reasons so many amazing things can be made out of little else but wheat flour. But it’s also the key ingredient in celiac allergies, leaky gut syndrome and potentially a host of auto-immune problems. Nobody is immune to this, it’s not a genetic yes/no situation, it’s just a question of how much of it an individual body can sustain and for how long. If you wonder about the rise of gluten allergies and celiac disease, you might consider its timing in the context of the rise of “whole wheat” as a health food and the decline of yeast as rising and fermenting agent.

Our politics, our economy and our foreign policy are tied very much to wheat and other industrial grains. They are fed to us, they are fed to the animals we eat, and they are exported to other countries. The amount of money that is spent producing these commodity products is astronomical, and the amount of money spent lobbying the government and the FDA to ensure that these products remain major parts of food pyramids and school lunches is scary.

Many people worry about sugar consumption, but over consumption of grains (even “whole” grains) are every bit as culpable in the rise of metabolic disease.

As I mentioned above, many foods marketed as “high fiber” are derived from wheat bran. Switching to a ketogenic diet may tempt you into loading up with high fiber foods to replace those missing carbohydrates. Don’t be fooled. Get your fiber from fresh vegetables and skip the lectins. If you are hungry, eat healthy fats, including meats, eggs and dairy from pastured or grass-fed animals who didn’t grow up eating the same toxins you’re trying to avoid.

Good Luck on Your Own Keto Journey

Your thoughts on many of these topics may be different than mine, but I hope by sharing some of the places my own travels have led our family will help yours. There are many ways to get to good health. Learning how your body works and how your hormones interact with both what you eat and when you eat it is one success factor. Not being afraid of fat, and understanding that healthy fat is a necessary nutrient, fits into that knowledge. How other components of your diet help or hinder your progress just makes the journey easier. Educating yourself about the role of electrolytes, especially during keto adaptation, will make getting started easier. Learning what foods might affect you (and why) will let you find the ingredients and dishes that really make your energy level leap and your inflammation vanish. And finally, understanding that certain foods, no matter how well they are marketed or promoted, may not be healthy choices, will leave you in much better health.

I know this has been a long post, but I hope it’s been useful and thought provoking. If you have your own thoughts and questions, leave them in the comments below or join me on the KetoPig FaceBook group and follow me on Instagram!

Low Carb Candied Yams

Thanksgiving and the holidays are around the corner, and for most people this is a season of dietary terror. It’s especially hard because so many recipes we’ve grown up with look like carbohydrate explosions that will take days or weeks to recover from. So while turning some of these dishes into perfect keto-friendly alternatives may be impossible, I’ve definitely been trying to find lower carb versions that still bring those holiday memories back. If you are in maintenance-mode on your keto journey, these are hopefully choices that won’t make your New Year’s resolutions feel like you over-indulged.

And who doesn’t loves candied yams?! In my family it’s a must-have at Thanksgiving and I’m so happy that I can splurge and cook something that’s not only a healthier option but is also  beneficial for my gut bacteria. With absolutely no added sugar I can feel good about what I give my family and they are only to happy to eat something as tasty as this!

My husband was expecting these to come in thick slices, two inches or more, but when I first made this recipe I cut the yams into quarter inch thick slices, closer to what you would use for something like potatoes au gratin. It turns out we really like these thinner yams and they cook quite a bit easier. It may be that we just love the sauce and we seem to get more with each bite this way!

What you need

4 Medium size organic sweet potatoes

1/2 Cup salted butter (melted)

1/4 Cup water

1 Cup VitaFiber  Use code ( VFGSCH20 ) at check out to get 20% off

1/4 Cup Lakanto Monkfruit

1/2 Tsp Amoretti Extract, Molasses (Or 1 Tbsp Natural Maple Extract)

1 Tsp vanilla

1/4 Tsp salt

1/2 Tsp nutmeg

1/2 Tsp cinnamon

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. degrees.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into desired shape. Put the potatoes in baking dish you wish to use and set aside.  In a bowl add the remaining ingredients and mix. Pour over your potatoes and cover with foil. Put in the oven for 60 minutes covered, then remove foil and finish baking for 30 minutes uncovered.

