The 12 Best Heart Healthy Foods

The heart is a remarkable organ that beats around 100,000 times a day. It is only the size of your fist yet supplies every organ and cell in your body with oxygenated blood. Damage to the heart can reduce its pumping power, forcing it to work harder to keep up with the demands of the body. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States and one of the top killers worldwide. The first step in preventing yourself from becoming a part of this statistic is to live a heart healthy lifestyle.

There has been a great deal of misinformation over past decades regarding the causes of heart disease with much of the blame being misplaced on saturated fats and cholesterol. We now know that chronic inflammation is the root cause of heart disease. While certain dietary components do play a large role in heart disease risk, eating in a way that is anti-inflammatory is one of the best ways to mitigate heart disease risk.

Heart Healthy Diet

The best diet to address this inflammation and reduce your risk of developing heart disease is the anti-inflammatory healing diet. This diet is a plant-emphasized diet of real food, including low glycemic vegetables and fruits, clean meat, and healing fats.

This style of eating helps to address one of the leading causes of chronic inflammation, blood sugar imbalance. In fact, a ketogenic diet may be even more powerful for mitigating your risk of heart disease.

In addition to a meal plan that stabilizes blood sugar, it is critical to consume foods that have been shown to support and protect the heart. This article will discuss the 12 best heart healthy foods and the foods you must avoid if you want to protect your most vital organ system.

Heart Healthy Foods

What are the Causes of Heart Disease?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. “Heart disease” actually refers to several types of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease which is the most common type. Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart. Heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and heart valve problems are also types of heart disease.

Chronic inflammation is at the root of most, if not all chronic diseases including cancer, ALS, and heart disease (1). Chronic inflammation is systemic inflammation that can last for months or years. Many things can contribute to chronic inflammation including inflammatory foods, environmental toxins, excess weight, and stress.

Chronic inflammation occurs when our bodies are repeatedly exposed to these influences, and inflammatory mediators are produced throughout the body. The immune system becomes overwhelmed as the ongoing stimulus results in more cell recruitment, increased inflammation, and changes to cells. White blood cells will eventually start attacking internal organs or other necessary tissues and cells. This inflammatory response continues unless and until the cause of the inflammation is addressed.

Heart Healthy Cholesterol?

After years of misinformation from flawed theories, we now know that saturated fat and cholesterol do not cause heart disease. In fact, some of the healthiest foods for your heart contain saturated fats and cholesterol.

Dietary saturated fat and cholesterol have been shown to improve hormone regulation and cell membrane function, raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and change LDL particles from the dangerous to benign particles (2). In fact, a large portion of the brain and myelin sheath (nerve insulation) is made up of saturated fat and cholesterol. Cholesterol is also necessary to protect the internal lining of the arteries from damage caused by inflammation and oxidative stress.

Lifestyle & Heart Disease

Rather than focusing on saturated fat and cholesterol for heart disease prevention, it is important to consider lifestyle factors that contribute to heart disease. A 2016 study found that healthy lifestyle factors can reduce the risk of heart disease by 46% regardless of genetic risk (3).

Smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, obesity, excessive alcohol use, and not exercising are all lifestyle factors that increase your risk for heart disease. These factors cause high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, and elevated LDL cholesterol levels which raise your risk of developing heart disease.

The Anti-Inflammatory Healing Diet

Food provides biological information to our cells and DNA. It also provides critical building blocks for different physiological processes in the body. It is critical to focus on an anti-inflammatory nutrition plan to improve your health and overcome chronic health conditions. This nutrition plan is a plant-emphasized diet with healthy fats and clean protein.

An anti-inflammatory diet is a heart healthy diet. In fact, eating in a way that stabilizes blood sugar, provides and abundance of nutrition, and reduces exposure to toxins, will likely improve just about every aspect of your health. The foundational steps to an anti-inflammatory diet are as follows:

Eat Real Foods

The first step to a healing diet is to eat whole, unprocessed foods. You should remove refined sugars and grains that increase blood glucose levels, upregulate inflammation, and create extra acidity in the tissues. Instead, add a variety of low carbohydrate, low glycemic fruits and vegetables to your diet. These fruits and vegetables contain powerful nutrients to improve energy, rid our bodies of excess weight, and overcome illness.

This style of eating should have a heavy emphasis on non-starchy vegetables, herbs, spices, and sprouts of various types to load the body up with antioxidants.

Eat Healthy Fats and Remove Harmful Fats

The second step to a healing diet is to eat more healthy fats and remove harmful fats from the diet. Healing fats are fats found in coconut, olives, avocados, and their oils. Omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) found in wild caught salmon and grass-fed beef and dairy are healing fats. These healthy fats are an efficient source of fuel for the body to combat inflammation and support brain function.

Unhealthy fats are man-made saturated fats, particularly trans fats, such as those found in margarine and partially hydrogenated oils. Highly processed oils, such as canola, peanut, and grapeseed oils, oxidize easily and should also be avoided.

Make Healthy Meat Choices

The third step to a healing diet is to choose grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild-caught meats and fish, rather than grain-fed, farmed, conventionally-raised meats and fish. When choosing meat and fish, it is important to look at the food these animals and fish eat as well as the conditions in which they are raised. These factors directly influence the nutritional value of the meat and therefore what your body receives from consuming it.

To protect your heart from inflammation and heart disease, it is critical to incorporate this healing, anti-inflammatory diet into your life. By eating real foods, avoiding sugar and processed foods, eating healing fats rather than harmful fats, and choosing grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild-caught, organic meats and fish, you can go a long way in supporting a healing state in the body.

Now that we have covered the three steps to an anti-inflammatory, let’s look at the best heart healthy foods.

The Best Heart Healthy Foods

To prevent heart disease, it is important to eat anti-inflammatory foods rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients and essential fatty acids. This will lower oxidative stress and help fight free radical damage in your body. The following foods are my top picks for heart healthy foods.

Coconut Oil

Despite years of misleading information, we now know that certain fats are heart healthy. Coconut oil is one of the best heart healthy fats. Studies have shown that coconut oil has cardio-protective effects through many mechanisms.

Coconut oil contains small to medium-chained saturated fats called medium chained triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs permeate cell membranes to provide energy without the need for carrier proteins or special enzymes. In other words, they are a good source of readily available energy for the body. These fatty acids also have an immune boosting effect through their antiviral, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties.

Coconut oil is also rich in lauric acid which helps balance blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Coconut oil is the most stable source of fatty acids due to its high amount of saturated fats (92%). Coconut oil’s high saturated fat content actually supports healthy levels of HDL and LDL (4). By increasing the HDL in the body, coconut oil helps promote heart health and lowers the risk of heart disease (5). Coconut oil also helps lower high triglycerides providing additional heart healthy benefits.

It is best to use organic, unrefined coconut oil to reap the many benefits of coconut oil. Coconut oil is great for cooking because it has a higher smoke point than many other oils (like extra virgin olive oil). Rather than oxidizing, coconut oil remains stable and does not lose its antioxidant properties under high temperatures.

Hawthorn Berry

Hawthorn is called the “heart herb” for its ability to protect the heart. Hawthorn berry is a medicinal herb loaded with a wide array of powerful antioxidant nutrients, including numerous flavonoids. Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds that have been shown to effectively decrease inflammation and boost immune function.

Hawthorn berry is widely used in Europe as a natural remedy to treat heart disease. There are numerous studies showing the ability of hawthorn to treat angina, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, irregular heartbeat, and congestive heart failure (6).

Look for the whole plant, leaves, flowers and berries, when purchasing hawthorn. The berries contain more proanthocyanins and the flowers and leaves contain more vitexin. Proanthocyanidins are powerful antioxidants that remove harmful free radicals from cells. Vitexin is an apigenin flavone glucoside with additional antioxidant properties.

Grass-Fed Butter

Grass-fed butter is a nutritious, healthy fat with many healing properties. It contains short- and medium-chain triglycerides which support the immune system and boost metabolism. Grass-fed butter contains high levels of butyrate, arachidonic acid (ARA), and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). These acids have a myriad of health benefits.

Butyrate is a 4-carbon chain saturated fatty acid that is remarkably heart healthy in that it provides a direct source of energy for the heart. Butyrate also has anti-inflammatory effects on the entire body, promotes energy production, and benefits digestive health.

ARA and CLA are both important to overall immune system function. CLA is a type of polyunsaturated fat that helps reduce belly fat, improve immune function, and reverse atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Studies have found that a higher percentage of CLA in the blood is associated with significantly reduced risk of heart failure (7).

Grass-fed butter is also a rich source of vitamin A which is good for the thyroid, adrenal glands, and cardiovascular health.  It is also an excellent source of vitamins D and K2. Vitamin K2 may reverse arterial calcification. Grass-fed butter contains beneficial vitamin E tocopherols and other carotenoid antioxidants which help reduce oxidative stress in the arterioles.

Many Americans choose margarine rather than butter under the false belief that margarine is healthier for your heart. The reverse is actually true. Studies show that margarine consumption increases your risk of heart disease, while consuming butter is not associated with heart disease (8).

Dark Leafy Green Vegetables

Dark Leafy green vegetables are packed with an array of vitamins, minerals (including trace minerals), and fiber. Some of the most nutrient-dense leafy greens are spinach, kale, chard, arugula, bok choy, and collards.

Spinach, kale, chard and other dark leafy green vegetables are true superfoods. They contain almost 400% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A in just one cup. They also contain vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and folic acid. Vitamin K has been shown to positively affect heart structure and functioning (9).  The abundant antioxidants in leafy greens protect cells from damaging free radicals.

Many leafy green vegetables are in the cruciferous family. Kale, swiss chard, collard greens, arugula, spinach, bok choy, and mustard greens are cruciferous vegetables. They have a characteristic bitter taste and pungent aroma. Leafy greens in the cruciferous family are full of phytonutrients, carotenoids, and flavonoids that help combat free radical damage and neutralize toxins in the body.

Cruciferous vegetables also contain glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that are broken down into metabolites that trigger specific enzymatic reactions. These reactions help detoxify the body by increasing its ability to remove carcinogens and heavy metals from the blood.

There are a variety of ways to prepare and consume leafy green vegetables. Leafy green vegetables are delicious roasted or sautéed in coconut or avocado oil or steamed and topped with grass-fed butter or extra virgin olive oil or used raw in salads.

It is important to combine leafy greens with healthy fats for better absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins. You can also consume a high-quality greens powder for a convenient option to absorb the nutrients in leafy greens.

Strawberries

Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits for many reasons. Even with their delicious sweet taste, strawberries are a low-glycemic fruit and do not cause blood sugar spikes for most people. They also contain dietary fiber and numerous vitamins and minerals.

Strawberries are an excellent heart healthy food because they contain bioactive compounds with antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory effects. The most abundant of these are ellagic acid and certain flavonoids, including anthocyanin, catechin, quercetin, and kaempferol (10).

Antioxidants help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by inhibiting LDL cholesterol oxidation, promoting plaque stability, improving vascular endothelial function, and decreasing the tendency for thrombosis (blood clotting) (10).

Strawberries are delicious added to shakes or as a healthy snack or dessert. It is very important to buy organic strawberries due to high pesticide levels in conventionally grown strawberries. Frozen organic strawberries have the same health benefits and are a convenient option.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a powerful herb with abundant cardiovascular protective effects. Turmeric is good for the heart due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-thrombotic, and antimicrobial properties. Many of these benefits are attributed to a compound called curcumin.

In the fight against inflammation, turmeric can be a powerful weapon. Turmeric’s anti-thrombotic, anti-proliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects protect against changes occurring with atherosclerosis. Curcumin also effectively balances serum cholesterol levels by eliminating excess LDL cholesterol from the arteries and blood vessels. This can also help prevent atherosclerosis.

The curcuminoids in turmeric have antioxidant properties. The antioxidant effects of turmeric have been shown to reduce cardiotoxicity and prevent cardiac complications (11). Turmeric has even been shown to boost the body’s natural antioxidant capacity which fights damaging free radicals.

Turmeric powder should be added to foods after cooking to maintain its potency as an anti-inflammatory. Add a dash of black pepper and eat with healthy fats to allow for better absorption of the beneficial compounds.

Avocados

Avocados are nutrient and phytochemical dense superfoods for the heart. Numerous studies have found that avocado consumption is a heart healthy choice (12).

Avocados have numerous antioxidant phytochemicals, including beta-sitosterol, glutathione, and lutein. Glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant and is critical for lowering inflammation. Beta-sitosterol helps lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. These antioxidants phytochemicals prevent free radical damage.

Avocados are also rich sources of vitamins B and C, important trace minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidant compounds carotene and lutein. They also contain a compound called oleic acid which may help the body absorb carotenoids for further anti-inflammatory benefits.

Avocados are loaded with healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and contain healthy cholesterols, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which the body needs for proper function. Studies have shown that dietary MUFAs are protective against metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease risk factors (13).

There are many ways to incorporate avocados into your diet. You can add them to smoothies or puddings for creaminess. Consuming guacamole made from avocados, cilantro, lime juice, and shallots would be great for the liver. Avocado oil is a fantastic choice for a heart healthy oil.

Pomegranates

Pomegranates are fruits with a high fiber content and filled with many small seeds. They are nutritional powerhouses, full of vitamin C, potassium, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), and antioxidant phytonutrient polyphenols. The anthocyanins in pomegranates protect cells from oxidative and environmental stress and damage. Pomegranates have been shown to protect against heart disease, boost immunity, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure (14).

It is best to consume pomegranates in their fresh, whole form due to the high sugar content in pomegranate fruit juices. If you do consume the juice, limit it to a 2-ounce shot. Even a small amount is beneficial because of the potent antioxidants in pomegranates.

Wild-Caught Fish

Wild-caught fish, especially salmon, are fantastic for heart health. They contain the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which have been shown to help reduce risk factors for heart disease. Fatty acids found in fish help to reduce high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides (fats in the blood) (15).

Fish consumption is associated with lower risk of death, subsequent heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heart rhythms in people who have already had a heart attack. The oils in wild-caught fatty fish also help prevent and treat atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) by slowing the development of plaque and blood clots, which can clog arteries. They may also have antioxidant properties that improve endothelial function and contribute to heart health.

The omega-3 fatty acids in wild-caught fish help reduce inflammation in the body. It is critical to have the optimal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. While omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, most omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation in the body. Studies show that higher dietary omega-6 to omega-3 ratios are associated with worsening inflammation over time (15). The ideal ratio is between 4:1 and 1:1.

Pecans

Pecans are nutritionally-dense, consisting of a unique blend of fatty acids, bioactive compounds, and essential nutrients. Nuts are concentrated with powerful heart healthy plant compounds that fight inflammation in the body. Frequent consumption of nuts is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Pecans are rich in monounsaturated fats. In studies, the frequent consumption of pecans has been shown to decrease total and LDL cholesterol levels, reduce triglyceride levels, and increase HDL cholesterol levels (16).

Pecans contain different forms of the antioxidant vitamin E, known as tocopherols, plus numerous phenolic substances with antioxidant abilities. Eating pecans increases the number of healthy antioxidants in the body which has the protective benefit of preventing development of heart disease (16).

Dark Chocolate

Many people are surprised to find that the right kind of chocolate is actually very heart healthy. Dark chocolate contains many nutrients including fiber, magnesium, iron, copper, calcium, protein, and manganese.

Dark chocolate is high in antioxidant flavonoids and polyphenols that combat oxidative stress and inflammation. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in dark chocolate. Flavanols have been shown to have numerous heart healthy benefits including lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow to the heart (17).

The darker and less processed the chocolate, the higher the amount of catechins are in the chocolate. Catechins are super antioxidant flavanols with beneficial effect on cardiovascular health. Catechins can effectively lower blood pressure, prevent oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, and increase nitric oxide release.

Dark chocolate also contains oleic acid which a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid with many health benefits. Oleic acid has been shown to reduce blood pressure and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Oleic acid has also been shown to protect cell membranes from free radicals and other oxidative stressors. Oleic acid is also one of the most common fats in myelin which is a protective sheath around nerves.

When purchasing dark chocolate, look for minimally processed dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa content or higher. This will have the most powerful antioxidants and the least amount of sugar.

Olives and Olive Oil

Consuming olives and olive oil have numerous heart healthy benefits. Olives contain fiber, vitamin E, vitamin, copper and calcium.

The healthy fats in olives and olive oils benefit the heart. Studies have shown that both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are inversely associated with the risk of heart disease (18).

Olive oil contains biologically active phenolic compounds (polyphenols) that have been shown to benefit atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease (19). Phenolic compounds have positive effects on plasma lipoproteins, oxidative damage, inflammatory markers, platelet and cellular function, and antimicrobial activity.

