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Diet&Nutrition

Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Conquered Eating a Ketogenic Diet?

Type 2 Diabetes: A Growing Epidemic

Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is a chronic metabolic condition that occurs when the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin, or it is unable to effectively deliver insulin into cells.

T2D differs from type 1 diabetes in that the body still produces insulin. Because of the defective use of insulin, blood sugar builds up in the blood causing blood sugar levels to rise.

The goal is to consistently achieve normal blood sugar (glucose) levels to minimize risk of diabetes associated complications such as diseases of the eye, heart, nerves, kidney, digestion, feet, gums, blood circulation.

What Are the Risk Factors and Who is Affected by Type 2 Diabetes?

Age, genetics, food choices and environment (activity level, taking medication, etc.) are all factors that can contribute to T2D.

Type 2 diabetes originally coined as adult onset diabetes and its epidemic which has plagued us for over thirty-five years has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014 (1). Once thought of as an adult disease type 2 has now expanded to include children.

Type 2 diabetes has effected children at the same rate as type 1 in the United States and is growing in other parts of the world: Canada, Japan, Austria, United Kingdom and Germany (2). Japan has seen an approximate fourfold rise in the incidence of type 2 diabetes in 6 to 15 year-olds, and between 8 and 45% of newly presenting children and adolescents in the U.S. have type 2 diabetes (3).

These staggering statistics are not just overwhelming because of the numbers, they are astounding because type 2 diabetes can be avoided and conquered simply with healthy diet and lifestyle choices.

Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Conquered Eating a Ketogenic Diet?

Worldwide trends in diabetes since 1980: a pooled analysis of 751 population-based studies with 4·4 million participants. Image credit: The Lancet

What Are Healthy Blood Sugar Level Ranges?

For those who live with any type of blood sugar disorder (pre-diabetes, diabetes, etc.) the aim is to attain normal fasting blood sugar ranges through diet while minimizing or eliminating diabetes medication that increases the risk of blood sugar fluctuations. The aim is to achieve:

  • A1C between 4 to 5.5% (also known as hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c, glycated hemoglobin or glycohemoglobin). A1C tells you your average level of blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months.
  • Blood sugar level below 100 mg/dl (3.6-5.4 mmol/l).

While public associations (American Diabetes association…) and government agencies (World Health Organization) recommend higher ranges for people with diabetes see the chart below (4), pay attention to the note under the table.

If you follow tables such as the one provided by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) below, you may be misled into thinking your blood sugar is in a healthy range if it falls in the pre diabetes of 100-125 mg/dl.

 

Upon Waking Before Meals
(pre prandial)
90+ Min After Meals
(post prandial)
Non-Diabetic 4 to 5.9 mmol/L under 7.8 mmol/L
Type 2 Diabetes 4 to 7 mol/L under 8.5 mmol/L
Type 1 Diabetes 5 to 7 mmol/L 4 to 7 mol/L 5 to 9 mmol/L
Children w/ Type 1 Diabetes 4 to 7 mmol/L 4 to 7 mol/L 5 to 9 mmol/L

Note: The non-diabetic figures are provided for information but are not part of NICE guidelines.

After meal blood sugar range is especially important because it tells you how much that food or meal contributes to the rise in blood sugar otherwise associated with the risk of diabetes complications. So, eating foods that trigger the least blood sugar spike after consumption are the healthiest choices.

To avoid diabetes complications, maintain blood sugar in the non-diabetic normal range. These government recommendations are high if your personal goal is to “cure” your diabetes and stave off associated complications.

Can a Ketogenic Diet Help Put an End to Type 2 Diabetes?

Available treatment options (diet, exercise, medication, and insulin therapy) help keep blood sugar in range. However, none compare to a ketogenic diet.

The ketogenic diet (maximum of 50 grams of total carbs per day) is by far the best blood sugar management tool because the individual is not consuming sugar, or sugar formed through the ingestion of carbohydrate, and therefore excess sugar is not circulating in the blood. In essence the underlying cause of high blood sugar is removed. In fact there are many experts that support this ketogenic approach for treating type 2 diabetes (5, 6, 7, 8, 9).

The Ketogenic Diet Improves Blood Sugar and Cholesterol

Findings from a one-year randomized control study with obese type 2 diabetes volunteers was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It compared a < 50 gram carbohydrate, 58% fat diet with a 53% carbohydrate 30% fat diet. Both diets produced weight loss and blood sugar improvements. The ketogenic diet resulted in “greater improvements in the cholesterol, blood sugar stability (vs. fluctuations), and reductions in diabetes medication supporting its use an effective strategy for the optimization of T2D management” (10).

While some may voice concern with the significant drops in blood sugar for those on medication who follow a ketogenic diet, it seems working with a physician to lower and eliminate medication would be wise rather than avoid a natural nutrition plan that can normalize blood sugar levels (11, 12).

How Many Carbs per Day?

