Nutritional Ketosis Day 8

Today was so-so. I definitely paid for yesterday’s over zealousness; I had a super busy day running around and I definitely under ate for my activity level. My energy today only picked-up after my second intake of coconut oil, in the afternoon. On the plus side, I have notice my sinuses are doing very well despite being in a region with high level of pollen and dust. I also came to the conclusion that a little more total monounsaturated fat than saturated fat is a better ratio for me than 50/50. I noticed that on higher monounsaturated fat days I feel calmer, my brain seems to work better, I feel less general inflammation and my digestion is better.

I have found that eating avocados, using bacon fat (rich in monounsaturated fat) and a lot of olive oil was the best way to hit a high number (if you have access to macadamia nuts, they are good too). I eat a big salad every night because it makes it easy to get in so much olive oil. I have found a huge difference in my digestion of protein and fat when I eat raw green vegetables with my meal. Also, I find that they provide the satisfying “crunchy” texture that is missing in a ketogenic diet.

The only caveat with low carb vegetables is that some are considered groitogenic. Goitrogens are substances that suppress the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine uptake. It means that they can slow down your metabolism and hinder weight loss, lower body temperature, lower energy and more. The one we should be careful with (especially woman) are:

  • Arugula
  • Broccoli
  • Broccoli Rabe
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard greens
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard (the condiment) and Mustard Greens
  • Peanuts
  • Pine nut
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Rutabaga
  • Soy-Based Foods
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Turnip
  • Watercress

Cooking remove some of the groitogenic compounds.

Today I had: 1Tbs of coconut oil in the morning and 1Tbs in the afternoon mix in with some cocoa powder and a pinch of xylitol and cinnamon. Dinner consisted of 2 big fillets of Haddock (I always eat wild low mercury type of fish) and 225g (8oz) of Cremini mushroom fried in 2Tbs bacon fat and 3Tbs butter, celery sticks with a dip made with 5Tbs of sour cream and a salad made with romaine and 5Tbs of olive oil. Total for today is between 1900-2000 calories.

Excellent meal!

Excellent meal!


Fat in the context of Nutritional Ketosis

When using fat for fuel on a ketogenic diet, it is important to choose quality dietary fats. To qualify fatty acids, two structural characteristics are used:

  1. Length of the carbon chain
    • Short (2-3-4) (Dairy fat)
    • Medium (6-12) (Tropical oil: Coconut, Palm kernel and MTC oil)
    • Long (14 or more) (Olive oil, EPA, DHA etc.)

As a general rule the short and medium lengths are metabolized quickly and easily by the body; they will be diffused from the GI tract to the portal venous system, fed to your good gut bacteria or they will kill bad ones. This is why I use butter and coconut oil during the day for energy and gut health. Long chain fatty acids (like olive oil, Omega-3, Omega-6) need more work and processies to be used as fuel and are preferably used for maintenance, repair (this is why they have such great health benefits) or are stored if we are in a calorie surplus.

  1. Number of double bond in the carbon chain
    • Saturated fat = No double bond
    • Monounsaturated fat = One double bond
    • Polyunsaturated fat = Two or more double bond

The fat we store for future energy use is a mix of about 50/50 monounsaturated and saturated fat. It is the preferd type of fuel at the perfect ratio.

Polyunsaturated fat are essential fat (they act more like vitamins) but they make poor fuel source for the body.

Too much polyunsaturated fat as a percentage of calories on a well designed ketogenic diet is detrimental for many reasons. Sometimes I see people not reacting well to lower carbohydrate/ketogenic diet only because they eat a lot polyunsaturated fat sources like commercially available mayonnaise made with soybean oil. It is too much polyunsaturated fat to feel well! It’s better to make our own, with a light tasting olive oil or, less idealy, to buy commercially available mayaonnaise made with an olive oil/canola blend.

An equal quantity of olive oil and butter mix together would be very close to what is in our fat storage. The same goes for animal fat. Bacon, for instance, has a perfect 50/50 blend of monounsaturated/saturated fat.

Most fat sources are a combination of different length and double bond in the carbon chain.

In the context of a well designed ketogenic diet, where fat is the main source of fuel for the body: it’s important to keep an eye on the amount of polyunsaturated fat consumed (which is as little as possible Omega 6), correct the Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio with supplements and aim for the equal amount of monounsaturated fat and saturated fat.

Also staying away from Trans fatty acids found in: food fried in vegetable oil, margarine, vegetable shortening and anything that says partially hydrogenated oils on its label, is a general rule for any healthy diet, independently of its macronutrient combination.

The last point I want to make is about storing and cooking oil and/or fat. Fat is altered by heat, light, humidity and oxygen. Saturated fat is the most stable, then monounsaturated and lastly the most delicate is polyunsaturated.