Studies also show that olive oil can increase adiponectin levels (20). Adiponectin is a protein hormone which is involved in regulating glucose levels as well as fatty acid breakdown. Low levels of adiponectin are associated with numerous health conditions, including inflammation, lipid abnormalities

Extra virgin olive oil is the healthiest form of olive oil and has the richest flavor. It is made without any heat or chemicals and has a low smoke point. Because of its low smoke point, extra virgin olive oil is best used drizzled over cooked or raw foods, or as a heart healthy salad dressing.

The Worst Foods for the Heart

There are several foods that are detrimental to the heart. The three least heart healthy foods are sugar, processed vegetable oils and trans fats, and grain-fed meats. This is because they provide very little nutrition and are highly inflammatory to the body

Refined Sugar

Studies have associated intake of added sugars with the development of hypertension, high blood pressure, increased triglyceride levels, obesity, and inflammation. All of these conditions increase the risk of heart disease. Added sugar intake is even associated with a significantly increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (21).

A high-sugar diet can stimulate the liver to dump harmful fats into the bloodstream and cause insulin resistance. Both of these factors are known to boost your risk of heart disease.

Insulin resistance is the decreased ability to respond to the effects of insulin. As a result, the body produces additional amounts of insulin which increases inflammatory processes within the body. Over time, surges of insulin can cause chronic health complications including heart disease.

Chronically elevated blood sugar also reacts with enzymes and other protein molecules to create Advanced Glycolytic End Products (AGEs) (22). AGEs are highly inflammatory and damage tissue throughout the body. The result is neurological and cardiovascular complications. Removing sugar and grains from the diet is a powerful heart healthy move.

Trans Fats

Hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated (trans) fats top the list of fats that kill. Hydrogenation is a process that turns polyunsaturates, which are normally liquid at room temperature, into fats that are solid at room temperature and the opposite of heart healthy. Common hydrogenated fats include hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated cottonseed, palm, soy, and corn oils.

Margarine and shortening are two hydrogenated fats. Manufacturers use cheap oils, such as soy, corn and canola to create margarine and shortening. The new soft margarines or tub spreads, while lower in hydrogenated fats, are still produced from rancid vegetable oils and contain many additives.

Consumption of hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats is associated with cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, immune system dysfunction, birth defects, decreased visual acuity, sterility, difficulty in lactation and problems with bones and tendons (23). Trans fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are most strongly related to increased risk of heart disease. It is essential to eliminate trans fats from your diet to avoid the myriad of health issues associated with these toxic fats.

Grain-Fed Meats

Grain-fed meats are far from heart healthy. Animals that are conventionally raised are fed genetically modified grains that are laden with pesticides, herbicides and other toxins. These animals are given antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals to keep them from getting diseases and to treat illnesses. They are also given hormones to make them larger. These drugs and hormones make their way into the meat, eggs, and dairy products from these animals.

Conventionally-raised animals live in unsanitary, crowded conditions with little to no access to clean air. They are fed a high-carbohydrate corn and soy feed to cause to become unnaturally large in a short time. Their digestive systems are not designed to eat these foods.

Feeding cattle high starch food like corn and soy makes their intestinal tracts acidic which can lead to ulcers, infection, and the growth of bacteria like E. coli. Grain-fed animals can also have antibiotic resistant bacterial like MRSA and superbugs (24).

Conventionally raised meats and fish are not as nutritious as grass-fed beef. Grain feeding significantly reduces the omega-3 and CLA content and the vitamins A and E amounts in the meat, eggs, and dairy products. You should always choose grass-fed meats such as grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, and wild game, rather than conventionally raised, grain-fed meats.

Conclusion

The heart is an incredible organ with the vital job of keeping blood flowing throughout the body. When the heart becomes weakened through lifestyle factors, it can lead to heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, obesity, excessive alcohol use, and not exercising increase your risk for heart disease. It is critical to eat an anti-inflammatory, healing diet to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. This diet includes low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, clean protein sources, and healthy fats.

The top heart healthy foods you can eat are listed above. You should incorporate these foods into your diet on a regular basis to prevent heart disease.

Additionally, you should avoid the three worst foods for your heart; sugar, processed vegetable oils and trans fats, and grain-fed meats. These foods promote inflammation which leads to heart disease. These foods should be eliminated or minimized to keep the heart healthy.

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Top 8 Health Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are some of the most important nutrients you can put in your body. Not only are they extremely anti-inflammatory, but they actually make up some of the most important structures of your body like your brain and nervous system. Not getting enough in your diet increases your risk of many chronic illnesses so it is important that you understand the benefits of omega 3 fats.

This is something that if someone asks me, “Hey what are the MOST important supplements to take on a daily basis?” I absolutely recommend. Along with things like magnesium, Vitamin D, clean water, and an anti-inflammatory diet; omega 3 absolutely cannot be overlooked.

Types of Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids are what is characterized as long-chain fatty acids.  The 4 main types of these are ALA, DPA, EPA, and DHA. We are going to primarily focus on EPA and DHA as they are most commonly deficient while being the most important for overall health.

EPA and DHA are derived from mother’s milk, algae, fish, and grass -fed meat products. EPA and DHA can be synthesized in the body from ALA, however it is a very inefficient process and can put excess stress on the liver. ALA is derived from plant sources of omega 3 such as green plants, flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin seeds & walnuts.

Omega 3 & Omega 6

As with many things in the body, fats are the most beneficial when consumed in proper ratios. When talking about omega 3, the most important balance to consider is omega 3 fats in relation to omega 6 fats. Omega 6 fats are important for inflammatory processes in the body, however consuming too much in relation to omega 3 can become excessively inflammatory.

This inflammatory imbalance between omega 3 to omega 6 is extremely common in today’s society. For many other reasons, chronic inflammatory diseases are at an all-time high. This makes it imperative that you start employing anti-inflammatory nutrition and lifestyle principles. Increasing your intake of omega 3 fatty acids is an important step in this process.

Cellular Health

One of the most important roles of omega 3 fat intake is that our cells actually need these fats in order to function properly. Every cell in the body is made up of a combination of cholesterol, saturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats.

The saturated fats and cholesterol help to maintain the structural integrity of the cell membrane while polyunsaturated fats allow fluidity. This fluidity is important for the transportation of materials, cellular communication, and other processes that occur across the cell membrane.

You may not have known this but the polyunsaturated fats that make up part of our cell membranes are actually the omega 3 fats EPA and DHA (1).

Fights Depression & Anxiety

Depression and anxiety have been associated with something called neuroinflammation. This just means inflammation in the brain. Because increasing omega 3 intake can be highly anti-inflammatory, this could make it an important consideration in anxiety and depression.

Additionally, there have been several studies demonstrating the effectiveness of EPA and DHA in mitigating depressive symptoms (2).

Finally, there is some evidence showing that lower levels of omega 3 fatty acids are correlated with higher levels of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) which is normally released in response to stress. Chronically elevated CRH due to inadequate omega 3 intake could contribute to depressive or anxious feelings (3, 4).

Improves Sleep

Some preliminary evidence from a study published by Oxford in 2014 suggests that higher levels of dietary omega 3 intake are associated with lower instances of insomnia and less interruptions in sleep (5).

Considering the anti-depressive and anxiolytic effects mentioned above, it is realistic that omega 3 fatty acids may help one get a better night of sleep.

Another factor to consider is that chronic inflammation can have a detrimental impact on sleep quality due to increased levels of circulating stress hormones. Omega 3 intake can help to mitigate inflammation and improve sleep by lowering associated stress hormones.

Improves Eye Health

DHA is particularly important for development and maintenance of eye health. DHA is found in high amounts in the retina where it plays important roles in maintaining photoreceptor membrane integrity and ensuring optimal production of vision through light transmission (6).

Inadequate omega 3 intake has also been associated with conditions of dry eyes and poor eye structure development in children.

Finally, low intake of omega 3 is associated with increased rates of macular degeneration and retinopathy. Dietary carotenoids are also incredibly important for protecting your eyes from degeneration as illustrated below.

Strengthens Immunity

Poor immune function is often a result of chronic inflammation. Especially in cases of autoimmunity (overactive immune system), targeting underlying inflammation is extremely important for improving immune function. Increasing your intake of omega 3 fats is critical for this process.

In fact, a study performed on children up to the age of 3 showed that adequate DHA early in life is important for lowering instances of allergies and upper respiratory infections (7).

Promotes Brain Health During Pregnancy

Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, are incredibly important for the development of healthy brain tissue. Adequate omega 3 intake has been shown to provide benefits such as improved cognition, lowered stroke risk, improved cerebral blood flow, improved ADD/ADHD symptoms, reduced migraines, and decreased risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

As you can see, DHA intake is always important for ongoing brain health. It is critical that DHA needs are met during the developmental stages of a child’s life, particularly in the womb. As the brain undergoes rapid development, the mother will actually shed excess DHA stores in the body in order to support her child. If there is not enough, the child’s development may be significantly inhibited.

Improves Bone & Joint Health

Adequate omega 3 intake is important for optimal bone health. Like several of the conditions listed so far, poor bone health is associated with chronic inflammatory conditions in the body. This is the first and most foundational benefit of increasing omega 3 intake for bone health.

Additionally, omega 3 intake may improve bone health by helping to regulate calcium balance and osteoblast activity. Mostly animal-based studies point towards the importance of DHA for bone health (8).

Supports Heart Health

Once again, fish oil’s ability to mitigate inflammation has a powerful impact on the development and progression of cardiovascular diseases. One of the primary heart conditions, calcification of the arteries, is heavily influenced by inflammation and improper calcium metabolism.

As has been mentioned briefly, adequate omega 3 intake helps to promote healthy calcium metabolism. The anti-inflammatory benefits of omega 3 fats further promote heart health by helping to prevent the oxidation of the artery lining and cholesterol.

Studies have shown that fish oil can lower the risk of dying from a coronary heart disease event. Omega 3 fats also improve cholesterol, triglyceride values, and may help to lower blood pressure in some cases.

Fights Inflammation

If you have not noticed by now, one of the most fundamental benefits of increasing your intake of omega 3 fats is that profound anti-inflammatory effect. Because inflammation is at the root of almost all chronic diseases of modern times, this benefit is highly sought after.

For any of my patients who are suffering from a chronic disease and struggling to get well, increasing omega 3 intake is always a core strategy.

Studies have shown that a higher intake of omega 3 fatty acids can prevent or at least slow the progression of many chronic inflammatory disorders such as autoimmunity or neurological disorders. My experience working with people is that this strategy can be very beneficial.

Best Food Sources

Now that you understand the many benefits of increasing your intake of omega 3 fats, it’s time to learn the best sources. First and foremost, getting plenty of EPA and DHA from food-based sources such as wild-caught fish and algae grown in a clean-controlled environment, is the absolute best.

Some of the top sources include sockeye salmon, sardines, mackerel, and algae. There can be some conversion of ALA into DHA from foods like walnuts, flax, and chia. Conversion of ALA into DHA is typically not enough to reach optimal levels however.

Best Supplements

In addition to consuming fish or high DHA algae on a regular basis, it can be helpful to take an omega 3 supplement concentrated from fish or algae if you are a vegetarian/vegan. For therapeutic applications, taking in about 2-4 grams of omega 3 from EPA and DHA can be very beneficial.

It is in this range that I have noticed my clients get significant improvements in inflammatory markers and they notice other improvements in their overall wellbeing.

Nordic Naturals is my number one brand as they are concentrated and are held to extremely high-quality standards. For everyday use, Pro Omega or Pro EFA are my go-to choices. For people dealing with significant inflammatory conditions, Pro Omega CRP is one of the most effective supplements I have discovered.

Summary

Omega 3 fatty acids are vital to your health and wellbeing. Every single cell in your body and especially the tissues of your brain require omega 3 fatty acids in order to function properly. The two most important that are often deficient in people today are EPA and DHA which can be derived from fish and certain types of algae.

Daily intake of omega 3 fats should range from 1 gram daily (daily maintenance) up to 3-4 grams per day for significant health challenges rooted in chronic inflammation.  It is important to be sure you get a high quality purified fish oil that has removed any possible contaminants and is in the triglyceride form for optimal absorption.  This is why I really like the Nordic Naturals brand.

Sources For This Article Include

1. Valentine, R. C., & Valentine, D. L. (2004). Omega-3 fatty acids in cellular membranes: A unified concept. Progress in Lipid Research. PMID: 15458813
2. Grosso, G., Pajak, A., Marventano, S., Castellano, S., Galvano, F., Bucolo, C., … Caraci, F. (2014). Role of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of depressive disorders: A comprehensive meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. PLoS ONE, 9(5). PMID: 24805797
3. Nieminen, L. R. G., Makino, K. K., Mehta, N., Virkkunen, M., Kim, H. Y., & Hibbeln, J. R. (2006). Relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and plasma neuroactive steroids in alcoholism, depression and controls. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 75(4–5), 309–314. PMID: 16959481
4. Lang, U. E., & Borgwardt, S. (2013). Molecular mechanisms of depression: perspectives on new treatment strategies. Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry : International Journal of Experimental Cellular Physiology, Biochemistry, and Pharmacology, 31(6), 761–77. PMID: 23735822
5. Montgomery, P., Burton, J. R., Sewell, R. P., Spreckelsen, T. F., & Richardson, A. J. (2014). Fatty acids and sleep in UK children: Subjective and pilot objective sleep results from the DOLAB study – a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Sleep Research, 23(4), 364–388. PMID: 24605819
6. Querques, G., Forte, R., & Souied, E. H. (2011). Retina and omega-3. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. PMID: 22175009
7. Birch, E. E., Khoury, J. C., Berseth, C. L., Castañeda, Y. S., Couch, J. M., Bean, J., … Scalabrin, D. M. (2010). The Impact of Early Nutrition on Incidence of Allergic Manifestations and Common Respiratory Illnesses in Children. Journal of Pediatrics, 156(6). PMID: 20227721
8. Maggio, M., Artoni, A., Lauretani, F., Borghi, L., Nouvenne, A., Valenti, G., & Ceda, G. P. (2009). The impact of omega-3 fatty acids on osteoporosis. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 15(36), 4157–64. PMID: 20041817

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How To Follow A Vegan Ketogenic Diet

How To Follow A Vegan Ketogenic Diet

Two major health trends are the vegan or plant based diet movement and the ketogenic diet.  While these plans don’t naturally endorse each other…it is possible to get the benefits of what both nutrition practices offer.   Most vegan diets rely upon a high amount of carbohydrates as the major source of calories so these individuals would not produce ketones. In this article, I am going to break down how to follow a vegan ketogenic diet to improve health and performance.

The ketogenic diet is beginning to get a lot of media attention for its tremendous health benefits. I think it is important to help empower people on how to properly implement a ketogenic diet into their lifestyle if they so desire. This article serves as a guide for how I would suggest following a vegan ketogenic diet for optimal results.

Vegan/Plant-Based Diet

A vegan diet is one devoid of all animal products. This means no animal meat and no byproducts of animals (milk, eggs, cheese, honey, etc.). This will usually carry over into lifestyle as well as these people tend to avoid anything made using animal products. The vegan philosophy comes from an ethical philosophy of minimizing suffering for animals.

This style of diet that has recently gained a ton of press due to the film What The Health as well as many other media publications following a similar narrative. While I do have my qualms about the “facts” portrayed in this film and how it was presented, there are certainly benefits to be derived from a plant-based diet if carefully planned.

One thing they did not mention in the film was the benefit of carbohydrate restriction, they instead insisted that as long as you are not eating meat, you can essentially eat as much sugar as you want with no health consequences. I obviously do not agree with this idea.

The science actually shows that a low-carb, high-fat diet has the potential to lower risk of heart disease, lower inflammation, and improve blood sugar regulation more effectively than a low-fat, high-carb diet (1, 2).

Benefits of Plant-Based Diets

Compared to the Standard American Diet, plant-based diets have been shown to offer some level of benefit in reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. There has also been a correlation between plant-based diets and decreased risk of cancer which may be attributable to higher amounts of antioxidants and protein restriction (3).

Many people may notice that they lose weight and sometimes observe an improvement in gut health, but this can vary depending on an individual’s current health status. This is likely due to the removal of highly processed foods and an increase in dietary fiber intake.

For many people, there are certain risks of following a plant-based diet if it is not carefully planned, they include:

Protein Deficiency

Low B12

Increased Intake of Dietary Carbohydrates – Blood Sugar Imbalances

High Consumption of Phytic Acids and Lectins – Causing Gut Inflammation

Negligible Intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

…and some people notice that they just don’t feel healthy when they eliminate all animal-based products from the diet.

Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet is a very low-carbohydrate meal plan that derives the majority of its calories from healthy fat sources. In fact, at least 60-70% of your total calories will be coming from fat sources while often less than 5% will be coming from carbs. The goal with this is to drop blood sugar and insulin low enough that the body resorts to burning fat as energy instead.