When following a ketogenic diet, you should stay below 50 grams of total carbs per day. As evidenced in a study comparing a ketogenic diet (KD) consisting of 20 grams of total carbs a day (unlimited amounts of animal foods , i.e., meat, chicken, turkey, other fowl, fish, shellfish and eggs; limited amounts of hard cheese (e.g., cheddar or Swiss, 4 ounces per day), fresh cheese (e.g., cottage or ricotta, 2 ounces per day), 2 cups of salad vegetables and 1 cup of non-starchy vegetables) with a 55% high carbohydrate but low glycemic index diet (HCLGID).

It seems both had positive effects on blood sugar yet the KD resulted in significant improvements in hemoglobin A1c and body weight and high-density lipoprotein and cholesterol as compared to the HCLGID group (13).

For type 2 diabetes, what you don’t eat is as important as what you choose to eat. While it may be confusing to read information from expert nutrition groups suggesting “Carbohydrates-Part of a Healthful Diabetes Diet” (14) understand that no matter what the portion by its very nature carbohydrates will raise blood sugar. This is counterproductive to any healthy blood sugar goal.

How Many Carbs per Meal?

Consume foods containing proteins, fats and carbohydrates with 5-15 grams of carbohydrates per meal (non starchy vegetables, fat full dairy products, nuts and seeds). Keep in mind that large amounts of low carbohydrate foods can spike blood sugar (tomatoes and tomato sauce, winter squash, berries, etc.) just like low amounts of high carbohydrate foods (starchy vegetables, bread, rice, pasta, cereal etc).

Additionally, the diet delivery method (online vs. in person) does not seem to change the ketogenic advantage. Type 2 diabetics improved glycemic control and lost more weight when following an online ketogenic program when compared with a conventional, low-fat diabetes diet online program (15).

Take Home Message

When managing type 2 diabetes, know that monitoring total carbohydrate intake is a critical factor for tight blood sugar control. Consuming less than 50 grams of total carbohydrates on a ketogenic diet, while also paying attention to any carbohydrate portion size, can allow diabetics blood sugar to hit the normal blood sugar range.

The best way to control blood sugar is to avoid sugar and foods that easily convert to sugar after it is consumed, such as carbohydrate foods and beverages, like cereals, bread and bakery products, soda and fruit juice, fruits and starchy veggies (potato, peas and carrots, corn) rice and pasta.

A ketogenic lifestyle is a powerful health optimization tool to help maintain normal blood sugar levels, lower or eliminate medication and reduce the risks of any medical health issues that follow uncontrolled blood sugar.

The KetoDiet App can be a primary resource for those who want to be successful while utilizing a ketogenic diet as a support for weight loss and blood sugar control. To find the recipe within your carb ranges to specify allergy preferences, use the filtering tool in Recipes.

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Article source: https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/post/2018/02/21/can-type-2-diabetes-be-conquered-eating-a-ketogenic-diet

Peanuts on a Ketogenic Diet: Eat or Avoid?

People who follow a keto lifestyle typically avoid legumes because they are high in carbs. However, peanuts are often viewed as an exception and treated more like tree nuts than legumes. On the other hand, there may be legitimate concerns about consuming peanuts, especially in large amounts. This article discusses the risks vs. benefits of consuming peanuts and whether including them in your own keto diet is a good idea.

What Are Legumes?

Legumes are the edible fruits or seeds of plants belonging to the Fabaceae family of trees, shrubs, and herbs. There are more than 600 types of legumes, but only a small portion are consumed by humans as food, including peas, beans, and peanuts.

Beans, lentils, and peas are often recommended because of their high fiber count. However, they are also low in fat and quite high in digestible carbs in amounts typically consumed, ie, one half to one cup.

By contrast, peanuts are higher in fat and lower in carbs per calorie. Nutritionally speaking, they are similar to nuts, especially almonds (1, 2, 3).

 

Total Carbs Fiber Net Carbs
Black beans, raw, 160 kcal serving 29 g 10 g 19 g
Almonds, raw, 160 kcal serving 4.5 g 2.4 g 2.1 g
Peanuts, raw, 160 kcal serving 6.1 g 3.4 g 2.7 g

Nutritional Analysis for Peanuts

Here is the complete nutrition profile for 28 grams (1 ounce) of peanuts (2):

 

Calories 159 kcal
Protein 7.2 grams
Carbohydrate 4.5 grams (of which 2.4 g is Fiber and 2.1 g Net Carbs)
Fat 13.8 grams (of which 1.8 g (13%) is Saturated, 6.9 g (50%) is Monounsaturated, 4,355 mg (32%) is Omega-6 Polyunsaturated and 800 mg (5%) is Omega-3 Polyunsaturated fat)
Vitamin E 2.3 mg (15% of the Recommended Daily Intake, or RDI)
Magnesium 48 mg (12% RDI)
Copper 0.3 mg (16% of the RDI)

Peanuts also contain a number of antioxidants in the poyphenol family, including coumaric acid. These polyphenols have been found to protect against free radicals, unstable molecules which can damage cells throughout your body. This is true for both conventional peanuts and those higher in oleic acid, the primary monounsaturated fat in peanuts (4).

