Nutritional Ketosis Day 60

I LOVE spices. For me spices make a meal, period. You can have the same basic meal, but by changing the spices and herbs combination, you get completely different experiences.

Spices and herbs are also nutritional powerhouse; they are recognized for their antioxidant power and anti-inflammatory properties. Some of them are even used for medicinal purposes and to stimulate the immune system.

Weight loss potential of spices to boost metabolism and promote satiety, is also documented. For example, capsaicin in peppers is believed to have metabolic boosting properties (ginger too, boost metabolism). In addition, if the food you eat is flavorful and satisfying, there is a good chance you will eat less and consume fewer calories.

I like to make my own seasoning mix, because I know that there are no sulfites and preservatives and premixed spices makes the cooking less complicated and time-consuming. I often skip the salt and add it when I cook.

Cajun seasoning is a good basic one to keep around. It can be used on anything: kale chips, any meats, fish and seafood and can be even mixed with Greek yogurt to make a dip for crudités.

Recipe #1 (original, boost metabolism, very hot)

1/4 cup (60 ml) salt

1/4 cup (60 ml) cayenne

1/4 cup (60 ml) paprika

1/4 cup (60 ml) garlic powder

1/4 cup (60 ml) ground black pepper

2 tablespoons (30 ml) onion powder

2 tablespoons (30 ml) dried oregano

2 tablespoons (30 ml) dried thyme


Recipe #2 (modified, super anti-oxidant, milder)

30 ml (2 tablespoons) paprika

15 ml (1 tablespoon) ground bay leaf

15 ml (1 tablespoon) onion powder

15 ml (1 tablespoon) dried basil

15 ml (1 tablespoon) dried oregano

15 ml (1 tablespoon) dried thyme

5 ml (1 teaspoon) garlic powder

5 ml (1 teaspoon) cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper

I use a lot of spices on my food and the mixes are fairly hot to some people, use less cayenne for milder taste. Garlic and Onion are High FODMAP (fermentable = gas/bloating) so you can replace it with chives if you want. I sometimes put all the spices in a clean coffee grinder and reduce to a fine powder.

Weight this Morning: + 0.2 lbs

Weight Loss Total (Starting day 45): – 9.2 lbs

Today I had: Water with apple cider vinegar (with the mother), cayenne pepper and salt and sparkling water. I also had some black tea sweetened with xylitol. I had some blackened Cajun Haddock (again, but it’s so good!) with sriracha sauce and tofu-shirataki spaghetti noodle with an olive oil/butter sauce. That’s 900 calories for today.

Cajun seasoning is delicious with white fish.

Cajun seasoning is delicious with white fish.


Nutritional ketosis and sugar alternatives

In the context of a low carbohydrate diet we do not use traditional sweeteners like sugar, fructose, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup etc., because their calories is 100% carbohydrates. In order to make something sweet we have to use alternative no or low carbohydrate sweeteners.

Human beings react strongly to anything that tastes sweet, regardless of its physiological effects. It is true for sugar as well as artificial or “natural” low calorie sweeteners. Despite being considered safe, many reports sides effects like gastrointestinal upsets, headaches, increase hunger or weight stall. Many use them liberally with no reported issues.

After testing many sugar alternative on the market, I have concluded the following:

  • When I started using artificial sweeteners, I thought it was the greatest invention ever. I started drinking diet soft drink, having sweet tea and baking low carbohydrate sweet dessert. The honeymoon lasted for months. Then, I started gaining weight on the same amount of food I was eating previously and I was feeling hungry all the time. It’s like my body figured it out: if it tasted like sugar, my body reacted like it was sugar. I also correlated drinking diet soft drink with headaches. I had to cut down.
  • I realized I was addicted to the sweetness and/or the sweeteners. After that, I stopped using all sweeteners.
  • After a long “detox” period, I started testing different sweetener on myself, parallel to doing research on what effects each one has on the body. At the same time I looked into their safety with long term usage.
  • Now, I don’t use alternative sweeteners everyday. When I use it, I use the smallest amount possible for the food to be palatable. I have noticed that salt cut bitterness (think unsweetened cocoa) and that vanilla and cinnamon enhance sweetness. I also like to use ginger, nutmeg and cayenne. We don’t need to use a ton to have the effect. Most of the time, the food doesn’t even taste like vanilla or cinnamon, but adding them definitely enhance the overall sweetness of the food.
  • The fewer sweeteners we use, the more sweetness we will be able to perceive.
  • I use naturally flavored sparkling water with no sugar or artificial sweeteners instead of diet soft drink and I find them even more satisfying.