When this happens, your liver begins to convert fatty acids into molecules called ketones. Ketones are a very efficient fuel source that produce more stable energy, and have tons of health benefits for the brain and body.

While originally designed as a medical therapy for pediatric seizures in the 1900’s, it has reemerged as a powerful brain boosting and healing strategy. I personally recommend a ketogenic or low-carb, high-fat diet to the majority of my clients who are looking to optimize their health and quality of life.

Traditionally, a ketogenic diet is relatively high in animal-based foods.

Benefits Of A Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet is starting to get recognition for incredible healing benefits it provides. One of the most significant aspects in my opinion, is its potential cancer-fighting effects (4). Additionally, as someone who relies on his own wellbeing in order to serve others, I take advantage of a ketogenic diet daily to maximize my mental acuity and boost my overall performance.

Other Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet Include:

Improved Blood Sugar Regulation

Lowered Inflammation

Supporting Ideal Weight

Reduced Oxidative Stress

Improved Mitochondrial Health

Improvement In Multiple Neurological Disorders

Metabolically speaking, ketones are much more efficiently converted into energy compared to sugar. As a result, less oxidative stress occurs and therefore less inflammation. On top of this, there is a stimulation of mitochondrial biogenesis (growth of new mitochondria) (5).

Essentially, the energy production factories in your cells gain better fuel and your body significantly upregulates how many of those factories there are. This means more energy for your body to perform normal functions.  It is this combined effect of reduced inflammation and increased energy production that is responsible for most of the benefits of ketosis.

Is A Vegan Ketogenic Diet Possible?

In short, yes, a vegan ketogenic diet is possible. In my opinion, it can be quite limiting, but nonetheless it can be done.  The proportion of high-fat plant-based foods is quite low compared to a more traditional paleo eating style. This is because plants tend to store starch or sugar as energy whereas animals tend to store more fat.

At the same time, some of the best plant-based sources of protein also tend to be high in starch. This would include things like beans. So, when looking for plant-based foods that help provide, enough fat, adequate protein, while also being low in carbs; the list of available foods narrows quickly.  With some planning and a little creativity however, going ketogenic while following vegan principles can be achieved.

Vegan Keto Breakdown

Fats

In general, some of the staple fat sources on a vegan ketogenic diet would be coconut, avocados, olives, and higher fat nuts like macadamias or walnuts.

Additionally, the products that are made out of these high-fat foods can be great too. For example, coconut oil, coconut flakes, or full-fat coconut milk are great. Same with avocado oil or olive oil. Finally, nut butters can be a great option. The key for many people will be getting creative with these things to create variety.

The general rule to follow is that a food contains at least 70% healthy fats and very few net carbs. Healthy fats would be mostly saturated fats with smaller amounts of poly- and mono-unsaturated fats. Net carbs can be calculated by subtracting the fiber content from the total carbs in a given food.

For Example:

The average avocado contains somewhere around 17 grams of total carbohydrates where 13 grams of that is fiber (per 1 cup serving). So, by subtracting 13 from 17, we get 4 grams of net carbs. Most people will want to shoot for 40 or less net carbs per day while following a ketogenic diet in order to maintain a fat-burning metabolic state.

Proteins

This is really where challenges are met with a vegan ketogenic diet. Many of the best plant-based protein sources are consequently high in starches. This is obviously not conducive to being in ketosis.

Technically, the most ketogenic vegan protein source would be tofu due to its low carbohydrate content. This is assuming that there is adequate fat consumption from other sources. As a health professional, I do not recommend the consumption of any unfermented soy products. Organic tempeh, which is a fermented soy product, could be a key aspect of your diet however.

Finally, consuming a high-quality plant-based protein powder may be an important aspect of getting into ketosis on a plant-based diet while ensuring protein needs are met. Some of the best options for this are hemp, brown rice, and pea-derived proteins.

Protein Requirements

Protein consumption is important to monitor on a ketogenic diet. Consuming too little protein, which is not uncommon on a vegan diet, will facilitate the breakdown of muscle tissues and other consequences of amino acid deficiencies. At the same time, too much protein can be counterproductive to getting into ketosis as your body will tend to convert excess amino acids into glucose.

The rule to follow is generally about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. So, for a 160 lb individual:

Divide by 2.2 lb/kg to calculate your bodyweight in kg:

160/2.2 = 73 (and this would be your daily protein requirement)

This is going to be adequate for an individual who is fairly inactive. For someone who is looking to put on muscle and is very active, this number can be increased to between 100-120 grams of protein on training days, which would be about 1.3-1.6 grams of protein per kg.

For those dealing with cancer, staying around 0.5 g/Kg can be therapeutic for reducing mTOR expression. To put that into perspective, a 150 lb person would only consume 34 g/protein daily. mTOR is a biological pathway in the body which plays an important role in regulating cell growth and proliferation that may also have an influence over cancer growth (6).

If you are simply having problems with staying full, then increasing fat intake will be the place to focus.

Therapeutic Considerations

If you are planning on using the ketogenic diet as a healing strategy, certain factors should be considered. For example, those that are struggling with autoimmunity or cancer often have sensitive and inflamed digestive systems.

In these cases, using an easily digestible protein powder can be very helpful. Personally, I will use Gut Healing Protein as it is keto friendly and extremely beneficial for repairing an inflamed gut. It is also vegan, being derived from pea and rice sources.

Also, if consuming nuts it will be important to soak and sprout them in order to improve digestibility and reduce the burden of digestion.

Meal Plan

To help give you some ideas of great vegan ketogenic meal options, I have pulled together various recipes that are either vegan or easily converted with single ingredient swaps.

Note: Many of these recipes contain butter. For vegan-friendly versions, you can simply substitute coconut oil (or in some cases, cocoa butter).

Keto Breakfasts

I am big on liquid nutrition, especially when on a ketogenic diet. Liquid meals are easy to digest and are a great way to add plenty of healthy fats to the diet. I also use these types of recipes as an opportunity to utilize XCT oil to provide my body with an easily convertible source of ketones. These are some of my favorite recipes:

Turmeric Fat Burning Coffee

This recipe is a great morning pick-me-up that also has anti-inflammatory benefits. You get the antioxidant benefits of turmeric and organic coffee, plus good healthy fats to get your day started. I personally make this on busy days when I need to be on my mental game. Simply switch out the butter for coconut oil or cocoa butter and you have yourself a ketogenic and vegan coffee that will keep you full for hours.

Keto Matcha Green Tea

Matcha is a green tea powder that is insanely nutritious with tons of benefits for the brain and body.

Containing less caffeine than coffee, in addition to the relaxing amino acid L-theanine, this option provides a smoother stimulation to start your day. All you need is hot water, matcha, coconut oil (or XCT oil), and full-fat coconut milk (sweetener optional).

Coconut Dandelion Coffee

If you are sensitive to caffeine or just prefer to do without, this dandelion “coffee” is a great option. This is essentially a caffeine-free herbal substitute that tastes similar to coffee. Using this Dandy Blend instant mix and a bit of full-fat coconut milk and you are ready to start your day.

Dandelion is also great for healthy liver function. To kick up the anti-inflammatory potential of this one, you can add cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and a bit of stevia.

Lunch

For lunch, you want to get in plenty more healthy fats, a moderate amount of protein, and plenty of fiber. What I do personally, and what I recommend to many of my clients, is either a big salad or another liquid meal. I like to consume only one solid meal a day during the time I am most relaxed (at night) to facilitate better digestion.

Doing the liquid nutrition during the day really helps free up energy for physical and mental exertion while helping to maintain an optimal state of ketosis. Consider trying this strategy to reduce the energetic burden of digestion during the day.

Gut Healing Protein Pudding

This is a super anti-inflammatory and ketogenic recipe with only 4 ingredients. It features my Gut Healing Protein for added nutrition and to support a healthy gut lining. I make this 2-3 times per week personally. I would recommend adding in a Tbsp. of XCT oil for an added boost to get you through the afternoon with no crash or hunger.

Blueberry Gut Healing Protein Shake

This is a variation of the pudding recipe above except with blueberries for added antioxidant benefits. Blueberries are also great for healing the gut lining and supporting optimal brain function.

Chocolate Chia Super Smoothie

This is a rich, chocolatey smoothie recipe that is loaded with superfoods like raw cacao, chia, flax, and blueberries. Blend this with a high-quality vegan protein powder and you’ve got yourself a solid meal loaded with magnesium, potassium, antioxidants, and plenty of healthy fats. Add in an avocado for an extra creamy texture and to increase fiber content.

Avocado Salad

If you are someone who would rather have something more solid for lunch, a big salad full of veggies and fresh herbs is a great option.   You can try our avocado salad recipe, which is delicious!  This recipes contains grass-fed cheese; however this can easily be replaced. Load this one up with avocado, a splash of XCT or olive oil, olives, and some tempeh or sprouted pumpkin seeds for protein.

Dinner

Dinner, for most people, tends to be the most relaxed meal of the day. This is a great time to get into a state of gratitude and reflect on the positive notes of your day. Getting into this state of gratitude will put your body in a relaxed state to facilitate better digestion. This is when I typically advocate consuming the largest meal of the day.

Here you will likely need to get creative but there is definitely potential for some great vegan ketogenic dinner recipes. For some inspiration you can follow this simple template:

Base: Shirataki Noodles, Zucchini Noodles, Cauliflower Rice

Filler: Fibrous, Non-Starchy Veggies

Protein: Tempeh or sprouted nuts & seeds

Topping: Get creative with fat sources in making a sauce, for example this avocado pesto recipe. You can also make nut-based sauces for added protein.

Another great option for dinner is to make some kind of soup or stew. Curries are great using full-fat coconut milk as the base. Next adding in plenty of vegetables and a ketogenic protein source like pumpkin seeds or tempeh make this a perfect meal.

For more inspiration, check out the following recipes:

Garlic Basil Squash Spaghetti

SuperCharged Coconut Curry (Replace chicken broth with vegetable broth and your choice of protein)

Creamy Coconut Guacamole Wraps (Add in your choice of protein)

Dessert

Dessert is the most satisfying part of the meal. It’s even better eating a delicious dessert that you know is providing your body with health benefits. This is also another great chance to load up on healthy fats.

Recipes containing eggs can be easily substituted by ground flaxseed, chia, or almond butter while maintaining ketogenic macronutrient ratios. Also, don’t limit these to only dessert time. These recipes can also serve as great high-fat snacks to satisfy your sweet tooth at any time during the day.

Coconut Lemon Glazed Cookie Bites

These taste delicious and are completely vegan and fairly easy to make!

Coconut Flour Keto Donut Holes

Rich, satisfying, ketogenic, vegan. What more could you ask for?

Coconut Short Bread Cookies

Switch out the butter with coconut oil or cocoa butter and you’ve got yourself a delicious cookie.

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Ice cream can be vegan, ketogenic, and delicious. Start with full fat coconut milk and build from there, add in berries, vanilla flavoring, or cacao powder and stevia to taste. After a quick freeze, all you have to do is throw it in the blender and there you have it. Pure simplicity.

More Delicious Dessert Ideas:

Turmeric Coconut Cream Cups

Chocolate Avocado Dessert Bars

Chocolate Avocado Truffles

Snacks

Following a ketogenic diet correctly, you should have very little cravings for snack foods. Sometimes a snack can be satisfying, I get it. I have some recipes for that that are both ketogenic and vegan friendly.

One of my go-to combinations are Homemade Keto Crackers with Lemon Creamy Superfood Guacamole. This combination satisfies the desire for a salty and crunchy snack while effectively satisfying hunger. Keto crackers and these keto chips also go well with this cashew artichoke dip or our coconut keto ranch dressing.

Additional Considerations

While some people respond well to a plant-based diet, many people simply do not. If you are someone who has been following a plant-based diet, have taken the extra precautions to make up for any possible nutrient deficiencies, and are struggling to overcome any kind of chronic health conditions, you may consider adding in specific animal-based foods.

For some people, following more of a vegetarian-style diet can maintain ethical standards while providing more complete nutrition.

If you are considering adding back in animal-based products, it would probably be most beneficial to add them back slowly. The three I would recommend to adding first are grass-fed butter, pasture-raised eggs, and wild-caught fish if you choose to consume meat.

Grass-fed Butter

A great first addition when transitioning back from a vegan diet is grass-fed butter. Grass fed butter is packed with fat soluble vitamins, fat-burning CLA, omega-3 fatty acids, and the short chain fatty acid butyrate.

Try adding grass-fed butter to steamed veggies or in a turmeric fat burning coffee.

Organic, Pasture-Raised Eggs

In addition to grass-fed butter, eggs from pasture-raised chickens are an excellent and complete source of nutrition. Eggs contain complete protein, omega-3 fats, Vitamin D, B Vitamins, Iron, Calcium, and more. Eggs are one of the most nutritionally complete foods on the planet.

Also, you should not be concerned about the cholesterol content. In fact, cholesterol plays an important role in forming sex hormones in the body as well as healthy brain tissue.

Wild-Caught Fish

If you are really struggling with your health and are considering adding animal meats back into your diet, wild-caught fish should be your go-to. The long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA are absolutely critical for the health of your brain and nervous system.

While you are able to convert a small amount of plant based omega-3 fats into EPA and DHA, it simply is not an efficient process and does not satisfy the body’s needs.  The best fish for this are Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines, and Alaskan cod.

If you are not considering adding fish back into your diet, you may be able to derive some benefit from supplementing with an algae-based omega-3.

Summary

Two dietary trends that are rapidly growing are the ketogenic diet and the vegan/plant-based movement. Traditionally, vegan diets tend to be extremely high in carbohydrates and low in fats (which is the opposite of a ketogenic diet). As we discover more benefits of a ketogenic diet, those who are following plant-based diets are looking to change the way they eat.

Here I have laid the foundation for following a vegan ketogenic diet. I am interested to hear your experiences and any new strategies you have found helpful on your own ketogenic journey!

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Raygan, F., Bahmani, F., Kouchaki, E., Aghadavod, E., Sharifi, S., Akbari, E., … Asemi, Z. (2016). Comparative effects of carbohydrate versus fat restriction on metabolic profiles, biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in overweight patients with type 2 diabetic and coronary heart disease: A randomized clinical trial. ARYA Atherosclerosis, 12(6), 266–273. PMID: 28607566
2. Steckhan, N., Hohmann, C.-D., Kessler, C., Dobos, G., Michalsen, A., & Cramer, H. (2016). Effects of different dietary approaches on inflammatory markers in patients with metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition, 32(3), 338–348. PMID: 26706026
3. Levine, M. E., Suarez, J. A., Brandhorst, S., Balasubramanian, P., Cheng, C. W., Madia, F., … Longo, V. D. (2014). Low protein intake is associated with a major reduction in IGF-1, cancer, and overall mortality in the 65 and younger but not older population. Cell Metabolism, 19(3), 407–417. PMID: 24606898
4. Vidali, S., Aminzadeh, S., Lambert, B., Rutherford, T., Sperl, W., Kofler, B., & Feichtinger, R. G. (2015). Mitochondria: The ketogenic diet – A metabolism-based therapy. International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, 63, 55–59. PMID: 25666556
5. Bough, K. J., Wetherington, J., Hassel, B., Pare, J. F., Gawryluk, J. W., Greene, J. G., … Dingledine, R. J. (2006). Mitochondrial biogenesis in the anticonvulsant mechanism of the ketogenic diet. Annals of Neurology, 60(2), 223–235. PMID: 16807920
6. Xie, J., Wang, X., & Proud, C. G. (2016). mTOR inhibitors in cancer therapy. F1000Research, 5, 2078. PMID: 27635236

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5 Advanced Fat Burning Strategies

In today’s society, we have an epidemic of obesity. With this there is also a growing trend of people who are tired of living a suboptimal life and are looking for ways to be healthy. Considering excess body fat is a risk factor for many of America’s top chronic diseases, using these fat burning strategies to slim down is a great place to start turning your life around.

Addititionally, these strategies will help you build muscle and rev up your metabolism so that you can keep fat off for good.  In addition to eliminating sugar and grains from the diet, and in general following a low-carb high-fat diet, there are five strategies that come to mind to help burn fat faster than ever before (1).

What Is Causing Our Obesity Epidemic?

Today it seems like everybody with excess weight to lose has trouble actually getting it off.  Unfortunately, there is an explosion of companies trying to capitalize on this trend by selling get-skinny-quick schemes that often times straight up don’t work.

When it comes down to it, there could be an infinite number of factors that are contributing to the obesity epidemic we are seeing.  We consume way too much sugar, we have environmental toxins that throw off our hormones, we are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and many of us just don’t know what we’re doing to our bodies.

While it is important to learn about these factors in detail to make smarter choices for your health, there are foundational factors that help put you on the right track.

Where Is The Best Place To Start?

While the strategies in this article are 5 great ways to start burning fat quickly, there are some foundational principles that help make this fat loss more sustainable.