Potential Health Benefits of Peanuts

In addition to being tasty, portable, and keto-friendly, peanuts may provide a number of favorable health effects.

Weight Loss

Because peanuts are fairly high in calories, people trying to lose weight often receive advice to limit or even avoid them. However, research suggests that rather than contributing to weight gain, including peanuts in your diet may actually promote weight loss and help improve body composition (5, 6, 7).

In a four-week study of 65 overweight and obese men, the groups who consumed 56 grams (2 ounces) of conventional or high-oleic-acid peanuts per day as part of a calorie-restricted diet lost more body fat, retained more lean mass, and experienced a greater increase in fat burning than the calorie-restricted control group (6).

In another study, when overweight adults increased their energy intake by including peanuts in their daily diet for 12 weeks, they gained far less fat than expected, despite consuming 10% more calories than the control group. The authors suspect that this may have been due in part to incomplete digestion and absorption of calories from the peanuts (7).

Whether whole peanuts or peanut butter are best for weight loss isn’t clear, based on the research available.

One study of 118 overweight adults reported that consuming peanuts in the form of peanut butter or whole peanuts had similar effects on weight loss and appetite (8). However, another study in overweight women with type 2 diabetes gave the edge to peanut butter over whole peanuts with respect to reducing blood sugar levels, increasing satiety, and reducing appetite (9).

It’s quite likely that some people may lose more weight when eating whole peanuts, whereas others may find that they do better sticking to peanut butter instead.

Reduction in Heart Disease Risk

Overall, research suggests that people who regularly consume nuts, including peanuts, may be at lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to those who don’t eat nuts (10, 11, 12, 13, 14).

Some of this may be due to improvements in fasting lipids that often occur in response to increased peanut intake, such as higher HDL values and lower triglyceride and LDL values (8). But peanuts may also improve the way your arteries work after eating a large meal.

A recent randomized, controlled study found that when 15 overweight or obese men ate 3 ounces (85 grams) of peanuts as part of a high-fat, high-calorie meal, they experienced better arterial function along with lower post-meal triglyceride levels than when they ate a similar meal without peanuts (13).

In addition, large observational studies have linked the regular consumption of peanuts and other nuts to reduced heart disease risk.

In a detailed 2017 review of 18 prospective studies, researchers reported that adults who consumed nuts and peanuts more frequently had a lower risk of dying from several diseases, including being 27% less likely to die from CVD. Peanuts and tree nuts were found equally effective at reducing heart disease risk, with as little as 36 grams (slightly over 1 ounce) per week appearing sufficient to provide this benefit (14).

Decreased Inflammation

As stated earlier, the chief fatty acid in peanuts is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil that appears to help reduce inflammation. Studies have shown that eating more nuts, including high-oleic-acid peanuts, can help reduce inflammatory markers such as tumor necrosis factor, IL-8, and c-reactive protein (CRP) (15, 16).

Improvement in Blood Glucose and Insulin Response

There is some research suggesting that blood sugar insulin resistance may decrease in response to the consumption of peanuts, including those high in oleic acid.

Interestingly, one study actually found a quicker return to baseline insulin and blood sugar levels after people ate conventional peanuts compared to the type high in oleic acid, whereas others have shown greater improvements in insulin and blood sugar regulation with high-oleic-acid peanuts than conventional peanuts (16, 17).

At this point, it seems that either type of peanut may provide benefits for people with diabetes or prediabetes, similarly to tree nuts.

Potential Health Concerns About Peanuts

Although they may provide beneficial effects on health, peanuts have also been called into question for posing a number of potential health risks.

Allergies

Peanut allergies have increased significantly in recent years. In fact, according to a recent publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of children reported to have peanut allergies has tripled within the past two decades (18).

In susceptible individuals, peanuts trigger a heightened immune response that leads to symptoms like hives, runny nose, wheezing, itching, swelling, and severe gastrointestinal distress.

Moreover, peanut allergy is the leading food-related cause of anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal reaction characterized by tightness in the throat, difficulty breathing, rapid drop in blood pressure, and dizziness that may lead to loss of consciousness. An anaphylactic reaction requires immediate administration of epinephrine and follow-up at the nearest hospital emergency room.

Obviously, people with peanut allergies should avoid consuming peanuts, along with foods that may have been cross-contaminated with peanut residue during processing.

Aflatoxins

Peanuts have been criticized for containing aflatoxin, a toxin produced by the Aspergillus mold that often grows on peanuts. Aflatoxin is also found on other crops, including corn, cereal, and tree nuts.

Small levels of aflatoxin are unlikely to cause harm. However, at higher levels, aflatoxin poisoning may occur, which can lead to liver failure (19).

The risk of aflatoxin contamination depends on how peanuts are stored. It’s also much more common in warm, humid environments.

One study found that roasting and processing peanuts into peanut butter reduced the aflatoxin content by about 89% (20).

Although high aflatoxin concentrations have been found in peanuts in some countries in Africa and Latin America, governmental agencies in other countries strictly enforce limits on the amount of aflatoxin allowed in peanut butter and other peanut products (21).