This keto candied yams recipe makes about 12 servings. It is 196 carbs for the whole batch, making each serving 16.5 carbs! If you would like the recipe to be even more lower carb, then leave out the monkfruit sweetener. That would bring the the whole batch down to  just 148 carbs and each serving to about 12 carbs.  The sauce will be just a bit thinner in consistency (and slightly less “candied”) but it definitely will still fill that spot on your traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu.

Curious to know how many carbs regular candied yams hold? For the same amount of sweet potatoes but with 2 cups sugar and 1 and 1/2 tbsp of maple it comes to 521 carbs for the batch (12 servings), making each serving 43.5 carbs!

Note: When buying the VitaFiber you’ll get free shipping if you buy 3! Plus the 20% discount.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Keto Cookie Carb Comparison

VitaFiber is what makes these tasty cookies low carb, paleo, keto and such a delicious treat. Just in time for the holidays! For 20% off VitaFiber use coupon code VFGSCH20

For regular gingerbread cookies….

3 and 1/2 cups flour is 308 carbs

3/4 cups brown sugar 150 carbs

3/4 cup Molasses is 135 carbs

For regular gingerbread cookies its 593 carbs for 3 dozen! That’s 18.5 carbs per cookie! This is not including the frosting.

Keto low carb gingerbread cookies…

1 cup of VitaFiber is 48 carbs

1/4 cup of Monkfruit is 48 carbs

1 cup Almond flour is 8 carbs

1 and 1/4 cup Coconut flour is 20 carbs

The whole batch (3 dozen) keto low carb gingerbread cookies is about 124 carbs, making each cookie 3.5 carbs! This is not including frosting.

Click here for the Low Carb Gingerbread Recipe 

Cookie carb comparison for Keto No Sugar Cookies and regular sugar cookies.

For regular sugar cookies…

3 cups flour is 264 carbs

1 cup sugar is 200 carbs

For regular sugar cookies it is 464 carbs for a batch of 3 dozen cookies.

Making each cookie 13 carbs without frosting!

Regular frosting for sugar cookies is 332 carbs for a batch (about 2 cups). So say you frosted 30 cookies thats 11 carbs per cookie. Making each frosted cookie 24 carbs!

Keto no sugar cookies…

1 cup VitaFiber is 48 carbs

1/4 cup Monkfruit is 48 carbs

1 cup almond flour is 8 carbs

1 and 1/2 cup coconut flour is 24 carbs

For keto no sugar cookies it is 128 carbs for a batch of 3 dozen cookies.

Making each cookie 3.5 carbs without frosting.

Click here for the Keto No Sugar Cookies

My keto frosting is 48 carbs for the batch. (about 2 cups). So say you frosted 30 cookies with this, thats about 1.5 carbs per cookie. Making each frosted cookie 5 carbs!

Click here for the Keto Butter Cream Frosting

 

The KetoPig loves quality and healthy ingredients, and is pleased to be sponsored by VitaFiber! Some of the links in this post are sponsored and your buying VitaFiber products via these links helps spport the site while you keeping you healthy too! Thank you!

Organic Beeswax Body Lotion

This easy homemade beeswax body lotion is fantastic for lots of different uses such as hair to keep the flyaways down or for men that need a strong hold on that crazy hair. This recipe my husband came up with is just to good to not share. I also use this beeswax body lotion for my face, as a lip balm, deodorant, works great for razor burn and foot care.

If you are using for deodorant I suggest using just a dab mixed with a couple drops of either olive oil or apricot oil with some essential oils of your choice. So that when you sweat you’ll smell of the essential oils. I prefer using cinnamon, tea tree and frankincense. All of which are antibacterial, killing bad bugs while feeding the good bugs that we naturally want to be healthy and strong. In 4 oz of your carrier oil you’ll use 1 drop of cinnamon, 5 drops of tea tree and 5 drops of frankincense. A couple drops of this mix with the beeswax body care lotion is perfect for your underarms. Be carful using any of the citrus essential oils as they will make your skin photosensitive and contribute to sun damage.