While exercise plays a large role in burning fat, I find that most people are just going about it the wrong way.  You may have heard this before but the majority of fat loss happens in the kitchen. This is why I recommend a low-carb, high-fat diet to almost every single one of my patients.

Eating this way helps balance blood sugar, lower inflammation, balance hormones, and as a side benefit, fat seems to melt off (2).  I also like to emphasize that meats on this diet come from pasture-raised or wild caught sources, produce comes from organic sources, and water you are drinking is properly filtered.

Following these principles help to ensure that you are limiting your exposure to environmental toxins while maximizing nutrition, both of which can contribute to a healthy weight. To dive deeper into these principles check out my article on steps to following a Healing Diet.

Advanced Fat Burning Strategies

Now that we understand the foundation for sustainable weight loss, your five strategies that I use every day to help increase fat burning potential in my own body.  These strategies are designed to rev up your metabolism and help keep you in a ketogenic state so that fat burning comes naturally.

Super Hydration 

Typically, I will fast throughout the morning, consuming my first meal around noon. During this time, I make it a priority to super hydrate my body by drinking close to a gallon of water before I take my first bite of food.

This helps to give my cells the water they need to produce energy, helps to move my bowels, and promotes the release of toxins out of my body.  This means that when I do consume my first meal I’m not stressing an already stressed system. Instead, I feel great, I’m full of energy, and I have likely begun to produce ketones.

Getting your body to produce ketones endogenously is one of the keys to burning excess body fat quickly (3).

Super Hydration Strategies

When I tell people how much water they should be drinking, they sometimes look at me like I’m crazy. Most people simply are not drinking enough water and wind up chronically dehydrated. I will agree that water isn’t really the greatest tasting beverage in the world and there are ways you can spice it up.

Some Of My Favorite Ways To Hydrate Are:

Diluted Organic Broths: These help provide sodium and minerals for nervous system health. If you drink bone broth, you will also get tons of extra benefits for your gut.

Organic Mold-Tested Coffee: Although it contains fat, I find that drinking a Tumeric Fat-Burning coffee can help keep me full and focused throughout the morning, especially on my demanding days. The medium chain triglycerides in this help me produce ketones and rev up my fat burning potential.  If you don’t like or cannot do coffee, you can try our Keto Matcha Green Tea or Coconut Dandelion Coffee.

Water With Lemon or Apple Cider Vinegar: Combining a Tbsp of either lemon juice or apple cider vinegar provides the body with beneficial acids and enzymes to promote gut health and fat-burning.

Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic: They make bottled varieties of these today but here is my favorite. Steep a spiced tea such as Chai, cinnamon, or ginger, add a splash of apple cider vinegar and a bit of stevia or monk fruit to make a delicious keto-friendly spiced apple cider. Try out a few of my favorite recipes below!

Intermittent Fasting

Fasting is simply an amount of time where you do not consume any calories. As I mentioned, I perform an intermittent fast every day and typically don’t consume my first meal until noon or later. During this time, I feel absolutely full of energy, clear minded, and have laser focus.

Fasting mimicks a state of starvation. Although this might sound unpleasant, most people experience a ton of benefits when they practice this on a regular basis. In addition to being a fat burning strategy, it is one of the most powerful strategies for overall health and longevity.

The Top Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting Include:

Improved State Of Ketosis (Increased Fat Burning)

Boosted Immunity (4)

Improved Gut Health

Recycling and Removal Of Old Damaged Cells

Increased Repair of DNA Damage

Lowered Inflammation (5)

Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Intermittent Fasting Tips

Fasting can be implemented in several ways. I usually recommend starting with a simple fast of 12 hours. For example, if you finish eating dinner at 6PM at night you should not consume any more calories until 6AM the next morning. Most people will have no problem with this unless they have severe blood sugar dysregulation.

Once you feel good following a simple fast for 1-2 weeks, you can bump it up to 14 hours, then 16, and so on. Most people, including myself, respond very well in the range of 16-18 hours. Men tend to be able to fast longer than women so listen your body and settle where you feel your best.

If you find that you are having trouble with hunger and poor energy, consuming a high-fat beverage with no carbs or protein during the morning can be very helpful. I often recommend our Turmeric Fat Burning Coffee or Keto Matcha Green Tea.

I must stress again that during this time it is important to drink plenty of water and other hydrating beverages such as broths and herbal teas to help clear out toxins and supply minerals to the body.

Fasted Workouts 

Working out while fasted will burn up your glucose stores and help shift your body into a deeper fat burning state. This is especially true if you have trained your body to burn fat for fuel with a ketogenic diet.  At the same time, once your body has adapted to burning fat as its primary fuel, your body becomes more efficient at building lean muscle.

Getting into a state of ketosis is key for making fasted workouts work for you. This is when you will start to see an improvement in both muscle building as well as fat burning.  Follow these tips to ensure you maximize the benefits of your fasted workouts.

Short Duration, High Intensity Workouts

Working out fasted can be great but can easily become harmful to the body if you do not follow this principle.

Workouts should be high intensity, strength oriented, and no longer than 10-30 minutes. This kind of exercise has been shown to optimize sex hormones, boost endogenous antioxidant systems in the body, and keep your body in an anabolic state (muscle building) (6).

Working out too strenuously for too long will cause a sharp increase in cortisol which will increase blood sugar and increase the likelihood of catabolism (break down of muscle).

High Intensity Workout Tips

I have found that I respond the best to high intensity strength workouts of 20-30 minutes, 4 times per week. What I do is the same as I recommend to most of my patients as it is scientifically proven to help burn fat and balance hormones.

My weekly workout routine is a simple split as follows:

Upper Body Push & Pull Exercises (2 times per week): On these days, I will perform exercises such as bench press, rows, pull-ups, dips, and overhead presses.

Lower Body (2 times per week): On these days, I will perform compound movements such as squats and deadlifts. Full body movements that implement the core, such as burpees or mountain climbers, are a great finishing exercise to get your metabolism fired up.

Essential & Branched Chain Amino Acids

Typically, when people are not in an optimal metabolic state, they respond in one of two ways. They either put on fat, or they lose muscle mass. When performing extended fasts in addition to high intensity strength exercise, some individuals can struggle with putting on muscle.

I usually fast until around noon, hit the gym for a strength workout, and continue fasting for another 1-3 hours. To ensure that I remain in a fat-burning state while also building muscle, I supplement with an essential amino acid complex that contains specific ratios of branched-chain amino acids.

These amino acids provided in specific, scientifically studied ratios, make me feel strong and help ensure that I remain in a deep fat-burning state without sacrificing muscle tissue in the process (7).

Using Amino Acids To Build Muscle 

Up until recently I wouldn’t use amino acids because everything that was available either contained chemical sweeteners or just tasted terrible. I set out to find a better product and ended up with my own formulation called Amino Strong.

It contains specific amounts of essential amino acids, including branch chain amino acids, shown to support the development of muscle mass in scientific studies. On top of that, it tastes like fruit punch and is sweetened with stevia.

I would recommend using this product, or something similar, before and after your workouts while in a fasted state to support muscle development without sacrificing fat-burning potential.

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Raygan, F., Bahmani, F., Kouchaki, E., Aghadavod, E., Sharifi, S., Akbari, E., . . . Asemi, Z. (2016). Comparative effects of carbohydrate versus fat restriction on metabolic profiles, biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in overweight patients with Type 2 diabetic and coronary heart disease: A randomized clinical trial. PMID: 28607566
2. Bosma-den Boer, M. M., van Wetten, M.-L., & Pruimboom, L. (2012). Chronic inflammatory diseases are stimulated by current lifestyle: how diet, stress levels and medication prevent our body from recovering. Nutrition & Metabolism, 9(1), 32. PMID: 22510431 
3. Partsalaki, I., Karvela, A., & Spiliotis, B. E. (2012). Metabolic impact of a ketogenic diet compared to a hypocaloric diet in obese children and adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism, 25(7–8), 697–704. PMID: 23155696
4. Faris MA, Kacimi S, Al-Kurd RA, Fararjeh MA, Bustanji YK, Mohammad MK, Sale ML. Intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects. Nutr Res. 2012 Dec;32(12):947-55. PMID: 23244540
5. Varady KA, Hellerstein MK. Alternate-day fasting and chronic disease prevention: a review of human and animal trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jul;86(1):7-13. PMID: 17616757
6. Godfrey RJ, Madgwick Z, Whyte GP. The exercise-induced growth hormone response in athletes. Sports Med. 2003;33(8):599-613. PMID: 12797841
7. Matsumoto K, Koba T, Hamada K, et al. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation attenuates muscle soreness, muscle damage and inflammation during an intensive training program. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2009 Dec;49(4):424-31. PMID: 20087302

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6 Ways A Ketogenic Diet Improves Brain Function

Ketogenic Diet Improves Brain Function

The ketogenic diet was developed in the 1920’s as a medical approach for reducing seizures in cases of pediatric epilepsy. Although we didn’t fully understand the mechanisms on how this worked, it was understood that elevated levels of ketones in the blood correlated with a significant decrease in epileptic episodes. Since then, we have come understand deeper ways in which a ketogenic diet improves brain function.

The ketogenic diet remerged in recent years when people realized they would have more energy and elevated mental acuity when following it. After years of sideways science claiming that the body must have a constant intake of carbohydrate to be healthy, people are discovering the truth.

On top of improved mental performance, the ketogenic diet is now being highlighted as a therapeutic strategy for mental illness and neurodegenerative diseases. Here I am going to break down the benefits and applications of the ketogenic diet for brain-related disorders.

Low-Carb Vs. Ketogenic

Before we get into it, it is important to understand what exactly a ketogenic diet is. If your goal is to employ the ketogenic diet as a healing strategy, it is important to be scientific to improve your chances of success.

Many people think that a ketogenic diet is simply a high-fat, low-carb diet. While this is true, it does not provide the whole picture. The goal of the ketogenic diet is to drop blood sugar so low that the body resorts to fats for energy instead. This means if you eat too many carbs or too little fat, you may not fully shift into ketosis. Consuming too much protein can also prevent a shift into ketosis as excess amino acids are converted into glucose.

Everyone reacts a little differently and so I usually recommend measuring your blood sugar and ketone levels throughout the process. This way you can pinpoint what levels of fat, carbs, and proteins your body thrives on. For more information on this, check out my top tips when following a ketogenic diet.

Health Effects

There are several clinical applications for a ketogenic diet. Before jumping into these, I highly recommend reading about and understanding what happens inside the body when you are burning ketones instead of sugar as your primary source of energy.

Mitochondrial Biogenesis

When it comes down to it, your body needs energy to do perform any of its functions. This energy comes in the form of ATP that is produced primarily by structures called mitochondria that inhabit just about every cell in your body. Cells in certain areas of the body have way more mitochondria than the rest and this reflects the amount of energy they need to function properly.

Among these areas is the brain. By improving the number and energetic output of the mitochondria in your brain, you provide a significantly higher amount of energy. This in of itself may provide much of the brain boosting benefits (1). Fasting and a ketogenic diet are some of the most promising methods for upregulating mitochondrial biogenesis.

BDNF 

BDNF stands for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Its main function is understood to be regulating the growth of neural connections in the brain. Low levels of BDNF have been correlated with mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s, depression, schizophrenia, and Huntington’s disease, making it a target for modern medical therapies (2).

It is thought that fasting or a fasting-mimicking diet (such as a ketogenic diet) have potential for improving neurodegenerative disorders by upregulating BDNF (3). This upregulation of BDNF practically combats neurodegeneration in a way by supporting the continued growth and development of neuronal connections.

Improved Insulin Signaling

Most people today are burning sugar as their primary fuel. In order for sugar to enter the cell to be made into ATP, it requires insulin to transport it. Due to chronic carb intake, many people develop undesirable blood sugar regulation that starts with a sharp rise in blood sugar and ends with a rapid crash.

This pattern of blood sugar imbalance is highly damaging to the brain which can be clearly observed in cases of congenital hyperinsulinism. A ketogenic diet has been shown to improve insulin signaling and lower the side effects associated with this rollercoaster blood sugar pattern (4).

Less Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is beneficial in small amounts, however in excess it can be very damaging to your mitochondria. Excessive oxidative stress creates inflammation and hampered mitochondrial energy output. Because oxidative stress causes damage on the mitochondrial level, this can negatively impact every cell in your body.

Also, because your brain is so reliant on healthy mitochondria, it is the first to suffer consequences of excess oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is a natural byproduct of energy production in the mitochondria. Ketone metabolism has been shown to create much lower levels of oxidative stress in comparison to glucose metabolism, effectively lowering inflammation and supporting mitochondrial health (5). Ultimately, this results in improved energy production.

Neurodegenerative disorders that are characterized by demyelination, such as multiple sclerosis, are thought to be heavily influenced by chronic inflammation, making the ketogenic diet a desirable therapy for yet another reason.

Glutamate GABA Balance 

Glutamate and GABA are two very important neurotransmitters that are responsible for focus and relaxation, respectively. Proper neurological function requires a balanced interplay between these two.

An imbalance in these neurotransmitters, which often manifests as an excess of glutamate, has been associated with brain disorders such as autism, Lou Gehrig’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), epilepsy, and mood disorders. Additionally, those with excess glutamate and low GABA levels will tend to feel anxious, have trouble sleeping and experience brain fog.

Chronically elevated glutamate is highly inflammatory as it continuously overstimulates brain cells. In a healthy person, excess glutamate should be converted into GABA to help balance neural processes. Following a ketogenic diet has been shown to help facilitate this conversion (6). The immediate effects of this are improved focus and lower levels of stress and anxiety.

Omega 3 Favoring

Most people today following the standard American diet are consuming lots of oxidized omega-6 fats and very little omega-3 fats from fish and pastured-raised meats.

Omega-6 fatty acids are utilized in the eicosanoid pathway in the body which is important for producing inflammation. While temporary inflammation is helpful for stimulating healing in the body, an excessive omega-6 level can contribute to chronic inflammation that only causes more problems.

The way I teach a ketogenic diet includes plenty of HEALTHY fats that help bring this ratio back to a balanced level and help lower inflammation. Increase your ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids can lower heart disease risk, improve arthritis, lower cancer risk, and improve brain function (7).

Therapeutic Applications

Now that we understand what goes on in the body when burning fat for fuel, we can start to discuss how a ketogenic diet may be used as a therapy for the sick.

Seizures 

The ketogenic diet was originally designed to help lower the instance of seizures in epileptic children so it is not news that it is still helpful for this today.  Although the exact mechanisms on how this works are not understood, a ketogenic diet or prolonged fasting have been shown to lower the frequency and severity of seizures in children.

In fact, one study found that out of a group of children that responded to a ketogenic diet, one third of them had a 90% or greater decrease in seizures (8).  These benefits can also be derived by simply increasing ketone levels in the body through exogenous sources such as MCT oils and possibly exogenous ketones (9).

Alzheimer’s & Dementia 

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that results in the cells of the brain becoming insulin resistant. It is believed that once brain cells become insulin resistant, they become highly inflamed due to a lack of energy. People in this state will typically experience a rapid decline in memory formation and retention.

Additionally, many Alzheimer’s sufferers have characteristics of hyper-excitability in the brain which may be due to excessive glutamate.

Ketones do not require insulin to enter the cell and a majority of brain cells have the ability to metabolize ketones. It is because of this that the ketogenic diet has become a potential therapy for helping to combat Alzheimer’s.

A study of 152 humans with Alzheimer’s saw significant improvements in brain function after ketone levels were raised during 90 days of MCT oil supplementation (10). Additionally, several animal studies have demonstrated a similar effect by implementing a ketogenic diet.

Parkinson’s Disease

While we don’t fully understand the mechanisms behind Parkinson’s disease, it has been studied as an energetic disorder. What I mean by this is that mitochondrial dysfunction and inhibited ability to produce energy is often a characteristic in Parkinson’s patients.

This metabolic insufficiency puts brain cells at an energetic disadvantage that results in massive production of free radicals. These free radicals cause oxidative stress on the brain tissue which leads to chronic inflammation and damage to its tissues.

Because of the ketogenic diet’s ability to improve mitochondrial function and lower inflammation, it is being investigated as a potential treatment.

Consequently, A small and uncontrolled study from 2005 monitored a group of Parkinson’s patients who followed a ketogenic diet for 28-days. At the end of the study, all patients reported an improvement in symptoms ranging from mild to drastic (11).

Although this is not sufficient evidence to declare the ketogenic diet a treatment, the low risk for complications should make it a consideration in these cases.

Migraines

Chronic migraines and headaches are common in today’s society. Many believe that chronic inflammation may be at the root cause of these unpleasant sensations.

Consequently, a ketogenic diet has been shown to lower the frequency and severity of migraines and headaches, potentially by upregulating energy production and lowering inflammation in the brain (12).