Phytic Acid

Phytic acid is a compound found in many plant foods, including nuts, seeds, peanuts, beans, and grains. Phytic acid can inhibit absorption of certain minerals, including iron, calcium, and zinc (22).

However, under normal conditions, your body has the ability to compensate for high phytic acid intake. In a study of women who had low iron stores but were not anemic, consuming a high-phytate diet for eight weeks actually ended up increasing iron levels more than consuming a low-phytate diet for the same time period (23).

Moreover, phytic acid is usually not a concern among those who eat a balanced diet that contains meat, fish, and other sources of animal protein, because these foods enhance mineral absorption. Vegetarians may need to be more careful about the amount of phytic acid they consume.

Finally, animal research suggests that phytic acid may help protect against cancer and other diseases (24).

Lectins

Peanut agglutinin is a lectin, a type of protein found in plants that can bind to cell membranes. Lectins help plants defend themselves against insects and pests. In humans, lectins are resistant to digestion, which can cause the body to produce antibodies to them. In certain susceptible people, including those with autoimmune disease, an overly robust immune response could potentially exacerbate their symptoms.

The way a body handles lectins depends on the type, amount consumed, and individual response. For instance, the agglutinin found in kidney beans can cause severe food poisoning if the beans are raw or undercooked.

However, the lectins in uncooked peanuts don’t pose the same kind of risk. In addition, peanut lectins are present in lower concentrations than the lectins in beans.

Some researchers feel that peanut lectins may be responsible for the atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in the arteries) that occurs when rodents and rabbits are fed a high-cholesterol diet that also contains peanut oil (25). Importantly, although no similar human experiments exist, as stated earlier, moderate peanut consumption appears to be cardioprotective based on several studies.

There is some research in cancer cell lines and animals linking peanut lectins to cancer progression (26, 27). In 2014, a group of researchers suggest that tumor growth may spread more rapidly in cancer patients who eat peanuts, which could ultimately increase their risk of dying from the disease (27). For this reason, those with cancer may be best off avoiding peanuts or consuming them very infrequently.

On the other hand, people who don’t have cancer might want to include peanuts in their diet, at least occasionally. Several studies suggest that peanuts and peanut butter may help protect against breast, cervical, esophageal, and gastric cancers (28, 29, 30).

High Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio

Although peanuts contain far more monounsaturated fat than saturated or polyunsaturated fat, their omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio is extremely high. Most tree nuts also have high omega-6 to omega-3 ratios, although none as high as peanuts.

If you consume a well-balanced diet that contains plenty of foods rich in omega-3- fats like fatty fish, flaxseed, and chia seeds, eating small amounts of peanuts shouldn’t jeopardize your overall omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.

Peanuts Are Easy to Overeat

It’s also worth mentioning that just like with nuts and seeds, and also with full-fat dairy, some people find peanuts – and especially peanut butter – very easy to overeat. If you find these foods nearly impossible to consume in small amounts, avoiding them altogether is probably your best bet.

Making the Healthiest Peanut Choices

Whether to eat peanuts is a personal choice that should be based on your own personal tolerance and health. If you do decide to eat peanuts, here are some ways you can reduce their potentially negative side effects:

Soak, Boil, or Roast Your Peanuts

Soaking certain legumes can help reduce their phytic acid content by up to 50%, although the extent to which this occurs in peanuts is unknown (31). Boiling, roasting, or other methods of heating peanuts can reduce their lectin concentrations. In addition, soaking and/or cooking peanuts can make them easier to digest and less likely to cause GI discomfort or other symptoms.

Opt for Organic Whenever Possible

As with all foods, select organic peanut butter and peanuts grown as naturally as possible to avoid pesticides and other contaminants.

Keep Peanut Consumption Moderate

In the studies cited above, consuming between 7 to 56 grams (up to 2 ounces) of peanuts per day led to health benefits. Although tolerance to peanuts varies from person to person, it’s probably not a good idea for anyone to eat unlimited amounts of them.

Take Home Message

Like other legumes, peanuts are a controversial food among people who follow a keto diet.

They contain anti-nutrients that can reduce their nutritional value and may cause health issues in susceptible individuals.

However, because of their low net carb content and potential health benefits, you may want to include them in your keto or low-carb lifestyle.

Soaking and/or cooking peanuts, choosing organic peanuts or peanut butter, and limiting portion sizes and frequency are key to maximizing their benefits while reducing potential risks.

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Article source: https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/post/2018/01/14/peanuts-on-a-ketogenic-diet-eat-or-avoid

Top 11 Nutrient-Dense Keto Foods

Nutrient-dense foods are rich in protein, vitamins, and/or minerals yet contain few calories. In addition, they are typically minimally processed. However, many of the lists of nutrient-dense foods found online include fruit, grains, and other items too high in carbs to be included in a keto diet.

Marty Kendall of Optimizing Nutrition has a great list of the most nutrient-dense foods that are also low in carbs.