Heat oxidation and rancidity are major issues for any fats. You should know the smoke point (burning point) and ideal storage conditions of the oil/fat you are using.

For instance, we should never fry/stir-fry extra-virgin olive oil. Its smoke point is very low (375°F) and heat destroys all the health benefits and denatures the fatty acids. If you want to use olive oil for cooking, it is better and cheaper to use extra light olive oil (468°F) and ghee (485°F) instead of butter (250°F).

Olive oil can be kept at room temperature for up to a year after its production date. If you buy in bulk, you should keep the big container in a cool place or the fridge and keep a small refillable bottle in the pantry. Raw nuts and seeds, rich in polyunsaturated fat are best kept in the fridge and will stay good for a year after it’s picked (sometimes you eat a nut and you can taste the rancidity, it’s bad!) Ghee can be kept at room temperature up to 3 months and salted butter a couple of days (unsalted butter cannot be kept at room temperature because there is no salt to protect it from molds and bacteria). If you like soft butter, a good tip is to make a 60/40 or 50/50 butter-oil mix and keep it in the fridge. It will have the consistency of a spread or margarine. You can use light olive or canola oil to preserve the taste of butter.

I hope it helps!

Should we pass on Nuts?

Tasty, tasty macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts

Nuts are fairly high in Linoleic Acid, an Omega-6 inflammatory precursor, with a few exceptions like macadamia nuts which are lower. A diet high in nuts, would presumably skew the Omega-3 : Omega-6 ratio toward pro-inflammatory processes.

But nuts should not make up the bulk of our diet. On the spectrum of inflammation and Omega-6, a small handful of raw or lightly roasted nuts is nothing compare to stir-frying or baking with corn, grapeseed, margarine or soybean oil.

Nuts are much more than Linoleic Acid. In fact, they are pretty complete nutritional source. They have a good balance of fat/carbohydrate + fiber/protein, have a low impact on blood sugar, are a great source of antioxidants like Vitamin E and important minerals like selenium and magnesium.  Actually, one of my favorite snack or dessert is a dozen of macadamia nuts, a square of dark chocolate and a green tea with a squeeze of lemon or coffee with a dash of cinnamon.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Voltaire.

There are definitely better choices in every food categories, but over-analyzing our food intake is a good way to stress ourselves and make every little dietary decision an internal struggle. We have to stay informed and vigilant, but we have to pick our battles. Using healthier options like good quality olive or coconut oil preparing our food or passing on the box of donuts at the office is worth the effort; stressing over the Omega-6 content of 10 almonds is not.

Chocolate, the new health food?

Cocoa and chocolate are associated with an impressive array of health benefits. These benefits are coming from flavanol catechin, which act as powerful antioxidants similar to those found in fruits and vegetables. One tablespoon of natural cocoa has only 20 calories and more antioxidant capacity than about 2 cups of green tea, 1/2 cup of blueberries and half a glass of red wine. Half of the fat in cocoa butter (the fat in a dark chocolate bar) is oleic acid which is the same healthy monounsaturated fat that is found in olive oil and half of its saturated fat called stearic acid, which has a neutral effect on cholesterol.

Yet, not all chocolates deliver the same health benefits. A milk chocolate bar may feed our craving for sweets, but that’s about all we’ll get out of it. In choosing a quality chocolate for the health benefits and pleasure, it’s the cocoa that matters. The higher the cocoa content, the more health benefit we’ll get from it.  We want at least a 70% cocoa content and we have to make sure the percent is on the label “Dark” can mean as low as 50%.

Other excellent options are unsweetened non-dutched cacao powder, for cooking or to make a cup of cocoa, and roasted cocoa nibs.

Processing can impact the anti-oxidant content of cocoa. The main method is called alkalization or dutching.  The Dutch process lowers acidity (makes it compatible for baking with baking powder instead of baking soda), increases solubility, enhances color, and remove some of the natural bitterness. Unfortunately, those bitter compounds are the beneficial flavanols that we are looking for.  About 60% and as much as 90% of natural cocoa original antioxidants are destroyed by dutching. Natural cacao will contain about 34.6 mg/g of flavanols, while dutch-processed will be between 13.8 mg/g and 3.9 mg/g.

Some of the best (taste and quality), readily available and more affordable brands would be Lint 70% to 90%, Giradelli 86%, Green and Black’s Dark 85% and Trader’s Joes Dark Chocolate Lover’s 85%. The list is not exhaustive, if you can find some Valhrona Noir Extra Amer 85% or Scharffen Berger 70% – 82% and you want to splurge, you won’t be disappointed. If you are new to dark chocolate, Lint 70% is where I would start. As your taste buds adjust, you can go up from there.

Shop smart and ENJOY slowly, every day, without guilt. You’re definitely doing something good for your health!