Depression

Depression is another mental state that is all too common in our society. While there are emotional factors involved, it can also be a byproduct of neural inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, neurotoxicity, or glutamate GABA balance.

Many people report a huge boost in their mood when following a ketogenic diet. It is likely that this occurs due to a mitigation of every one of the factors mentioned above. Although a ketogenic diet cannot change emotional trauma, it can help calm and clear your mind to help give you a better chance to do so.

Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB), a ketone body that is produced when following a ketogenic diet has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties in brain tissues. A 2017 study observed in rats that BHB helped to mitigate stress-induced inflammation in the brain and exhibited anti-depressant activity (13).

Anxiety

As I mentioned earlier in this article, glutamate GABA balance in the brain strongly dictates our ability to balance work and relaxation. If glutamate becomes dominant over GABA, anxiety is commonly reported.

Following a ketogenic diet may improve anxiety by helping support the conversion of excess glutamate into GABA.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), such as concussions can have long lasting negative effects on cognitive function.  Chronically elevate blood sugar has been identified as detrimental to recovery from TBI.  There is also often an impaired ability to utilize glucose in TBI brain cells.

Providing the brain with ketones during this time has been shown to give the brain energy while improving structure and functionality during the recovery process (14).

Summary

The ketogenic diet has reemerged as a performance boosting hack for those wanting to be more productive. At the same time, it is emerging as a powerful healing strategy for metabolic, neurodegenerative, and cancerous states in the body.

Additionally, following a ketogenic diet is remarkably safe for most people to implement. So, whether you are battling a brain-related health challenge or just want to improve your mood and focus, a ketogenic diet may be a key component of your healing journey.

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Wallace, D. C., Fan, W., & Procaccio, V. (2010). Mitochondrial Energetics and Therapeutics. Annual Review of Pathology: Mechanisms of Disease, 5(1), 297–348. PMID: 20078222
2. Lu, B., Nagappan, G., & Lu, Y. (2014). BDNF and synaptic plasticity, cognitive function, and dysfunction. Handbook of experimental pharmacology (Vol. 220). PMID: 24668467
3. Masino, S. A., & Rho, J. M. (2010). Mechanisms of ketogenic diet action. Epilepsia, 51(SUPPL. 5), 85. PMID: 22787591
4. Maiorana, A., Manganozzi, L., Barbetti, F., Bernabei, S., Gallo, G., Cusmai, R., … Dionisi-Vici, C. (2015). Ketogenic diet in a patient with congenital hyperinsulinism: a novel approach to prevent brain damage. Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, 10(1), 120. PMID: 26399329
5. Greco, T., Glenn, T. C., Hovda, D. A., & Prins, M. L. (2015). Ketogenic diet decreases oxidative stress and improves mitochondrial respiratory complex activity. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism : Official Journal of the International Society of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 1–11. PMID: 26661201
6. Maalouf, M., Rho, J. M., & Mattson, M. P. (2009). The neuroprotective properties of calorie restriction, the ketogenic diet, and ketone bodies. Brain Research Reviews. PMID: 18845187
7. University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
8. Kossoff, E. H., & Rho, J. M. (2009). Ketogenic Diets: Evidence for Short- and Long-term Efficacy. Neurotherapeutics, 6(2), 406–414. PMID: 19332337
9. Neal, E. G., Chaffe, H., Schwartz, R. H., Lawson, M. S., Edwards, N., Fitzsimmons, G., … Cross, J. H. (2009). A randomized trial of classical and medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diets in the treatment of childhood epilepsy. Epilepsia, 50(5), 1109–1117. PMID: 19054400
10. Henderson, S. T., Vogel, J. L., Barr, L. J., Garvin, F., Jones, J. J., & Costantini, L. C. (2009). Study of the ketogenic agent AC-1202 in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial. Nutrition & Metabolism, 6(1), 31. PMID: 19664276
11. Gasior, M., Rogawski, M. A., & Hartman, A. L. (2006). Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the ketogenic diet. Behavioural Pharmacology, 17(5–6), 431–9. PMID: 16940764
12. C., D. L., G., C., & G., S. (2013). Short term improvement of migraine headaches during ketogenic diet: A prospective observational study in a dietician clinical setting. Journal of Headache and Pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3620251/
13. Yamanashi, T., Iwata, M., Kamiya, N., Tsunetomi, K., Kajitani, N., Wada, N., … Kaneko, K. (2017). Beta-hydroxybutyrate, an endogenic NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor, attenuates stress-induced behavioral and inflammatory responses. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 7677. PMID: 28794421
14. Prins, M. L., & Matsumoto, J. H. (2014). The collective therapeutic potential of cerebral ketone metabolism in traumatic brain injury. Journal of Lipid Research, 55(12), 2450–2457. PMID: 24721741

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How To Eat Low-Carb At Restaurants

How To Eat Low-Carb At Restaurants

Dining out can be challenging when eating a low-carbohydrate diet. The key to eating a low-carbohydrate meal when dining at restaurants is preparation. If you go to a restaurant without research and planning, you will be more susceptible to the high-carbohydrate breads, pastas, fried foods, and desserts. Give yourself a better chance of maintaining your healthy diet by doing your homework before you go so you can stay low-carb at restaurants.

This article will discuss each step in the dining out process from choosing the restaurant to ordering dessert. With the recommendations below, you will be able to enjoy a great low-carbohydrate meal when dining out. First, let’s look at why eating a low-carbohydrate diet is beneficial.

Why Low-Carb?

A diet low in carbohydrates can help people lose weight, reduce inflammation, boost energy, and improve brain health. It can even extend your life.

In a study published August 29, 2017 in the Lancet, scientists concluded “ a high carbohydrate intake was associated with an adverse impact on total mortality, whereas fats including saturated and unsaturated fatty acids were associated with lower risk of total mortality and stroke. We did not observe any detrimental effect of fat intakes on cardiovascular disease events.” (1) A September 5, 2017 study found that a ketogenic diet (high-fat, low-carb diet) extends longevity and healthspan. (2)

Several other recent studies also show the benefits of a diet low in carbohydrates. One study investigated whether women would lose more weight following a low-carbohydrate diet than a low-fat diet. The study concluded that the women lost more weight following the low-carbohydrate diet compared to the low-fat diet. (3)

Benefits Beyond Weight Loss

Another 2017 study found that dietary carbohydrates, and not fat, drive inflammation. (4) A 2017 review of the efficacy of a low-carbohydrate versus high-carbohydrate diet showed a beneficial effect of the low-carbohydrate diet on glucose control for Type 2 diabetes. The study also showed a positive effect of the low-carbohydrate diet on triglycerides and HDL cholesterol concentrations. (5)

Another reason to eat low-carb is that many people have sensitivities to gluten and lectins. Most high-carbohydrate foods contain gluten and/or lectins. Gluten sensitivity has become epidemic and is a major factor in numerous inflammatory disorders. Lectins, which are found in grains, bind sugars and carbohydrates together. For some people, lectins can cause severe inflammatory issues.

It can be easier to eat low-carb when eating at home because you are buying and preparing the food. However, eating out can pose challenges for someone following a low-carbohydrate diet. With the following tips, you will be able to eat low-carb at restaurants too!

Choosing a Restaurant

The first step in being prepared for dining out low-carb is choosing a restaurant. The wonderful thing about the Internet is that almost every restaurant has a website with access to their menu. Some restaurants even have nutrition information.

There are also several independent websites that can be helpful when choosing a restaurant. TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, Chowhound, and Yelp have customer reviews, links to restaurants’ websites, and sometimes the menu. Another great website is eatwellguide.org. You can search for healthy restaurants in the city in which you are dining.

When choosing a restaurant, look for a varied menu with numerous options. It is best to avoid buffets and “all-you-can-eat” places. The food at both is usually very low quality to keep costs down. The exception would be a salad bar with healthy options. Even with salad bars, you must watch for high sugar, high carb options.

Fast food restaurants are not good options for dining out. Fast food restaurants serve processed foods that usually have genetically modified corn or soy derivatives.

Before You Leave the House

For any health-conscious eater, it is important that you never go to a restaurant hungry. We make poor nutritional decisions and are much more susceptible to eating an unhealthy, carbohydrate-loaded meal when we are hungry. Be prepared by eating a healthy snack before leaving home to give yourself the best chance of maintaining your low-carb diet.

It is also important to study the menu of the restaurant you have chosen prior to arriving at the restaurant. If the restaurant does not offer a menu online, call the restaurant and ask them to email or fax it to you. Decide what you want to eat before you leave the house. If you know what you are going to order, you will be less tempted by high-carb options on the menu when you are at the restaurant.

If you frequently cave to your sugar cravings, also follow the below strategies.

At the Restaurant

Once you are seated, this is the time to take charge of your experience. Start by politely sending back the basket of bread or asking the waiter not to bring one. Instead of bread, ask for crunchy raw vegetables, such as cucumbers and celery. Enjoy guacamole with the vegetables as an appetizer. Guacamole is made from avocados, which contain many nutrients and are high in healthy monounsaturated fats.

Ask the waiter to remove the dessert menu from the table. Dessert menus, with pictures of high-carb, high-sugar cakes, cookies, and pies, can derail even the best-laid plans. Even if it is a tabletop display, give it to your server to remove from the table.

Instead bake your own low-carb dessert to enjoy when you get home. We have plenty that are low-carb, high in healthy fats, and will leave you full and satisfied throughout the night!  One favorite are these keto chocolate chip cookies!!!

When Ordering 

Many people stumble when ordering by making quick decisions and rationalizing poor choices. Because you have planned ahead, it will be easier to stay on course. If you are faced with a menu and no time to prepare, there are several guidelines you can follow.

1. Order First

If it is possible, try to be the first one to order. Listening to others’ choices can make high-carbohydrate options more tempting.  Look for protein, vegetables, and healthy fat. When you are ordering, do not rush into making a hasty decision. But once you have made a healthy, low-carb decision, stop looking at the menu.

2. Ask Questions

It is important to ask your server questions about the menu. How is the food prepared? What type of cooking oil do they use? What comes on the salad? Is the chicken breaded? Do not ever be shy about asking questions. It is this kind of consumer awareness that will eventually drive restaurants to serve even healthier options!

3. Make Special Requests

Most restaurants are happy to accommodate diners with substitutions and special requests. Do not be shy about asking for a different side dish or preparation method.

4. Order One Course at a Time

Try ordering one course at a time. Order a healthy appetizer, but wait to order additional courses. Sure, you may be starving now, but how will you feel in 20 minutes after the appetizer? Take your time, relax and enjoy your dinner companions and the conversation.

Selecting an Entrée

When deciding on an entrée, you want to look for options with clean protein, low-carbohydrate vegetables, and healthy fats.

1. Clean Protein

Clean protein sources are wild-caught, organic, and/or pasture-raised. The best options are grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, organic, pasture-raised chicken, and wild-caught salmon. Farm-raised fish, as well as commercial beef, pork, and poultry are fed with GMO feed and come from very unsanitary conditions

It is also important to consider how the clean protein source is prepared. The best low-carb preparation methods are grilled, baked, steamed, broiled, poached, stir-fried, or roasted. Stay away from foods described as breaded, fried, or grilled.

2. Low-Carbohydrate Vegetables

Look for low-carbohydrate vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, or green beans. Other vegetables that are low in carbohydrates are cauliflower, cabbage, zucchini, spinach, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Ask that your vegetables be cooked in grass-fed butter or olive oil. Adding healthy fats will make the meal more satisfying.

Pass on the pasta, potatoes and rice. Order your meal without the starch to keep temptation away. As mentioned above, most restaurants will happily substitute the starchy sides for low-carbohydrate vegetables.

You may also be able to substitute a salad for a starchy side dish. When ordering a salad, be sure to request no croutons and ask for olive oil and vinegar or fresh lemon on the side.

3. Healthy Fats

Unfortunately, most US restaurants cook with genetically modified oils. Over 90% of soy, corn, cotton (seed), and canola grown in the US are GMO. Olive oil is not a GMO oil. However, some restaurants blend olive oil with cheaper oil, such as canola oil.

The best oils/fats for cooking are coconut oil, avocado oil, grass-fed butter, and olive oil (only on very low heat). Other healthy fats to include with your meal are ghee, avocados, olives, and grass fed cheeses.

Other Considerations for Dining Low-Carb

Many things go along with eating low-carb at restaurants other than selecting the clean protein, low-carbohydrate vegetables, and healthy fats. There are also sauces, dressings, and condiments to accompany the meal.

What if the burger or wrap sounds really good to you? Can you order a sandwich low-carb? You may want a soup or salad to accompany the meal. What are the best soup or salad options? And do we dare even think about dessert?

1. Water with Lemon

Drinking water with lemon can help curb hunger so that you are less susceptible to high-carbohydrate foods. Lemon water aids in digestion and provides vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Sparkling water, coffee, and tea are also great low-carb beverage choices.

2. Sauces, Dressings, and Condiments

You must be careful when ordering foods that have sauces, dressings, and condiments. These are usually processed concoctions with toxic ingredients such as GMO oils, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives.

Most condiments, like ketchup, are high in carbohydrates and contain added sugars. Many sauces contain flour to thicken the sauce and sugar to sweeten the sauce. Do not hesitate to ask about the ingredients and avoid anything with sugar and flour. If you are unsure about a sauce, ask for it on the side or ask for extra virgin olive oil instead.

Marinara and tomato-based sauces are usually low-carb if there is no added sugar to the sauce. Unfortunately, most of these tomatoes sauces have sugar added.

A good alternative is to order all sauces, gravies and creams on the side so you can add to taste. Even better, rely on herbs and spices to flavor your food. Turmeric, cinnamon, rosemary, ginger, basil, oregano, thyme, sage, pink salt, and black pepper can add flavor and nutritional value to the meal. Become familiar with your favorites and ask your server for them (or bring some from home).

3. Sandwiches, Burgers, Wraps or Tacos

If ordering a sandwich, burger, wrap, or tacos, ask to substitute a lettuce wrap for the bun, wrap or tortilla. If they will not substitute, then just eliminate the starch. Remember that wraps which sound healthy, such as “spinach” wraps, are usually mostly flour.

4. Soups and Salads 

Often high in fiber, the right soups and salads can curb hunger and add low-carb, nutritious vegetables to your meal. Look for broth-based soups that do not have flour as a thickener. Also make sure the soup does not have pasta, rice, or white potatoes. Chili can be a great low-carb option.

A leafy green salad topped with cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, and other raw vegetables is a great option as an appetizer. Ask for extra vegetables on your salad. Sliced avocado is a great salad topping (and a great burger topping!). Instead of a premade dressing, request olive oil and fresh lemon or vinegar to dress your salad. Filling up on a salad full of vegetables can help you stay away from high-carbohydrate options.

Salad bars can be tricky because they are usually full of high-carb selections. Many salad bars have croutons, pasta salad, potato salad, macaroni salad, and various bread choices. Stick with low-carb items such as olives, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, nuts, garbanzo beans, avocado, and other fresh vegetables.

If you are unsure if the restaurant you are eating at uses organic produce, adhere to the clean 15 rule by selecting produce that is less likely to be contaminated with high levels of pesticides and herbicides.

5. Dessert

Before ordering dessert, take a moment to check in with yourself. Are you still hungry? If not, enjoy a coffee or tea sweetened with stevia. You can add butter or cream to your coffee to make it more satisfying. If you decide to have dessert, remember that dining out is not an excuse to splurge on an unhealthy, high-carb, sugar-laden dessert. You can have a delicious dessert without a ton of carbs.

A wonderful dessert that is low in carbohydrates is fresh berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are lower in carbohydrates than other fruits. You can top the berries with some whipped cream. Sorbets or frozen yogurt are thought to be healthier options, but both are full of added sugar.

Conclusion

Eating a low-carbohydrate diet can be beneficial to overall health in numerous ways. Preparation is key to eating low-carb while dining out. Research restaurants and study their menus to decide where you are going and what low-carb options are available.

When you are ordering, ask the server questions about the menu, make special requests to substitute high-carb options, order first and one course at a time. Order water with lemon to aid the digestive process. Send back the basket of bread and ask for pickles or raw vegetables with guacamole.

Select an entrée with a clean protein, low-carb vegetables, and healthy fats. Order the sandwich or burger with a lettuce wrap rather than a bun, tortilla, or flour wrap.

Be careful with sauces, dressings and condiments that can be full of sugars, GMO oils, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives. Soups and salads can be low in carbohydrates if you stay away from pasta, rice, white potatoes, and croutons. Low-carbohydrate dessert options are coffee with grass-fed butter or cream and fresh berries with cream.

While it can be difficult to eat low-carb while dining out, you can be successful following the guidelines in this article.  For more info on a low-carb, ketogenic diet check out this article.