In this excellent, extremely comprehensive article, Marty discusses how to best calculate nutrient density (ND) and provides ND scores for a number of low-carb/keto foods.

Although there are many nutrient-dense animal foods, the chart below shows that as far as nutrition per calorie is concerned, vegetables – especially leafy green vegetables – actually have the highest ND score.

Top 11 Nutrient-Dense Keto Foods

However, foods such as eggs, fatty fish, and meat should also be considered dietary staples on a low-carb diet because they are rich in high-quality protein and provide valuable nutrients.

Here are 11 of the top nutrient-dense keto foods, their calorie and nutrient profiles, the health benefits these foods may provide, and ideas for including them in your diet.

1. Sardines

Sardines are incredibly healthy. Sardines are rich in high-quality protein and several vitamins and minerals. In addition, they are an excellent source of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

Unlike most fats, omega-3 PUFAs are essential, meaning they must be consumed in food because your body can’t make them. The long-chain omega-3 PUFAs found in fatty fish like sardines have anti-inflammatory properties and have been linked to improvements in heart health, depression, and weight (2).

Interestingly, there are no human studies looking at the health impact of consuming sardines specifically. However, a 2015 rat study found improvements in inflammation and reversal of insulin resistance, which researchers believe may have beneficial implications in humans (3).

Sardines can be enjoyed in delicious recipes like Grilled Sardines with Olive and Caper Salsa, with avocado in Sardine Stuffed Avocado, in Sardine & Avocado hand Rolls (from the KetoDiet App) or as a salad with cucumbers and tomatoes. In addition, if you don’t have access to fresh sardines, canned sardines can be enjoyed right out of the tin.

Nutrient Profile per 100 grams/ 3.5 ounces (1):

 

Calories 208 kcal
Protein 25 grams
Carbohydrate 0 grams
Fat 11.5 grams, including 1.5 grams omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
Vitamin D 272 IU (68% of the Recommended Daily Intake, or RDI)
Niacin 5.2 mg (26% of the RDI)
Vitamin B12 8.9 mcg (149% of the RDI)
Calcium 382 mg (38% of the RDI)
Iron 2.93 mg (16% of the RDI)
Selenium 52.7 mcg (75% of the RDI)

2. Spinach

Spinach is rich in beta-carotene, a phytonutrient (literally “plant nutrient”) that your body converts to vitamin A. Beta-carotene and other phytonutrients found in spinach function as antioxidants that help protect your cells from damage and potentially reduce cancer risk (5). Spinach is also a good source of nitrates, which have been shown to improve arterial function and lower blood pressure in adults (6).

In addition, spinach contains thylakoids, compounds that have been found to increase satiety and reduce hunger. In one study, overweight women who took spinach extract reported less hunger and fewer food cravings than women given a placebo (7).

Sautéing spinach in a little butter, coconut oil, or olive oil enhances its flavor and helps maximize the absorption of beta-carotene. Making recipes like Cheesy Grain-Free Spinach Crackers, Perfect Spinach & Feta Omelet or Vegetarian Keto Lasagna is another delicious way to incorporate this healthy vegetable into your diet.

Nutrient Profile per 100 grams/ 3.5 ounces (4):

 

Calories 23 kcal
Protein 3 grams
Carbohydrate 3.6 grams (of which 2.2 g is fiber and 1.4 g net carbs)
Fat 0.4 grams
Vitamin A (as beta-carotene) 9,376 IU (188% of the RDI)
Vitamin C 28 mg (47% of the RDI)
Vitamin B12 8.9 mcg (149% of the RDI)
Vitamin K1 403 mg (604% of the RDI)
Folate 194 mcg (49% of the RDI)
Magnesium 79 mg (20% of the RDI)

3. Liver

Liver deserves its reputation for being a “superfood.” Liver is extremely rich in vitamin A, vitamin B12, and copper, providing well over 100% of the RDI for these nutrients. Liver is also rich in high-quality protein.

What’s more, liver is the best source of choline, a nutrient that like a vitamin in your body. Choline is important for brain health, metabolism, and protection of your cells’ DNA (9). Although the FDA hasn’t established an RDI for choline, it is an essential nutrient that modern diets often don’t provide enough of. In a 2007 study, researchers showed that inadequate choline intake led to muscle and liver damage in individuals with certain genetic profiles (10).

Admittedly, liver is an acquired taste and can be a little daunting to prepare. This easy recipe for 5-Minute Chicken Liver Pate, or Beef & Liver Meatballs and Endives with Liver Pate (from the KetoDiet App) can help you get started. Another way to introduce liver into your keto lifestyle is by eating liverwurst or braunschweiger, which have a milder flavor and don’t require any preparation.