You can get these reusable cans and the pitcher on amazon!

4 pound Pouring Pot

8-Ounce Candle Tins (12-Pack)

What you need

2 Pounds BetterBody Organic Naturally Refined Coconut Oil

1 Pound  Beeswax Pellets

1/4 Cup olive oil

5 Drops  Cinnamon Cassia Oil 

10 Drops  Bay Rum Essential Oil

10 Drops Artizen Cedarwood Essential Oil

20 Drops Vanilla Oleoresin Essential Oil

Directions

In a double broiler melt the coconut oil and beeswax thoroughly. This step will take about 45-60 minutes to melt and thoroughly mix making sure both are incorporated well.

The wax and the coconut oil will look like it’s completely melted and combined much earlier than this. Don’t be fooled. Even when it appears as though the mixture is completely liquid and combined, it takes a fair bit of mixing to probably blend everything. If you pour out the mixture early, you’ll get small clumps of wax when you rub the lotion on your hands, body or hair. To fix this, you’ll need to re-melt everything again so it’s not a loss, but it’s a lot more hassle compared to giving everything an extra bit of time to really (and I mean REALLY) combine. This recipe made 9 cans of 8 oz. Tip, we used the refined coconut oil because it’s a neutral smell but if you like how coconuts smell you can use the unrefined also.

Turn heat off and let it sit for 5-10 minutes giving time to let it cool before adding in the essential oils.

 

 

Ketogenic Diet

Hello!

The information I share in this post is a summary of things to help you on your journey. Learning about your hormones and how they work is complex but when you understand it, you will see just how easy it can be to improve your health.

I first want to give a big shoutout to Andrew Gonzales at Four Peaks Crossfit in Fountain Hills. Thank you for being an awesome coach and trainer! This post is for those who want to know more about a Ketogenic diet. I put up links to help you with your research. I wanted to also bring up fasting because it also goes hand-in-hand with Keto and exercise. Do your research and never stop seeking the truth about your health.

The ketogenic diet is a great way to improve your health, but often people only associate keto with weight loss. The ketogenic diet can help with weight gain and building muscle. Keto can assist in mental focus, clarity and more energy. Keto in conjunction with intermittent fasting or long term fasting can help aide in aging, diseases and sickness all while protecting the muscles.

Our bodies make hormones in response to what we put in our mouth. It’s true that all foods have calories however the hormone response to fat is different from the hormone response to carbs/glucose. For example the hormone response to an avocado is different from the hormone response to an apple. Both contain healthy nutrients but only one will spike insulin, increase inflammation and turn on fat storage signals.

There’s an entire category of food that many people will put in the “healthy” column of their diet plan, and even go out of their way to eat more of. When you understand the hormone response to this collection of mass produced ingredients, you’ll understand why we are in the midst of a national crisis of diabetes, obesity and neurological disorders.

You should think about grains and the reasons why you should avoid them.

The problem with grains is that they are a concentrated source of carbohydrates that dramatically increases insulin in your bloodstream. It is this carbohydrate density more so than questions of “simple carbs” or “complex carbs” or “whole grains” that makes any type of grain-based food a questionable choice for health, even ignoring lectins or other natural defenses that grains have evolved to discourage animal consumption.

Many people believe that if they eat “whole grain” that makes it a healthy choice, but ultimately the amount of carbohydrates is still going to require a high amount of insulin for your body to process. Eating the wheat bran and wheat germ is going to shift the balance of simple and complex carbohydrates, and slow the digestion process down slightly, but your body will still produce the same amount of insulin, if not more, potentially over an even longer span of time, to handle the blood glucose that gets created when all carbohydrates, simple or complex, are broken down during digestion.

Virtually all foods have carbohydrates, but not all foods have the density of carbohydrates like grains. Grains, whether they include complex carbohydrates or not, contain a large dose of carbohydrates. Regardless of whether your body processes these carbohydrates fast or slow (indicated by the food’s glycemic index), this total glycemic load requires an insulin response that effectively shuts down fat burning.

It’s all about keeping your insulin low.