Sources for this Article Include

1. Mahshid Dehghan, PhD, Andrew Mente, PhD, Xiaohe Zhang, MSc, et al. Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. The Lancet. 2017 August. Link here
2. Megan Roberts, Marita Wallace, Alexey Tomilov, et al., A Ketogenic Diet Extends Longevity and Health Span in Adult Mice. 2017 September. Link here
3. Burgess B., Raynor HA, Tepper BJ. PROP Nontaster Women LLose More Weight Following a Low-Carbohydrate versus a Low-Fat Diet in a Randomized Controlled Trial. 2017 August. PMID: 28841772
4. Gao Y, Bielohuby M, Fleming T, et al. Dietary Sugars, not lipids, drive hypothalamic inflammation. 2017 June; 6(8):897-908. PMID: 28752053
5. Meng Y, Bai H, Wang S, Li Z, Wang Q, Chen L. Efficacy of low carbohydrate diet for type 2 diabetes mellitus management: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. 2017 Sep; 131:124-131. PMID: 28750216

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How Sugar Feeds Cancer Growth

How Sugar Feeds Cancer Growth 

Billions of dollars are funneled into cancer research every year, yes BILLIONS. While we have made great technological advances in detection and treatment, it seems to be all on new versions of the same treatments. With that being said, cancer remains the number 2 cause of all preventable deaths in the US today.

Take a look at almost any cancer treatment center in the US that uses the traditional treatment methods (chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery) and you’ll notice something outright blasphemous. To help keep weight on their patients, they offer snacks and meal replacements. The problem? They are loaded with sugar and processed ingredients and… sugar feeds cancer.

Detriments of Sugar 

I have been a strong proponent of a low-carb, high-healthy fat diet for years. While I think certain types of carbs can be advantageously placed into the diet for health benefits, no one should be consuming high amounts of carbs on a regular basis.

When it comes to people who are trying to fight off cancer, this principle becomes absolutely vital. Our traditional oncological doctors seem to brush this fact off as a non-factor but if your goal is to give the body a fighting chance against cancer, sugar must go. Here’s why.

Cancer Cells Vs. Healthy Cells

When you are looking at fighting cancer while keeping normal cells healthy, you have to ask yourself, what makes a cancer cell different?

Based on what we know from the work of Otto Warburg, Thomas Seyfried, and many others, cancer cells are metabolically damaged. Metabolically damaged in that their energy producing structures, mitochondria, are unable to operate efficiently.

This manifests in their preference for glucose as a fuel source, relatively low-yield production of ATP, and rampant production of oxidative species.  Normal healthy cells, on the other hand, are able to exhibit metabolic flexibility where they can burn multiple sources of fuel, produce more ATP, and relatively lower levels of oxidative species.

The Mitochondrial Aspect 

For a long time, we focused on the nuclear genome for the cause of diseases. This is where the whole idea that diseases are hereditary came from. With the rampant up-rise in chronic disease over the last 100 years, the nuclear genome hardly makes sense. Changes in the nuclear genome occur over thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years.

It turns out epigenetic changes occur much more rapidly in the mitochondrial genome and science is catching on to this concept. The healthier your mitochondria are, the healthier you will be. This is a simple byproduct of efficient energy production.

As we look deeper into many of the chronic diseases plaguing us today, we are beginning to notice that the mitochondria play a much larger role than we ever considered.

Energy Production From Glucose 

Before we get into discussing the mitochondrial aspect of cancer, it helps to understand how energy is formed in a cell.

Cells need energy to perform normal functions including: responding to their environment, absorbing nutrients, exporting toxins, growing, replicating, etc. This energy Is produced through a process called respiration.

There are two types of respiration: aerobic and anaerobic.

Normal, healthy cells in most cases will use aerobic respiration which occurs in the mitochondria. This process involves breaking glucose down into pyruvate in the cytosol, transporting it to the mitochondria, and forming ATP in the presence of oxygen. Given that there is enough oxygen within the cells, this is the default method of energy production. The byproducts of this process are 36 molecules of ATP and carbon dioxide, which is released through breathing.

When there is a lack of oxygen, anaerobic respiration takes place. This occurs in the cytosol of the cell where glucose is broken down into pyruvate and directly converted into ATP and lactic acid. This process never reaches the mitochondria and only generates 2 molecules of ATP.

While anaerobic respiration produces a tiny fraction of the energy (2 ATP versus 36 ATP), it actually generates ATP at almost 100 times the rate. We know that rapidly dividing tissues, such as healing wounds or cancer, tend to take advantage of anaerobic respiration for quick energy production.

While anaerobic respiration provides energy faster, there may be other factors that make this method of energy production beneficial for growing cancer cells.

Cancer Cell Energy Production

Based on what I outlined above about glucose metabolism, a healthy cell with enough oxygen should perform both glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation for the production of energy.

Healthy cells can also utilize ketone bodies, converted from fatty acids, to produce ATP through aerobic respiration.

What we now know is that cancer cells, even in the presence of oxygen, choose to undergo glycolysis utilizing glucose (and sometimes glutamine) as the favored substrate (1).

This is thought to be due to damaged mitochondrial structures within cancer cells inhibiting the cells ability to undergo aerobic respiration. Glucose enters the cell and is converted into pyruvate within the cytosol but cannot enter the mitochondria to undergo aerobic respiration.

As a result, growing cancer cells upregulate glucose transport proteins on their surfaces in order to take in as much glucose as possible. There is also a rampant build-up of lactic acid in cancer cells as a byproduct of anaerobic respiration.

Advantages of Glycolysis For Cancer 

While some people see glycolysis in cancer cells as a byproduct of damaged mitochondria, it is also possible that cancer cells have adapted to favor glycolysis for its growth promoting properties.Not only does glycolysis produce energy more rapidly that aerobic respiration, but it actually promotes an environment where cancer cells can rapidly divide.

Excess lactic acid produced by cancer cells actually shuts off the body’s anticancer immune response by deactivating anti-tumor immune cells (2). This essentially shields cancer from the immune system.

At the same time, rapid cell growth requires a lot of raw materials to make new cells. One of the primary atoms needed in abundance to form new cell structures is carbon. Carbon atoms are linked together to form backbones that cell structures are built off of.

After glucose is metabolized, it leaves a 6-carbon chain. While aerobic respiration excretes this carbon through the breath via carbon dioxide, glycolysis retains it. It is thought that this allows for a more rapid division of cells through a higher availability of raw materials.

How Sugar Feeds Cancer 

As has been covered so far, cancer cells have an impaired ability to produce energy. Due to damaged mitochondrial structures, they perform glycolysis rather than aerobic respiration. As a result, they must upregulate glucose intake in order to support rapid division and growth.

At the same time glycolysis favors cancer growth in several ways. This why a ketogenic diet has been heavily investigated for being able to limit cancer growth by cutting off its primary fuel supply. In addition to this, there are other mechanisms by which sugar may be stimulating cancer growth.

White Blood Cells

White blood cells are the soldiers of our immune system. They are a powerful force against foreign invaders in our bodies including cancer cells. In order to operate at their full capacity, they require high amounts of Vitamin C. This was discovered by Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, in the 1960’s.

Unlike other animals, humans are not able to produce Vitamin C endogenously. Instead we must receive it from our foods and transport it to our cells for use. We then have internal antioxidant systems that help us to retain and recycle Vitamin C to get the most use out of it. This is a function of glutathione (3).

In the 1970’s Dr. John Ely discovered what is referred to as the Glucose-Ascorbate-Antagonism (GAA) Theory. Both glucose and Vitamin C are similar in structure and rely upon insulin in order to enter the cells via the Glut-1 receptor on the cell membrane. Unfortunately, glucose has a higher affinity for this receptor which means it is absorbed more readily than vitamin C.

It is thought that having high levels of blood sugar actually inhibits Vitamin C from entering the white blood cells, which drastically reduces immunity and therefore the ability to fight off cancer.

Phagocytic Index 

In order for white blood cells to destroy foreign pathogens within the body, they do so by engulfing them and essentially breaking them down into benign byproducts. This process is called phagocytosis. The measure of how well a white blood cell is able to perform this function is called the phagocytic index.

Therefore, in order to provide the best chance for the immune system to target cancer cells, they need to have a high phagocytic index.

Because of the relationship explained above between glucose and vitamin C, high levels of sugar circulating in the blood is thought to lower the phagocytic index of white blood cells, impairing their ability to fight cancer.

In fact, it has been shown that a blood sugar level of 120 actually reduces phagocytic index by 75% (4).

Insulin HMP Shunt 

In addition to Vitamin C’s importance for proper phagocytic functioning of white blood cells, it is also critical for stimulation of the hexose monophosphate (HMP) pathway (5).

The HMP pathway produces NADPH which is used by white blood cells to make superoxide and reactive oxygen species that are used to destroy pathogens.  This HMP shunt also produces ribose and deoxyribose which provide important raw materials for the formation of new white blood cell RNA/DNA (6).

When the immune system is under attack it needs to quickly produce new immune cells.  If blood sugar is high enough to turn off the HMP shunt it will reduce the quantity of RNA/DNA and the amount of new immune cells formed.

AMP-K

AMP-K stands for Adenosine Monophosphate-activated protein kinase. When ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) is broken down for energy within cells, phosphate groups are removed to form ADP and AMP (Adenosine Diphosphate and Adenosine Monophosphate, respectively).

When the ratio of AMP to ATP is increased, it is a sign that energy is getting low and AMP-K signals the upregulation of ATP production. In this manner, AMP-K is an energy regulating molecule.

It has also been shown that upregulation of AMP-K diverts glucose away from cancer cells and towards the body’s healthy tissues (7). In fact, it is suggested that activation of AMP-K helps to reverse the glycolytic preference of cancer cells, giving them an energetic disadvantage (8).

Luckily, AMP-K activity can be upregulated by intense exercise, carbohydrate restriction, and intermittent fasting (9, 10).

There are a number of peripheral benefits of AMP-K activation that are centered around key physiological pathways that are also associated with cancer growth. These include mTOR, the p53 gene, and COX-2 enzymes.

mTOR 

mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) is a physiological pathway that regulates cell growth and replication. We know that cancer tissues have an elevated expression of mTOR signaling that may contribute to rapid cell growth in cancer.

Upregulation of AMP-K through the strategies listed in the previous section have actually been shown to inhibit this mechanism of cancer growth (11).

While mTOR is necessary for a healthy body, having a chronically activated mTOR pathway is what contributes to cancer development. Consequently, one of the primary activators of the mTOR pathway is insulin. Naturally, chronic sugar consumption will leave insulin levels high which will contribute to constantly elevated mTOR.

This is yet another way lowering dietary glucose, fasting, and a ketogenic diet may be able to help the body combat cancer (12, 13).

By combining these techniques, blood sugar becomes stable, insulin drops, and these growth pathways become less of a contributing factor towards cancer growth.

The p53 Gene 

The p53 gene is responsible for controlling tumor development by responding to damaged DNA sequences and regulating gene expression in cancerous tissues.

If the DNA is able to be repaired, the p53 gene will allow the cell to go back into its normal cycle of growth and reproduction.  If the DNA cannot be repaired, then p53 signals for cellular apoptosis (programmed cell death) (14).  It has been found that the p53 gene is inactivated in a large proportion of cancers, making it a pharmacological target in cancer treatment (15).

Yet another benefit of AMP-K activation is that it actually improves p53 expression and prevents it from becoming inactive in the first place (16). This occurs because AMP-K phosphorylates p53 and, in turn, makes it more stable.

Among many others, high blood sugar is recognized as a contributing factor for inactive or mutation of p53 genes as well. This may be due to hyperglycemia inhibiting the absorption of zinc, which is supposed to bind to p53 to activate it.

COX-2 Enzymes 

COX-2 is an abbreviated version of Cyclooxygenase-2. COX-2 is a pro-inflammatory enzyme that is elevated in many cancers and is thought to contribute to the aggressiveness of tumors (17).

The COX-2 enzyme is yet another pharmacological target that many cancer therapies attempt to take advantage of. Rightfully so, lowering this inflammatory enzyme may have powerful potential in a holistic approach to healing cancer.  While more research is needed in the area, activation of AMP-K has also been associated with COX-2 inhibition (18).

Cancer At A Metabolic Disadvantage 

Given what we have covered so far, there seems to be a logical solution to placing cancer cells at a metabolic disadvantage. Given that cancer cells are highly glycolytic and thrive in an acidic environment, steps should be taken to ensure that the availability of glucose is very low in the blood stream.

Additionally, upregulating AMP-K and driving aerobic metabolism towards the oxidation of fatty acids over glucose can be very powerful.  Following the strategies below will help you improve AMP-K and convert over to burning fat for fuel.

Reduce Sugar 

First and foremost, it is imperative that sugar and highly insulinogenic carbohydrate sources be removed from the diet. Insulin is a significant promoter of cancer cell growth and it must be limited as best as possible.

This means relying on healthy fats as the primary source of calories and only moderate amounts of clean protein. Overconsumption of protein can become gluconeogenic, meaning the body begins to convert proteins into glucose.

Cancer cells have an abnormally high number of insulin receptors and extremely upregulated glucose metabolism. This means that depending on the severity of your cancer development, cancer cells are stealing sugar that should be going to your healthy cells.

Ketogenic Diet 

While removing sugars and carbs is a great first step, it can be equally as important to implement a ketogenic diet. This is where you train your healthy cells to burn ketones, made from fat, as energy instead of glucose.

This is important because, as I just mentioned, aggressive cancer cells will essentially steal glucose away from healthy cells. This feeds the cancer cells while leaving your healthy cells in a weakened state, lose-lose.

Most cancer cells cannot utilize ketones as a fuel source. So, by teaching your healthy cells to do so, you help return vitality to your healthy cells while weakening your cancer cells, win-win.

Reducing Sugar Cravings 

Because cancer cells are stealing glucose from your healthy cells, your healthy cells will have less glucose to create fuel. As a result, your brain will be receiving signals that you need more, which will likely trigger carbohydrate cravings.

These will likely become even more pronounce in the beginning stages of implementing a ketogenic diet because many cancer patients have weakened mitochondria.  Using strategies to stimulate mitochondria and allow the body to begin making ketones more quickly can help a lot here.  This is where exogenous ketones or MCT oils containing C8 and C10 fatty acids can help.

Once ketone production becomes efficient, these cravings will likely diminish greatly. Other strategies to help reduce these cravings include exercise, staying hydrated, getting plenty of minerals, supporting the HPA axis, and supporting optimal dopamine production.

Intermittent Fasting 

In addition to following a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting is a powerful strategy to quickly reduce insulin and upregulate AMP-K activity. At the same time, intermittent fasting strengthens the immune system to help your white blood cells seek out and destroy cancer cells.

As if those benefits weren’t powerful enough, fasting also upregulates cellular autophagy (breaking down of damaged and abnormal cells) and genetic repair. So, we get rid of bad cells and repair the rest. This benefit becomes more powerful during longer bouts of fasting (24 hours or more).

Finally, intermittent fasting improves your metabolic flexibility to help you get into a deeper state of ketosis at a much quicker rate. At this point, I would say that is a win-win-win-win-win-win… You get what I mean.

Start with a 12-hour fasting window where you consume nothing but water or non-caloric herbal teas for a 12-hours window between dinner and breakfast the next day. Once your body tolerates this well, work up to a longer fast as outlined below.

Other Critical Ketogenic Diet Tips 

In addition to the strategies outlined above, there a few other ways to ensure you are optimizing your health on a ketogenic diet.

Super Hydration 

While in a fasted state, it is a great time to drink plenty of water to ensure proper hydration and to assist with gentle detoxification. It is extremely important that you get pure water with no chlorine or fluoride in it.

I recommend super hydrating your system by drinking 32 oz. of water within the first hour of waking and another 32-48 oz. of water before noon. Additionally, you should aim to consume close to your full body weight in ounces of water each day.  So a 150 lb person can aim to drink 150 ounces of water in the form of water, herbal teas, lemon water, broth, etc.

This amount of water seems excessive, but as long as it comes with enough minerals (adding in a pinch of good salt), it is extremely cleansing to the body.  In addition, staying hydrated will improve your energy and reduce feelings of hunger or cravings.

High Quality Salts 

Most people in society avoid salts as they have been taught that excess sodium contributes to high blood pressure.  However, during the initial adaptation phase to a ketogenic diet, the body excretes excess sodium and minerals due to a drop in insulin levels.

If you don’t replace these minerals, you can end up with many of the symptoms of the keto flu.  Be sure to replenish these minerals by using a high-quality pink or gray salt and drinking organic bone broth throughout the day.

Get Regular Exercise 

Short bursts of intense exercise increase AMP-K and promote metabolic flexibility while increasing oxygenation of tissues. Be sure to keep it to 15-20 minutes 2-4 times a week, overdoing it can raise cortisol and pull you out of ketosis.

Additionally, get regular low intensity exercise such as barefoot walking outdoors.  This adds the benefit of free electrons from the Earth that are helpful for your electromagnetic frequency, which calms your stress response and improves healing and sense of well-being.