Interestingly, the carb content of raw liver per 100 grams varies among different animals:

  • Cod liver: 0 grams
  • Turkey liver: 0 grams
  • Chicken liver: less than 1 gram
  • Veal liver: 3 grams
  • Pork liver: 3 grams
  • Beef liver: 4 grams
  • Goose liver: 6 grams

Nutrient Profile per 100 grams/ 3.5 ounces of cooked beef liver (8):

 

Calories 191 kcal
Protein 29 grams
Carbohydrate 5.1 grams
Fat 5.3 grams
Vitamin A (as retinol) 31,718 IU (634% of the RDI)
Riboflavin 3.4 mg (201% of the RDI)
Niacin 17.5 mg (88% of the RDI)
Vitamin B12 70.6 mcg (1176% of the RDI)
Folate 253 mcg (63% of the RDI)
Iron 6.5 mg (36% of the RDI)
Zinc 5.3 mg (35% of the RDI)
Copper 14.3 mg (714% of the RDI)
Selenium 36.1 mcg (52% of the RDI)
Choline 426 mg

4. Red Bell Peppers

Bell peppers, known botanically as Capsicum annuum, are referred to as capsicum in some countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and India.

Red peppers are very low in calories and an excellent source of vitamin C, especially the red variety, which provides more than 200% of the RDI.

The brightly colored pigments in red, orange, yellow, and green bell peppers provide phytonutrients with high antioxidant power. In addition, red bell peppers are the only food that contains capsanthin. Research suggests that capsanthin may help protect against cancer (12).

Red bell peppers are delicious raw, grilled, or prepared as as Harissa Paste, Creamy Low-Carb Red Gazpacho or Keto Chicken Fajitas.

Nutrient Profile per 100 grams of red bell pepper/ 3.5 ounces (11):

 

Calories 31 kcal
Protein 1 gram
Carbohydrate 6.3 grams (of which 2.1 g is fiber and 4.2 g net carbs)
Fat 0.3 grams
Vitamin A (as beta-carotene) 3,131 IU (63% of the RDI)
Vitamin C (as beta-carotene) 128 mg (213% of the RDI)
Vitamin B6 (as beta-carotene) 0.3 mg (15% of the RDI)
Folate (as beta-carotene) 46 mcg (11% of the RDI)

5. Eggs

Eggs have been called nature’s perfect food, and with good reason. Eggs contain the highest biological value protein of any whole food, meaning their amino acid composition is the most easily absorbed and used by the body. They’re also well known for being filling and satisfying, making them a great choice for breakfast or any time of day.

In addition, egg yolks are rich in choline and the phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect eye health (14).

What’s more, eating whole eggs may help reduce heart disease risk. In one study of men with metabolic syndrome, consuming a carb-restricted diet with whole eggs led to improved insulin sensitivity, higher HDL levels, and an increase in LDL particle size (15). In addition to being nutrient dense, eggs are inexpensive and versatile. Boil, fry, poach, or scramble them, or prepare them as Spicy Tuna Deviled Eggs, Keto California Eggs Benedict or use the egg yolks to make a batch of Low-Carb Lemon Curd.

Nutrient Profile per 100 grams/ 3.5 ounces (13):

 

Calories 143 kcal
Protein 12.6 grams
Carbohydrate 3.2 grams
Fat 9.9 grams
Vitamin A (as retinol) 487 IU (10% of the RDI)
Riboflavin 0.5 mg (28% of the RDI)
Vitamin B12 1.3 mcg (22% of the RDI)
Selenium 31.7 mcg (45% of the RDI)
Choline 251 mg

6. Broccoli

Broccoli provides a number of impressive nutrition benefits yet is very low in calories. It’s especially high in vitamin C and vitamin K1, providing more than 100% of the RDI per serving.

Broccoli is a member of the Brassica family, along with cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Brassica, also known as cruciferous vegetables, are plants that have been credited with anti-cancer activity (17).

One of the compounds responsible for its ability to fight cancer is sulforaphane, which is found mainly in broccoli. This phytochemical has high antioxidant activity that may help protect liver health. A study in men with fatty liver found that those who took high-sulforaphane broccoli extract experienced improvement in liver enzymes and other markers of liver function (18).

Broccoli tastes especially good roasted with seasonings that enhance its flavor, as in these recipes for Low Carb Garlic and Lemon Roasted Broccoli, Low-Carb Cream of Broccoli & Coconut Soup and Easy Chicken Stir-Fry.

Nutrient Profile per 100 grams/ 3.5 ounces (16):

 

Calories 34 kcal
Protein 2.8 grams
Carbohydrate 6.6 grams (of which 2.6 g is fiber and 4 g net carbs)
Fat 0.4 grams
Vitamin A (as beta-carotene) 623 IU (12% of the RDI)
Vitamin C 89 mg (149% of the RDI)
Vitamin K1 102 mcg (127% of the RDI)
Folate 63 mcg (16% of the RDI)

7. Shrimp and Prawns

Shrimp and prawns are popular shellfish in cuisines throughout the world. In addition to being a great source of high-quality protein, shrimp and prawns provide several B vitamins, copper, and zinc, and more than half of the RDI for selenium. Although shrimp and prawns are technically different animals, the terms are often used interchangeably, and their nutritional content is similar.