It’s about eating the foods that do not drive your insulin up. High insulin is what causes weight gain and prevents fat metabolism. Insulin causes inflammation and inflammation is the platform on which many metabolic diseases develop. It all starts with that hormone insulin.

Here are some other links to help you.

B’ Hydroxybutyrate and Butyrate

Mitochondrial function

Glucagon and Human Growth Hormone (HGH)

Dr. Jeff Volek (Low Carb Athletes)

Find out more here at Beyond weight loss!

Mark’s Daily Apple talks more about grains.

Here is a great article on corn.

Read more about fasting here.

Epilepsy

Disclosure

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information on this subject is provided for informational purposes only, it is not meant to substitute medical advice provided by your physician or any other medical professional. You should not use the information I give for diagnosing or treating a health problem, disease, or prescribing any medication. I’m not a Doctor and you should consult with your health professional before making any major health changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glycemic Index And Carb Intake

I wanted to make a post about this subject and what I have found to be very interesting and extremely important, whether your new to keto or not. It is good to understand what glycemic index means, so that when you make a choice on what to eat, you will have a better understanding on how your body is responding.

A food can be very low carb but have a high glycemic index which defeats the purpose of low carb. It’s confusing I know, but don’t get discouraged.

For example:

Vitafiber is very low carb. It has 1.5 carbs in 1 tsp, which sounds great! Truvia is 4 carbs in 1 tsp. It seems like you would choose Vitafiber as a sweetener everytime over Truvia if all you are doing is counting carbs.

However, the glycemic index for Truvia is 1 and the glycemic index of Vitafiber is 35!

That is a huge difference in numbers! If you account for the glycemic index and not just carbs you will be more successful in doing keto. If something is hindering your success with this diet, this could be the problem.

Resistant starches is another topic you need to understand to make good diet decisions. Don’t let others confuse you with what you already know to be true about carbohydrate intake and insulin resistance.

Example:

Say I decide to eat a bunch of green bananas or cooked then cooled rice. I have to count those carbohydrates in my limit of 20-30 grams of carbs a day. It is 26 grams of carbs for just 1/2 cup of rice and 27 grams in 1 banana. That’s basically my carb intake for the day!

I don’t hold back from giving myself treats, but if I ate the 1/2 cup of rice or green banana that would become my treat for the day. I don’t know about you but a green banana doesn’t sound appetizing.

Here is a video of a doctor explaining this in detail and I agree with most of what he is saying but knowing what I know about my insulin, I will get the resistant starches/fiber from other sources to make up for not eating raw potatoes, cold rice or green bananas.

P.S I did find out that a green banana has a lower glycemic index than a ripe banana. Dr. Berg explains, decide for yourself what’s best!

Find out what your body needs and listen to what your body is telling you.

 

 

Your True Size

How often do we here people complaining about their bodies? Or if they’re not complaining, they’re rationalizing something they clearly don’t want. I have heard it from all sides, from the thin to the thinner, from the big to the bigger. I don’t believe that either side is right. Healthy is what is beautiful and sexy, no matter what size you are. If you’re healthy on the inside then you will be the true size you are meant to be.

This is a subject that seems to get blurred because someone always gets offended. I dislike how commercial advertising is used on us, telling us we can’t be happy if we are not a certain size. Both sides do it. You are your own person and should be able to think for yourself without a spokesmodel telling you how you should look.

Knowing what I know about the ketogenic diet and what it has done for me, when I meet someone, I’m always curious about their diet. I think of how hard it is to share this knowledge with people that don’t know or don’t care to know about insulin and what it does in the body. I stumbled on the keto diet and I’m forever grateful, which is why I can’t help but spread the word.

I think of all the skinny models that are unhealthy because they are told thin is beautiful so they starve themselves or create an eating disorder to stay thin. I also think of the big and bigger models that are “brave” because they got were they are by following a traditional diet plan loaded with so-called healthy whole grain carbohydrates. But, what I dislike more than anything is that these models, bigger or smaller, are being used to sell products in a way that promotes poor health choices on both ends of the spectrum.