Improve Bowel Movements

Many people don’t consider this as an important factor but constipation can drive up stress hormones and pull you out of ketosis. Many people experience constipation on a ketogenic diet so it is important to take steps to mitigate this.

You should be sure to consume plenty of fibrous vegetables, fermented foods, water, minerals, and never eat in a stressed state. Stress inhibits digestion so be sure to perform an act of gratitude or prayer before meals to help pull your body into a resting state.

If intestinal bacterial overgrowth is an issue, this should absolutely be addressed as another cause of poor digestion.  Finally, magnesium supplementation can be a great remedy for constipation while also supporting the body for optimal health overall.

Control Protein Intake 

Eating too much protein can easily stimulate gluconeogenesis which will raise blood sugar and pull you out of ketosis.  Most individuals will want to aim for 0.4-0.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight and around 20-30 grams per meal.

This means a 150 lb. individual would only need about 60-75 grams of protein each day.  Individuals who are more active and involved in intense weight training or intense athletic endeavors may go up to 0.6-0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight on heavy training days.

Use MCT Oil

Producing ketones can be a stressor on the body, especially if you have mitochondrial dysfunction. MCT oil is easily converted into ketones to relieve some of this stress and improve your state of ketosis. Avoid brands that contain lauric acid (C12) as this fatty acid is not easily converted into ketones.

I often recommend the bulletproof brand XCT which contains the two MCTs most readily converted into ketones, namely capric and caprylic acid.

Improve Your Sleep 

Mitigating stress is a key aspect of maintaining an optimal state of ketosis and getting good sleep is a paramount aspect of this.  Poor sleep is consistently correlated with blood sugar imbalance and increased risk of cancer.  A good start is to be in bed no later than 11pm, make sure the room is completely blacked out, and lower the temperature to about 60-65 degrees.

More advanced strategies for optimal sleep include:

Getting AM sunlight to prime the circadian rhythm

Avoiding blue light exposure within 4 hours of sleep by investing in a pair of blue-light blocking glasses

Developing a relaxing routine that you go through every night before bed. This could include prayer, meditation, gratitude journaling, light stretching, or anything that brings you peace and comfort.

Conclusion 

We know a lot about how cancer cells behave and what conditions allow them to thrive. Because of this, we are able to alter our internal environment in order to favor our healthy cells over cancer cells.

Reducing sugar intake, getting the body into a state of ketosis, and implementing intermittent fasting can be powerful cancer-fighting strategies. Because cancer cells in general are metabolically inflexible, we are able to take advantage of ketone metabolism as a way of placing cancer cells in a weakened state.

Not only does this make these strategies powerful stand-alone healing practices, but also for improving the outcomes of traditional treatments.

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Seyfried, T. N. (2015). Cancer as a mitochondrial metabolic disease. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, 3. PMID: 26217661
2. Gupta, K. (2016). Cancer generated lactic acid: Novel therapeutic approach. International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research6(1), 1–2. PMCID: PMC4765265
3. Winkler, B. S., Orselli, S. M., & Rex, T. S. (1994). The redox couple between glutathione and ascorbic acid: A chemical and physiological perspective. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. PMID: 8001837
4. Sanchez, A., Reeser, J. L., Lau, H. S., Yahiku, P. Y., Willard, R. E., McMillan, P. J., … Register, U. D. (1973). Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 26(11), 1180–1184. PMID: 4748178
5. DeChatelet, L. R., Cooper, M. R., & McCall, C. E. (1972). Stimulation of the Hexose Monophosphate Shunt in Human Neutrophils by Ascorbic Acid: Mechanism of Action. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy1(1), 12–16. PMCID: PMC444158
6. Glucose-6-phosphate in Metabolic Processes. Mark Brandt, Ph.D.
7. Shackelford, D. B., & Shaw, R. J. (2009). The LKB1–AMPK pathway: metabolism and growth control in tumour suppression. Nature Reviews Cancer, 9(8), 563–575. PMID: 19629071
8. Faubert, B., Boily, G., Izreig, S., Griss, T., Samborska, B., Dong, Z., … Jones, R. G. (2013). AMPK is a negative regulator of the warburg effect and suppresses tumor growth in vivo. Cell Metabolism, 17(1), 113–124. PMID: 23274086
9. Draznin, B., Wang, C., Adochio, R., Leitner, J. W., & Cornier, M. A. (2012). Effect of dietary macronutrient composition on AMPK and SIRT1 expression and activity in human skeletal muscle. Hormone and Metabolic Research, 44(9), 650–655. PMID: 22674476
10. Cantó, C., Jiang, L. Q., Deshmukh, A. S., Mataki, C., Coste, A., Lagouge, M., … Auwerx, J. (2010). Interdependence of AMPK and SIRT1 for Metabolic Adaptation to Fasting and Exercise in Skeletal Muscle. Cell Metabolism, 11(3), 213–219. PMID: 20197054
11. Li, W., Saud, S. M., Young, M. R., Chen, G., & Hua, B. (2015). Targeting AMPK for cancer prevention and treatment. Oncotarget, 6(10), 7365–7378. PMID: 25812084
12. Dogan, S., Johannsen, A. C., Grande, J. P., & Cleary, M. P. (2011). Effects of intermittent and chronic calorie restriction on mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and IGF-I signaling pathways in mammary fat pad tissues and mammary tumors. Nutrition and Cancer, 63(3), 389–401. PMID: 21462085
13. McDaniel, S. S., Rensing, N. R., Thio, L. L., Yamada, K. A., & Wong, M. (2011). The ketogenic diet inhibits the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway. Epilepsia, 52(3). PMID: 21371020
14. Adimoolam, S., & Ford, J. M. (2003). p53 and regulation of DNA damage recognition during nucleotide excision repair. DNA Repair. PMID: 12967652
15. Lee, E.-J., Kim, T.-J., Kim, D. S., Choi, C. H., Lee, J.-W., Lee, J.-H., … Kim, B.-G. (2010). P53 Alteration Independently Predicts Poor Outcomes in Patients With Endometrial Cancer: a Clinicopathologic Study of 131 Cases and Literature Review. Gynecologic Oncology, 116(3), 533–8. PMID: 20006376
16. Okoshi, R., Ozaki, T., Yamamoto, H., Ando, K., Koida, N., Ono, S., … Kizaki, H. (2008). Activation of AMP-activated protein kinase induces p53-dependent apoptotic cell death in response to energetic stress. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 283(7), 3979–87. PMID: 18056705
17. Prescott, S. M., & Fitzpatrick, F. A. (2000). Cyclooxygenase-2 and carcinogenesis. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – Reviews on Cancer. PMID: 10722929
18. Lee, Y. K., Park, S. Y., Kim, Y. M., & Park, O. J. (2009). Regulatory effect of the AMPK-COX-2 signaling pathway in curcumin-induced apoptosis in HT-29 colon cancer cells. In Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Vol. 1171, pp. 489–494). PMID: 19723094

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Using A Ketogenic Diet For Weight Loss

If you are looking to lose some stubborn fat and you have stumbled across this article, chances are you have been doing your research. The internet is filled with millions of opinions on how to lose weight and get healthy.

With skyrocketing rates of obesity and related health conditions in the US, eating less and exercising more usually just doesn’t cut it. Fortunately, you are in the right place now. Based on the latest research and my years of experience I am going to explain to you why you should consider the ketogenic diet for weight loss.

I love the ketogenic diet for so many reasons. Not only can it boost your mental and physical performance, but it naturally and safely promotes fat burning as well. Another plus is that following a ketogenic diet, in my opinion, is not as limiting as some other diet strategies. I’m here to tell you that losing weight is possible while still enjoying delicious food!

Easier To Follow

Most people, especially those who have unsuccessfully experimented with a new diet, cringe at the thought of adopting a new way of eating. The way they see it, they have to starve themselves, avoid all their favorite foods, and be satisfied with limited results. To me this is a ridiculous way to live your life and why the ketogenic diet is such a game changer.

On a ketogenic diet, you simply reduce carb intake and increase your consumption of healthy fats until your body learns to burn fat for energy over sugar. This metabolic shift is advantageous for the body, your metabolism, your hormones, and all while keeping you full naturally.

Because fats are such an efficient fuel source, you get hungry less often, you cut cravings, and enjoy a more stable and elevated mood every day!

When you add in the fact that you can now make amazing delicious desserts that help you burn fat… how can you pass that up?!

Feeling Controlled By Your Eating Habits?

When your body is metabolically adapted to burning sugar as its primary fuel source, your behavior is largely dictated by your blood sugar levels. Sugar is a quick energy source but it is also burned up quickly which means you need to eat more often.

This cycle of ups and downs in your blood sugar drives your eating patterns. This is what results in food cravings and the infamous hangry feeling you get when you don’t eat for a while

In addition, rapidly fluctuating blood sugar levels contribute to other health problems like hormonal imbalances, chronic inflammation, increased risk of developing atherosclerosis, and an overall lowered sense of wellbeing (1).

When you become keto-adapted this all goes away as you experience stable energy levels from healthy fats.

How Ketosis Puts You Back In Control

Speaking from the simple caloric viewpoint, fat provides more energy per gram than sugar. This means you need much less of it, compared to sugar, for the same amount of energy.

Many people who are on a ketogenic diet that I work with always report the same thing: they rarely think about food anymore.

This is awesome from a diet standpoint because many people find themselves obsessively fixated on their next meal. From a biological standpoint, the human body perceives hunger as a primary objective to be fulfilled.

This means that when you are hungry, you will likely notice that it becomes difficult to perform higher level functions like concentrating on your work or even socializing with friends. This is because when your blood sugar is low, your body begins shifting into survival mode. In this state, higher mental functions are shut down as your primary focus is to search out food.

By converting your body to a fat-burner, stable energy allows you to free up your brain for higher mental functions. This means following a ketogenic diet can literally help you have a deeper experience of life as you are no longer controlled by your hunger!

How To Get Into Ketosis

The body can either run on sugar or fat for energy. Most people, as a product of the standard American diet, are chained to sugar as their primary fuel source. By drastically cutting sugar and carbs from your diet while getting the bulk of your calories from fats, you can reteach your body to burn fat.

The fundamental strategy for getting into ketosis is to burn off excess sugar and drop insulin low enough that your body decides to start converting fats into ketones for energy. For most people who are former sugar-burners, it takes about 2-4 weeks for the cells to relearn how to make energy from ketones.

There are a few strategies for getting into ketosis:

1. Following a Ketogenic Diet (5-10% Carbs/20-30% Protein/60-80% Fat)

This is the most gradual and safest way of getting into ketosis and takes about 2-4 weeks to become fully keto-adapted

2. Intermittent Fasting w/ a Ketogenic Diet

This strategy drains sugar stores more quickly and may speed the keto-adaptation process

3. Following a Ketogenic Diet w/ MCT oil or Exogenous Ketone Supplementation

Here you follow a ketogenic diet while providing the body with additional ketones to essentially “prime the pump” and speed up keto-adaptation

Keto-Adaptation

Keto-adaptation is the name for the process that takes place as your body shifts its metabolism towards burning fat. Once carb intake is lowered and fat intake is increased a few things must occur before you are fully keto-adapted.

First, blood sugar must drop and signal the body that sugar is not available. Then, this signal will prompt the metabolism of fatty acids into ketones as an alternative fuel source. Finally, the cells must learn to metabolize ketones and convert them into ATP (the energy molecule that every cell uses).

The time it takes to become keto-adapted is therefore limited by the rate at which these steps occur. This is why intermittent fasting and supplementing with ketones/MCT oil is sometimes used to speed up the process by dropping blood sugar and providing the body with ketones at a much quicker rate.

I recommend monitoring your ketone levels to keep track of your adaptation to ketosis.

Success Tip: There are certain side effects that you may experience during the initial adaptation period that can make the first few weeks difficult. Check out this article to understand how you can avoid them and increase your chances of success!

How Ketosis Promotes Weight Loss

Now that we understand how the state of ketosis works, we can dive into its benefits for weight loss.

Many people believe that simply being in ketosis and using fat as energy results in the burning of body fat as well. While this is true, there are actually several benefits that all have positive effects on weight loss.

No More Excess Sugars

Fat stores largely accumulate due to excess carb intake. This is because the body stores about 270 grams of glucose as glycogen in the muscles and liver while any excess of that is either burned as energy or converted and stored as fat.

By following a ketogenic diet, you can strategically consume carbs to fill glycogen stores while preventing the weight gain caused by an excess. Contrarily, your body works in reverse to convert all that stored body fat into tons of energy!

Balanced Hormones

The traditional caloric strategy to losing weight is just far too simplified. Based on emerging data and my experience over the years, fat loss has much more to do with healthy hormone balance than it does with caloric intake.

This is because your metabolism changes with your hormones. While a calorie is technically still a calorie, the rate at which it is burned completely changes with fluctuations in hormones.  At the same time, hormones such as leptin and cholecystokinin (CCK) are elevated when consuming a ketogenic diet which effectively reduces hunger levels and make you less likely to overeat.

A 2012 study looked at two groups of overweight subjects: one group following a traditional hypocaloric diet and the other on a ketogenic diet. The authors of this study concluded that a ketogenic diet was superior for weight loss, possibly due to a significant increase in adiponectin (2).

Adiponectin is a critical hormone for regulating blood sugar and supporting the metabolism of fats for energy so this is definitely a desired metabolic change.

Craving Buster

As I just mentioned, a ketogenic diet increases hormones responsible for satiety (feeling of fullness). This means that you are less hungry on a regular basis.

At the same time, the ketogenic diet balances blood sugar levels and keeps you energized for longer periods of time. As you no longer deal with rapidly fluctuating blood sugar levels, you will also experience an absence of food cravings.

Lower Impulsivity

While impulsive eating behaviors are mostly related to blood sugar balance, there is a beneficial action that takes place in the brain that will actually improve your willpower while on a ketogenic diet.

Each time you consume sugar, your brain releases dopamine. While dopamine is important for motivation and willpower, chronically spiking it with sugar can cause dopamine imbalances that contribute to impulsive and addictive behaviors.

As you free yourself from this addictive cycle, you can use more brain power on staying focused on the bigger goals in your life while melting away fat easily.

Ketogenic Is More Sustainable

It is far too common to hear about an individual who started a special diet, started losing weight, only to be overcome by intense hunger followed by rapid regaining of weight (sometimes even more).  This process is highly discouraging and why so many diets fail to produce long-term results.

It has been known for a long time that weight loss can lead to an increase in hunger. This makes sense because the caloric deficit that many diets rely upon make the body feel like it is starving, possibly due to chronic hypoglycemia and hormonal changes. In response to this perceived crisis your brain tells you to eat more food, or else!

What we know now is that being in a state of ketosis actually mitigates this side effect of weight loss (3, 4). This means you can continue to shed body fat while maintaining a sense of satiety that you just don’t get from other styles of eating.

The following graph comes from a study comparing a calorie-restricted, low-fat diet to a low-carb, high-fat diet. The results speak for themselves, a ketogenic diet is superior for fat loss!

Foods To Eat

While some ketogenic diet sources advocate for any food that is low in carbs and high in fat, I recommend sticking to foods that naturally maximize nutrition while minimizing exposure to toxins.  For me, the whole point of a ketogenic diet is to optimize physical and mental well-being. If you are eating processed foods and damaged fats, then you are going to experience limited results.

Healthy Fats: Grass-fed Butter or Ghee, Coconut Oil/Flakes/Milk/Cream, Olives & Olive Oil, Avocados & Avocado Oil, Sprouted Nuts & Seeds

Clean Proteins: Pasture Raised Meats (including: Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Turkey, Wild Game, etc.) and Wild Caught Fish (Sockeye Salmon, Sardines, Wild Trout, Anchovies) And Pasture-raised dairy products if tolerated (Eggs, Milk, Cheese)

Low-Carb Vegetables: Leafy Greens (Spinach, Kale, Chard, etc.), Cruciferous Veggies (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts), Onions, Asparagus, Etc.

Herbs & Spices: Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Turmeric, Fennel, and anything that doesn’t have any sugar or artificial ingredients like MSG

Low-Sugar Fruits (In Moderation): These Include berries, lemons, limes, and granny smith apples

Implementing A Ketogenic Diet Safely

If you have decided that the ketogenic diet is something you would like to try for weight loss, it is important to have a plan and thorough understanding of the changes going on in your body.  While there are plenty of plans and approaches to the ketogenic diet on the internet, there are still too many people who are not having success.

This is why I have put so much of my time and effort into compiling the strategies that work the best for the most people. For information on how to implement a ketogenic diet, check out this article.  In this article, I cover different types of ketogenic diets, how to implement them, and how to track your progress for optimal results.