I think I’m on the sensitive side of the spectrum and I have settled on a blend containing two or three of the following ingredients: inulin, erythriol, stevia. If it’s mixed with anything else, I don’t touch it. I have found that stevia has a strong after taste of licorice to me, which is not ideal but it is self-limiting. In a blend it’s subtle enough for me to enjoy the food but I don’t feel like overeating it either. I like the taste and health benefits of xylitol, but I tend to go overboard after I use it for a couple of days. If I really feel like having something closer to the taste of sugar, which happens rarely, I might use saccharin (pink packet) or sucralose (yellow packet) but I don’t use the blue packets.

When I want a dessert, I will take some berries with a drizzle of cream and when it’s hot I use frozen berries. I like fresh cranberries as a snack. I also gradually moved from 70% dark chocolate to 85-90%, now 70% is too sweet to me. I can have a couple of squares of 90% without going over my carbohydrate allotment for the day.

Pinch the Cinnamon, reap the rewards

Current research has confirmed that many common spices have medicinal properties. One of the most beneficial is also the most common: cinnamon.

There is evidence that cinnamon can be used to reduce the glycemic index of a meal up to 29%. It can lower blood glucose, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Cinnamaldehyde, an active organic compound in cinnamon, is an effective anti-microbial agent.

There is many ways it can help manage our blood sugar regulation; it can increase our glucose metabolism and has been found to have insulin-like effects. Cinnamon slows down gastric emptying to reduce the rise in blood sugar after meals, improving insulin sensitivity.  A bioflavonoid found in cinnamon called proanthocyanidin may alter the insulin-signaling activity in our fat cells.

Cinnamon also enhances our antioxidant defenses, improves digestion, reduce inflammation, and improve blood circulation.

Cinnamon Variaties - Robin


A number of species are often sold as cinnamon:

  • Cinnamomum verum (True cinnamon, Sri Lanka cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon)
  • Cinnamomum cassia (Cassia or Chinese cinnamon)
  • Cinnamomum burmannii (Korintje, Padang Cassia, or Indonesian cinnamon)
  • Cinnamomum loureiroi (Saigon cinnamon, Vietnamese cassia or Vietnamese cinnamon)

European health agencies have warned against consuming high amounts of cassia bark, because of its coumarin content. A teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon powder contains 5.8 to 12.1 mg of coumarin and the tolerable daily intake for humans is 0.1mg/kg body weight. Measurements of coumarin in Saigon cinnamon are much lower than those in Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon contains hardly any coumarin.

Saigon cinnamon is the most effective on blood sugar regulation and is low in coumarin. Cassia and Padang Cassia are acceptable choices; it is effective but has higher level of coumarin. Ceylon has a much smaller impact on blood sugar management and is the most expensive.

One possible way to avoid coumarin and still use Cassia is to steep it in a non-fat hot liquid. Coumarin is fat-soluble so we can extract the beneficial compounds this way and leave out the coumarin. Just use the liquid and throw away the stick.

Cassia or Padang Cassia are the most commonly found in American grocery stores and coffee shops, if you ask for cinnamon. Finding Saigon cinnamon needs a bit more research. Some grocery stores will carry it, make sure the label say: Saigon Cinnamon. Look for it in higher-end/whole food type grocery stores, usually it is offered in the organic spices section.  I buy mine at Costco. They carry a very good Kirkland signature Ground Saigon Cinnamon.  It is a staple product for them; I was able to find some at several of their locations in Canada, United States, Hawaii and Australia!  Plus it’s very affordable.  I also sometimes use the Cassia sticks in teas and coffees.

To get the maximal benefits out of the spice get fresh ground cinnamon or grind it yourself. The polyphenols and active ingredients oxidize overtime.

You don’t need to eat cinnamon at every meal to get the benefits; it’s the total amount per day that counts. 1 gram is the lowest effective dose. ½ – 1 teaspoon per day is a good number to aim for.