I think it’s strange considering that obesity is at an all time high and growing, while we hear increasingly about how being big is beautiful and sexy. It would seem that they are trying to say that big is healthy?! If you are 5’8″ and wearing a size 16 dress, you are not big boned, God didn’t make you that way, your genes didn’t doom you to shopping only at Lane Bryant, like everyone tells you, like they used to tell me.

I know because this was me. I would say things like, “My legs are so sexy they can’t stop touching each other,” “I don’t want to lose my boobs if I lose weight,” or, “I’m so curvy and thick baby!” But many of those curves were still bigger than I wanted, and many more were in the wrong places.

In reality, my skin was chafed from constantly rubbing together. My body was inflamed, and I had rashes even where my blubber didn’t rub itself raw. I was always out of breath, tired and, even worse, hungry, bloated, and gassy.

Why do we hold up big as healthy? Here’s an example. Ashley Graham is big and gorgeous without a doubt! But if you think that she was just predestined to be plus-sized, I’d ask you to look carefully at her meals she describes in this interview. I dare you to find a meal that isn’t straight from one of the low-fat, high-carb diet books that are turning most people into jumbo zeppelins.

My thunder thighs and I used to eat this way for a long time! You probably do too. Until you learn about insulin, about why your body needs fats, about why a dozen meals a day is destroying your metabolism. Until you realize that glucose (regardless of it showing up as the purest whitest sugar or the most complex of the whole grain carbohydrates) is a dirty-burning fuel for your cells, and that your body’s only response to excess glucose is to stuff it away as fat to keep it from doing even more damage to your health. Then, and only then, you realize why you’re overweight.

If you want to change your your body’s metabolism and composition, you need to see food in a whole new light. You need to see the food that your body wants and needs is the exact opposite of what the advertisers are pushing.

Fat is beautiful, just not the way you’re thinking.

Learn more about the ketogenic diet

 

 

 

 

 

Elevate Your Cholesterol Profile, Elevate Your Health

I just picked up my blood work and after listening to my doctor tell me I need to get on a low-fat and low- cholesterol diet, I felt it necessary to make a post about why you need cholesterol so much that your body will make it without you even eating it. Why?? Because we need it, now the real question is, will you be giving your body the good fats and cholesterols its needs so your body doesn’t have to produce “bad” cholesterol to try and put out the fire (inflammation) you get from having high insulin from eating a high carbohydrate diet?

Have you asked yourself the question, am I insulin resistant or insulin sensitive? Are you pre-diabetic? I would look into this more rather than just settling for what most doctors tell their patients. If I didn’t know any better I would have taken my doctors advice and for a good reason because they should know these things. The fact of the matter is that they don’t.

If I do the triglycerides to HDL ratio I’m at a whopping 0.5 🙂 that means I’m extremely healthy! What you want is when you do the ratio of triglycerides divided by the HDL and the range you want is to be lower than 2.0 and and if you are higher than 6.0 that is a great indicator that something is wrong.

For more information on LDL, HDL, VLDL and triglycerides go to

DR. Gangemi

Dr. Berg explains in 14 short minutes

I hope this helps you the way it has me! Remember that there is not a one size fits all solution with diets simply because everyones body is different and takes in food/nutrients differently. Some can only eat vegan, some can do a high carb diet and some can just about eat whatever they want and look fine (on the outside).

The same goes for exercise, everyone responds differently to exercise so get to know your body and don’t ever settle for “oh your just getting older” such nonsense. Love yourself by learning the real science behind insulin and how it blocks fat burning.

Feel good and don’t be afraid to eat fats. Pig out keto style and enjoy intermittent fasting and long term fasting too, without causing stress to your body. With a ketogenic diet you are able to over come most if not all health issues!

 

 

What Is Healthy Food To You?

For many years, I thought I was eating healthy and I forced myself to like certain things because I thought they were good for my body. What, in your mind, do you think is healthy? Is it whole wheat, corn, oats? Is it ancient grains, barley, brown rice, quinoa?  Maybe canola oil, vegetable oil, corn oil? Possibly low fat milk, yogurt or soy? Even possibly Special K cereal, protein bars or granola?