As I mentioned once already, there are certain side effects that many people encounter during the adaptation towards a fat-burning state. It is key to success to understand why they occur and how to help prevent them before they occur so you can stick with it and enjoy the many benefits of ketosis!  Check out this article to learn more about them.

Sources For This Article Include:

1. De Vries, M. A., Klop, B., Janssen, H. W., Njo, T. L., Westerman, E. M., & Castro Cabezas, M. (2014). Postprandial inflammation: Targeting glucose and lipids. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. PMID: 25038999
2. Partsalaki, I., Karvela, A., & Spiliotis, B. E. (2012). Metabolic impact of a ketogenic diet compared to a hypocaloric diet in obese children and adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism, 25(7–8), 697–704. PMID: 23155696
3. Gibson, A. A., Seimon, R. V., Lee, C. M. Y., Ayre, J., Franklin, J., Markovic, T. P., … Sainsbury, A. (2015). Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews, 16(1), 64–76. PMID: 25402637
4. Sumithran, P., Prendergast, L. A., Delbridge, E., Purcell, K., Shulkes, A., Kriketos, A., & Proietto, J. (2013). Ketosis and appetite-mediating nutrients and hormones after weight loss. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(7), 759–764. PMID: 23632752

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8 Ways To Use Turmeric On A Ketogenic Diet

8 Ways To Use Turmeric

Turmeric is a seriously powerful root that seems to have endless health benefits. These include pain relief, anti-depressant, fat-burning, and so much more. It seems that research uncovers a new benefit of turmeric every day and I think anyone could benefit from consuming this powerful food. To amplify its beneficial effects, here are 8 ways to use turmeric while on a ketogenic diet.

By combining turmeric with a ketogenic diet, you massively boost your anti-inflammatory pathways, supercharge your brain and improve your health across the board. The problem for many people is getting used to its unique taste so I have come up with some creative ways to get more turmeric in your diet.

Keto Benefits Of Turmeric 

While turmeric has a long and impressive list of benefits, there are a couple that come to mind that make it stand out as a ketogenic friendly food. Turmeric and one of its active components, curcumin, is actually one of the most well studied herbs in natural medicine today.

Additionally, I find that many people following a ketogenic diet simply are not consuming enough polyphenol compounds. Turmeric is a great source of curcuminoids, which are a great antioxidant.

Improves Insulin Sensitivity 

Blood sugar imbalances and insulin restistance contribute to massive amounts of inflammation that lower your body’s functional capabilities. This is one of the strong benefits of a kaetogenic diet as it has been shown to improve insulin resistance and effectively stabilize blood sugar.

Curcumin, one of the active componenets of turmeric has been shown to provide similar beneftis in blood sugar and insulin responses. Insulin resistance occurs when insulin receptors stop responding to insulin and do not allow glucose into the cells.

Curcumin helps in reversing this by upregulating insulin receptors and improving receptor binding (1). Coupled with a ketogenic diet, this could be a powerful therapeutic approach for metabolic disorders.

Improves Liver Function 

In addition to improving insulin activity, curcumin has been shown to activate certain pathways in the liver to improve blood sugar and triglyceride levels in diabetic patients (2, 3).

First, it activates a set of receptors responsible for regulating genes that control blood sugar uptake and utilization.

Next, it downregulates certain enzymes that release sugar into the blood. In fact, it actually improves enzyme activity associated with the storage of blood sugar. These actions can substantially contribute to healthy blood sugar balance that many of us have lost the ability to regulate with our modern lifestyles.

Again, combined with a ketogenic diet you are likely amplifying these effects and restoring the metabolic flexibility your body is designed to have.

Curbs Inflammation

Perhaps one of turmerics most known benefits is its powerful inflammation mitigating effects (4). This may be partially due to it’s blood sugar balancing effects, however there are potentially other mechanisms as well. Turmeric has been found to down regulate inflammatory enzymes known as the COX and LOX enzymes (5).

Popular pain relief drugs classified as NSAIDS target this same pathway for their anti-inflammatory effect. These however, have several undesirable side-effects.  Additionally, the compounds in turmeric have been shown to increase the body’s production of intracellular antioxidants such as glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase.

This has powerful implications for natural mitigation of certain diseases that are preceded by rampant inflammation, such as autoimmune disorders.

Fights Cancer

Many people utilize a ketogenic diet to fight cancer with great success. Turmeric may be able to boost this effect. While it’s anti-inflammatory effect will play a large role in this, there are other mechanisms involved.

Turmeric, curcumin, and its other constituents actually target cancer development from several different angles. Included in those is disrupting cancer cell replication, targeting and disrupting cancer stem cell development, and promoting cancer cell apoptosis (cell destruction) (6).

Ways To Get More Turmeric 

Some people love the taste of turmeric while others don’t quite care for it. Either way, this is one of those foods that fall into my “eat it anyway” category. The health benefits are just too substantial to pass up. Here are 8 creative ways to get more turmeric in your diet.

Turmeric Fat Burning Coffee 

This is a delicious spin on a Bulletproof style coffee that includes turmeric and healthy fats for an anti-inflammatory effect. While you may be thinking turmeric in your coffee sounds a little funny, I get consistent feedback about how delicious this one is.

With the XCT oil, this is a great source of ketones to assist getting into ketosis and providing a smooth energy boost. Try it as a breakfast replacement or on mornings when you are fasting to keep your brain humming along for hours.

Turmeric Fat Burning Coffee Recipe

Anti-Inflammatory Milk

If you want something similar to the above recipe but without the caffeine, this is your go-to. This is a very similar recipe utilizing healthy fats along with anti-inflammatory turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon to provide a powerful healing beverage.

This can be a good breakfast or even as a nightcap before going to bed. To make it more of a meal replacement, you could even add in a scoop of vanilla bone broth protein to make a creamy vanilla spiced caffeine-free latte or a scoop of chocolate bone broth protein for a healthy hot chocolate!

Anti-Inflammatory Milk Recipe

Turmeric Paste

This turmeric paste is super convenient and can be used in a variety of different ways. Combining turmeric, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom with coconut oil, you get a versatile anti-inflammatory paste.

My favorite use is to add a couple scoops to some heated coconut milk to make Golden Milk, a traditional indian beverage used for centuries to support health.

You can also use it in stir-fries, soups & stews, on veggies, over eggs, or straight from the spoon! If you really like it, put it on anything you want!

Turmeric Paste Recipe

Zucchini Turmeric Soup

In colder months, I love to make soups & stews. To me, there is nothing like a warm soup or stew full of healthy foods when it’s chilly outside.

This seasonal soup combines zucchini with onions, healthy fats, and warming spices (including turmeric) to give your immune system a boost. From this base, you could customize it however you want. Add in some pasture-raised chicken or even more vegetables, you really can’t go wrong.

Zucchini Turmeric Soup Recipe

Turmeric Bars

Turmeric bars a convenient, ketogenic friendly snack that make getting this spice into your life super simple. All it takes is coconut milk, turmeric, black pepper, beef gelatin, and a few drops of stevia and you have a sweet marshmallow-like treat.

These combine the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric with the connective tissue-healing properties of beef gelatin.

I have seen people tweak this recipe all kinds of ways by adding cinnamon, vanilla, or even caramel stevia. As long as you don’t add any sugar, you can make these work for you! For a less gelatin-like consistency, check out my Turmeric Cream Cups below!

Turmeric Bars Recipe

Turmeric Keto Cookies 

Who knew dessert could be so healthy? These cookies are a tasty way to satisfy your sweet tooth, counteract inflammation, and stay in ketosis. Featuring superfoods such as coconut, turmeric, and bone broth protein, you really can’t go wrong.

Just 5 ingredients, 10-15 minutes, and no baking required. Before you know it, you’ll be indulging in your health with these tasty cookies.

Turmeric Keto Cookies Recipe

Turmeric Cream Cups

Turmeric cream cups are a spin on a popular ketogenic food trend, fat bombs. Fat bombs are essentially just snacks that are pure fat and can come in all different varieties once you know how to make them.

These are made by combining coconut cream, coconut oil, grass-fed butter/ghee, along with shredded coconut and turmeric. Simply mix these together, throw them in the fridge, and there you have a creamy delicious snack to munch on throughout the week.

Turmeric Cream Cups Recipe

De-Inflaming Lemonade 

For a summer refreshment with a bite, this lemonade recipe is amazing. It provides detoxifying effects for the liver and kidneys while also supplying beneficial anti-oxidants and potassium. To kick up the absoprtion of these compounds try throwing in some healthy fats from MCT or coconut oil.

All you need is lemon juice, water, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, and stevia. Throw it all in the blender and you have your lemonade. Try this as an alternative to those sugar-loaded store-bought lemonades and you’ll feel the difference.

De-Inflamming Lemonade Recipe

Sources For This Article Include: 

1. Panzhinskiy, E., Hua, Y., Lapchak, P. A., Topchiy, E., Lehmann, T. E., Ren, J., & Nair, S. (2014). Novel curcumin derivative CNB-001 mitigates obesity-associated insulin resistance. The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 349(2), 248–57. PMID: 24549372
2. Zhang, F., Zhang, Z., Chen, L., Kong, D., Zhang, X., Lu, C., … Zheng, S. (2014). Curcumin attenuates angiogenesis in liver fibrosis and inhibits angiogenic properties of hepatic stellate cells. Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, 18(7), 1392–1406. PMID: 24779927
3. Neerati, P., Devde, R., & Gangi, a K. (2014). Evaluation of the effect of curcumin capsules on glyburide therapy in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus. Phytother Res, 28(July), 1796–1800. PMID: 25044423
4. Aggarwal, B. B., Yuan, W., Li, S., & Gupta, S. C. (2013). Curcumin-free turmeric exhibits anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities: Identification of novel components of turmeric. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. PMID: 23847105
5. Rao, C. V. (2007). Regulation of COX and LOX by curcumin. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. PMID: 17569213
6. Fadus, M. C., Lau, C., Bikhchandani, J., & Lynch, H. T. (2016). Curcumin: An age-old anti-inflammatory and anti-neoplastic agent. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.08.002

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4 Ways To Use Apple Cider Vinegar On A Ketogenic Diet

4 Ways To Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Anyone who is interested in natural health knows about apple cider vinegar. This ancient tonic has significant health benefits that can be applied to any lifestyle. With the explosion of the ketogenic diet, people are always looking for ways to improve ketosis to magnify its benefits. In this article, you will discover 4 ways to use apple cider vinegar on a ketogenic diet.

I have covered apple cider vinegar extensively on my website for its versatile benefits. There are 4 particular uses that I have found extremely helpful for improving blood sugar stability and supporting ketone production in the body.

Apple Cider Vinegar 

There are many types of vinegar on the market, but in my opinion none of them compare to that derived from apple cider.

This tonic is actually fermented from the juice of apples and contains beneficial enzymes, acetic acid, and other beneficial organic acids that provide amazing health properties.

While other vinegars, such as white distilled or balsamic, may taste good in certain recipes, they simply do not provide the same healthful effects. I recommend buying the unpasteurized, unfiltered form of apple cider vinegar with the mother still intact.

Acetic Acid 

Although apple cider vinegar contains an array of beneficial compounds, acetic acid is one compound that provides many of the benefits.

Acetic acid is a product of the fermentation that converts the sugars in apple cider, first to alcohol, then into acetic acid.

There are several reasons why I think getting more of this organic acid in your life can benefit your ketogenic diet.

Ketogenic Benefits Of Apple Cider Vinegar 

To be clear, almost anyone can benefit from adding apple cider vinegar into their diet. I have just found these benefits to compliment the ketogenic diet very well.

Improves Blood Sugar Balance 

One of the biggest benefits of a ketogenic diet is that it regulates blood sugar levels. This helps curb insulin resistance and drastically downgrade inflammation in the body.

If you have read many of my articles on the ketogenic diet, you know I am a strong proponent of occasionally cycling out of ketosis by consuming a higher carbohydrate meal (learn why here).

While cycling out of ketosis does have its benefits, consuming a carbohydrate-rich meal can be somewhat inflammatory in nature due to an increase in insulin and temporary burning of sugar for energy.

Apple cider vinegar has actually been shown to help balance this blood sugar response when strategically utilized around meal time. In fact, research has shown that in certain instances, apple cider vinegar was able to reduce the glycemic index of a carbohydrate-rich meal (white bread) from 100 to 64 (1)!

Swap the white bread for a low-glycemic carb source and you have done yourself a huge favor.

May Improve Fat Burning

Ketosis is literally the physiological state of burning (oxidizing) fat for energy within the body. So, by improving your body’s ability to oxidize fat, you will support a state of ketosis. Some research has suggested that apple cider vinegar may actually have a modest boosting effect on fat oxidation in the body. (2, 3)

You may have heard of people losing excess body fat simply by adding apple cider vinegar into their daily routine, in addition to improving blood sugar balance, maybe upregulating fat oxidation is the reason why.

Aids Digestion

A ketogenic diet is higher in fat than what most people are used to. People who are used to digesting primarily carbohydrates and proteins may need some additional support with breaking down their meals.

Apple cider vinegar can improve stomach acid and gallbladder function to help with the digestion of fats.  Additionally, many people are simply not producing enough stomach acid for effective digestion. Adding apple cider vinegar to foods or consuming before meals can help with this.

Curbs Carb Cravings

Many people swear by consuming apple cider vinegar or sour foods to ward off sugar cravings. This can be helpful when following a ketogenic diet, especially if you are in the beginning stages or experiencing keto flu symptoms.

One of the main reasons many people get sugar cravings is due to blood sugar imbalance. Because of its blood sugar stabilizing effects, apple cider vinegar may be helpful if you are experiencing sugar cravings on a ketogenic diet.

Typically, these cravings are much stronger at the beginning stages of ketogenic diet because your body is adapting to burning fat.  At this point some people have a temporary span where they ar not producing ketones while having low blood sugar at the same time, leading to sugar cravings.

This benefit can also be derived from citric acid derived from lemons and limes so utilize these three liquids to keep cravings at bay.

Ways To Use Apple Cider Vinegar 

Considering the benefits mentioned above, you may find it beneficial to add this powerful tonic to your ketogenic diet plan. I personally use it just about every day in one of these 4 ways.

Put On Food

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to incorporate apple cider vinegar on a ketogenic diet is to simply add it to your meals. 1-2 Tbsp goes a long way on meats, veggies, and especiialy on higher carb meals when cycling out of ketosis.

Sometimes when I cycle out of ketosis I like to have rice or quinoa. To cut down the glycemic index of these I will add a splash of apple cider vinegar directly to the cooking liquid. To take it a step further, I love to throw in some grass-fed butter, coconut oil, turmeric, and black pepper to turn this meal into a delicious anti-inflammatory delicacy.

I personally love the way it tastes on a nice grass-fed steak or mixed in with quinoa on a higher carb day. In fact, using apple cider vinegar as a base for marinade is a great way to make your meat very easy to digest, tender, and tasty!

Drink Before Meals

Some people do not like the way apple cider vinegar tastes in their foods or even at all. For these people to still get the benefits, I will recommend mixing 1 Tbsp in 2-4oz of water so it can be downed quickly. Drinking this about 15 minutes before a meal helps promote stomach acidity to improve digestion.

This method will also help stabilize blood sugar if consumed before a higher carbohydrate meal.

Mix With Soups & Stews 

In addition to putting apple cider vinegar on your foods, it is actually great for soups and stews as well. Adding in a splash to a beef stew or chicken soup can tang up the flavor a little while also helping pre-metabolize the meal.

The enzymes and acetic acid in there will help to start breaking down the proteins and vegetable fibers to help with digestion and extraction of nutrients.

Morning Primer 

Finally, one of my favorite ways to use apple cider vinegar is as a morning energy tonic. 1-2 Tbsp in an 8oz glass of water or warm cup of bone broth first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day. This is a great way to help prime the kidneys, control microbial balance in the gut, balance the body’s pH, and provide a gentle energy lift.

Most people I work with report feeling a great boost in overall wellbeing when they do this on a regular basis. Try this out daily for two weeks and see how you feel. You can also use apple cider vinegar in this fashion any time you need a pick-me-up.

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Liljeberg, H., & Björck, I. (1998). Delayed gastric emptying rate may explain improved glycaemia in healthy subjects to a starchy meal with added vinegar. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 52(5), 368–371. PMID: 9630389
2. Li, X., Chen, H., Guan, Y., Li, X., Lei, L., Liu, J., … Wang, Z. (2013). Acetic Acid Activates the AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Signaling Pathway to Regulate Lipid Metabolism in Bovine Hepatocytes. PLoS ONE, 8(7). PMID: 23690240
3. Pan, J. H., Kim, J. H., Kim, H. M., Lee, E. S., Shin, D.-H., Kim, S., … Kim, Y. J. (2015). Acetic acid enhances endurance capacity of exercise-trained mice by increasing skeletal muscle oxidative properties. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 79(9), 1535–41. PMID: 26000971 
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