Like most seafood, shrimp and prawns are rich in iodine, a trace mineral that many people don’t get enough of, depending on the soil content in their geographic area. Iodine is important for brain and thyroid function, and pregnant women and children have been shown to be especially at risk of iodine deficiency (20).

Since shrimp and prawns are very low in fat, they taste best when grilled and combined with healthy fats, such as BBQ Prawn Skewers with Avocado Dip, Keto Spicy Prawn Hand Rolls or Low-Carb Prawn & Noodle Stir-Fry.

Nutrient Profile per 100 grams/ 3.5 ounces of Shrimp (19):

 

Calories 99 kcal
Protein 21 grams
Carbohydrate 0 grams
Fat 1.1 grams, including .35 grams Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA)
Niacin 2.6 mg (13% of the RDI)
Vitamin B12 1.5 mcg (25% of the RDI)
Iron 3.1 mg (17% of the RDI)
Zinc 1.6 mg (10% of the RDI)
Copper 0.2 mg (10% of the RDI)
Selenium 39.6 mcg (57% of the RDI)

8. Arugula (Rocket)

Arugula, also known as rocket, is a leafy green with a peppery flavor. Like other dark-green varieties of lettuce, arugula is rich in the fat-soluble vitamins A and K1. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, folate, and several minerals, including calcium.

Beta-carotene and other carotenoids found in leafy greens have been shown to protect health in several ways, including improving immune function, helping prevent sun damage, protecting against free radical damage, and reducing cancer risk (22).

Arugula is a great base for all types of salads, including this Easy Avocado and Egg Salad, Healthy Mackerel Salad and Fat Head Pizza with Mozzarella, Tomato & Rocket.

Nutrient Profile per 100 grams/ 3.5 ounces (21):

 

Calories 25 kcal
Protein 2.6 grams
Carbohydrate 3.7 grams (of which 1.6 g is fiber and 2.1 g net carbs)
Fat 0.7 grams, including .35 grams Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA)
Vitamin A (as beta-carotene) 2,373 IU (47% of the RDI)
Vitamin C 15 mg (25% of the RDI)
Vitamin K1 109 mcg (136% of the RDI)
Folate 97 mcg (24% of the RDI)
Calcium 160 mg (16% of the RDI)
Magnesium 47 mg (12% of the RDI)
Potassium 369 mg (11% of the RDI)

9. Wild Salmon

Salmon is one of the most popular fish in the world because of its delicate flavor, availability, and health profile.

Of all fatty fish, salmon ranks highest in vitamin D, providing nearly 1000 IU per 100-gram portion (24). Salmon is also rich in selenium and one of the best sources of the long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA that help reduce inflammation.

Small trials suggest that high-salmon diets may help improve symptoms in patients with ulcerative colitis and anxiety (25, 26).

Wild-caught salmon is lower in toxins and higher in most nutrients than farmed salmon, although it is slightly lower in omega-3 PUFAs due to its lower overall fat content. All canned salmon is wild caught.

Salmon is very easy to prepare and tastes great poached, grilled, baked, smoked, or served raw as sashimi. It’s also wonderful when combined with other healthy ingredients, as in this recipe for Salmon Patties with Avocado Dip, Keto & Paleo Salmon Poke Bowl and Healthy Salmon Gravlax.

Nutrient Profile per 100 grams/ 3.5 ounces (23):

 

Calories 182 kcal
Protein 25.4 grams
Carbohydrate 0 grams
Fat 8.1 grams, including 2.6 grams omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
Vitamin D 988 IU (165% of the RDI) (CHECK)
Thiamin 0.3 mg (18% of the RDI)
Vitamin K1 109 mcg (136% of the RDI)
Riboflavin 0.5 mg (29% of the RDI)
Niacin 10.1 mg (50% of the RDI)
Vitamin B6 0.9 mg (47% of the RDI)
Vitamin B12 3 mcg (51% of the RDI)
Potassium 628 mg (18% of the RDI)
Copper 0.3 mg (16% of the RDI)
Selenium 46.8 mcg (67% of the RDI)

10. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are an edible fungus that’s considered a delicacy in many cultures. There are several varieties, including button, shiitake, portobello, crimini, and porcini – all of which are nutrient dense and provide anti-inflammatory benefits (28).

Mushrooms also seem to help boost immunity. In a study of healthy adults, consuming shiitake mushrooms for four weeks significantly reduced levels of inflammation and improved markers of immune function (29).

Cooking helps bring out the flavor of mushrooms, which pair well with other vegetables and cheese. These Keto Italian Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms with spinach and bell peppers are a satisfying meal with a great nutrition profile. You can also try these Low-Carb Crumbed Portobello Mushrooms or Keto Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms.

Nutrient Profile per 100 grams/ 3.5 ounces (27):

 

Calories 27 kcal
Protein 2.5 grams
Carbohydrate 4.1 grams (of which 0.6 g is fiber and 3.5 g net carbs)
Fat 0.1 grams, including 2.6 grams omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
Riboflavin 0.5 mg (29%)
Niacin 3.8 mg (19% of the RDI)
Potassium 448 mg (13% of the RDI)
Copper 3 mcg (51% of the RDI)
Potassium 628 mg (18% of the RDI)
Copper 0.5 mg (25% of the RDI)
Selenium 26 mg (37% of the RDI)

11. Grass-Fed Beef

Beef is extremely popular, and there is no disputing that it’s an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, not all varieties of beef are the same.