No matter how they are labeled — heart healthy, low fat, low cholesterol — these foods are sold to us as the key to preventing heart disease.

It’s a lie.

Every time I walk by these foods in the grocery store, I scratch my head and think, why? Why does the food industry want to murder us all over a tortured multi-decade span of disease? This is most likely not the case but I can’t help feel that way, when I see so many people unknowingly poisoning their metabolisms, reaping the horrible side effects from what is in their shopping carts.

I was putting my body through hell, thinking it was healthy, then blaming myself for not having the willpower to exercise. I had no energy nor enthusiasm to do so. I love to hike and it’s normal for me to do 10-20 miles every week during the winter (because I live in Arizona.) Even with the passion for the outdoors, it took determination. I always wondered why that was, wondered why I had to push so hard to do something I loved, wondered why when I didn’t, the weight would pile on and than some every year.

Until keto, I never understood. Why didn’t I have the energy level I wanted? Why was I exhausted and foggy after eating “healthy” food? And when the fog lifted, why was I instantly hungry and irritable and dying for more carbohydrates to feed a beast in my belly that was never fully satisfied?

I have been on the ketogenic diet since June 12th 2017 and I have lost 31 pounds. I reversed my insulin resistance, conquered my hunger while gaining sustainable energy. My over all health and my mental clarity has improved supercalifragilisticexpialidociously.

Dr Berg on low carb veggies 

Thomas Delauer on low carb fruit

 

 

Why Your Body Loves Keto

Much more than weight loss

I want to start off by saying the reason why I started keto was for weight loss, not only was I a skeptic but I thought, I have tried everything else why not try something that I would actually enjoy since that men’t I could eat more fat glorious fat. I have put my body through such torment of low fat and low carb which is not sustainable, you end up giving in to your cravings and at some point over eat. Sugar/carbohydrates raises insulin and not only that but it’s keeps you in a vicious circle of being hungry, starving, bloated and stuffed and than starving again.

I am 30 years old and very active and I like hiking in the winters cause let’s face it, it’s to hot here in AZ during the summer. I would do work out videos and count calories and yet I was still gaining weight. I thought to myself, why?! This is not right and it can’t be because I’m getting older. After I hit 25 years I started putting on the weight, I no longer could eat like I used to. My journey started around that time and I did some crazy things thinking it’s what I needed to do and nothing worked. Every pound I lost I gained back plus more every year.

I stumbled my way into the ketogenic diet. I’m forever grateful and so thankful that I am on a mission to help those who don’t know about insulin. I want to point you in the right direction. Once you know about insulin and glucagon and what the two hormones do in your body, it will forever change the way you think about food. Everyones body is different and processes food or chemicals differently. A ketogenic diet is so versatile that it really is amazing! There is no one size fits all diet, some people do better with working out and some do poorly. It’s not laziness, it’s just not enough energy and you will never have enough energy burning carbohydrates as your fuel.

Finding out that I could use my own fat for energy, (not to mention the best feeling in the whole world, better than anything I have ever experienced in my life). I found that it was so easy to incorporate because of all the delicious foods that made me so happy to eat and made me feel so good after eating with no bloating! All of the foods that I was told to cut down on (fats) was what I got to eat and I was only left with amazing energy. So of course I kept going and it was like it was just a plus to have the weight gone and it wasn’t the sole reason for loosing the weight any more. My body was so happy it would thank me everyday through having incredible energy, beautiful glowing skin and the little aches and pains that I had started to disappear. Clarity in my mind got me thinking and so I started this blog to reach out to others that are looking for help.

I know my body better than ever before, knowing and feeling my body and what it wants or if somethings wrong is like a super power. It’s so wonderful that I just can’t help myself but to share this wonderful Not new news. I will put some links up that helped me along the way. Good luck with your journey and God bless you along the way!

Have fun, feel amazing and pig out keto style!

Overview From Dr. Berg

Ketogenic Diet Explained

Success In Keto

Health In Keto

Fight cancer with Keto

Carbs and Fitness