When it comes to nutrient density, the best choice is grass-fed beef. In addition to being lower in calories, grass-fed beef is higher in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants than meat from grain-fed livestock (31, 32).

Fortunately, grass-fed beef is widely available in most countries. Moreover, it’s tasty, filling and easy to prepare as steak, burgers, or combined with other nutritious foods, such as Beef, Spinach and Mozzarella One-Pot Bake, Paleo Beef Bourguignon or Healthy Homemade Beef Jerky.

Nutrient Profile per 100 grams/ 3.5 ounces (30):

 

Calories 192 kcal
Protein 19.4 grams
Carbohydrate 0 grams
Fat 12.7 grams, including 88 mg omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
Niacin 4.8 mg (24% RDI)
Vitamin B12 2 mcg (33% of the RDI)
Vitamin B6 0.4 mg (18% of the RDI)
Folate 253 mcg (63% of the RDI)
Iron 2 mg (11% of the RDI)
Zinc 4.5 mg (30% of the RDI)
Selenium 14.2 mcg (20% of the RDI)

Take Home Message

Most keto foods are tasty, filling, and nutritious.

However, some provide more nutritional benefits per calorie than others. It’s best to focus on getting plenty of nutrient-dense foods into your diet, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain.

In addition to providing important vitamins and minerals, these foods may also help fight inflammation, boost immunity, and decrease disease risk.

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Practical Guide to Fasting

The benefits of fasting to both the body and the mind are becoming more and more apparent. Who should and should not fast and what type of fasting should be done will vary depending on the individual.

What are the Main Forms of Fasting?

With the increase in popularity in fasting, there have been several different variations of the diet presented. The key to working out which will be best for you is to listen to your body.

1. The 16/8 Approach

This approach is something that people will follow daily. It focuses on having an eating window of 8 hours followed by 16 hours of a fasting window. This can look like people eating between the hours of 12-8pm or 11am-7pm and then not eating for the remaining hours. The major emphasis with this type of fasting is to make sure that there is a consistent window of not eating.

Many find it easier and more natural to simply skip breakfast and have their dinner as their last food intake. There have been some studies that have shown that eating later at night can cause a higher insulin response which can then promote greater fat storage (1). The link is believed to be due to the body’s circadian rhythm and so eating your last meal no later than 8pm (essentially before sun down) may be a good strategy if you’re struggling with weight loss.

With this type of fasting, it is important to eat a healthy diet during your eating window. Many find that eating a low carbohydrate way provides the optimal results.

During the fasting window, you can consume beverages including water, tea and coffee. Bone broth is also allowed and is often encouraged in longer fasts due to its mineral content.

For those that may find fasting for a longer period too difficult, this approach would work a lot better for them. Often females can find it a little difficult to fast beyond the 16 hours mainly due to hormonal factors.

The 16/8 window can also be adjusted to include longer periods of fasting and a shorted feeding window such as 18/6 or 20/4.

Suitable For

  • Those just starting out or new to fasting
  • People who are following a low carb or ketogenic diet already
  • Those with previous histories of eating disorders
  • Those that find fasting for longer than 16 hours too difficult

2. The 5:2 Fasting Diet

This form of fasting was developed by British doctor and journalist, Dr Michael Mosley. The ethos of the diet is looking to eat normally for 5 days and then fasting for the other 2 within the week.

One of the major differences of this approach to other forms of fasting, is that on the fasting days, they allow between 500-600 kcal to be consumed. For women, it is recommended to have 500 kcal and men to have 600 kcal, which are to be split between breakfast and dinner.

Their rationale for this approach is they feel this is one of the most sustainable ways to do fasting that will still allow you to be involved in social settings such as family meals.

There are however no strict guidelines of when or how you can distribute the calories within the day. You could opt to have two meals, three meals, two meals with a snack in between or even have it as one large meal.

On the fast days, there are two principles that must be followed when choosing what you can and cannot have to eat. That is to select foods that are both higher in protein and foods with a low glycemic index (≤50).

On the non-fasting days, they also advise that people can pretty much eat what they would like. I would still encourage people to eat a diet that is based in low refined sugar and grains to get the optimal health benefits.

This type of fasting therefore may be of more benefit to those individuals who suffer from disordered eating such as orthorexia or binge eating disorder.

Once you reach your desired weight or health goal, you can then enter the maintenance phase. This sees your fasting days coming down to just once a week rather than twice a week.

Suitable For

  • Those who want to experiment a little more with fasting but not doing a full fast
  • Those who feel eating nothing within a certain period is not suitable for them
  • People who are not following a strict ketogenic diet or looking to have a little more food freedom

3. 24-Hour Fasting

This form of fasting involves you completely abstaining from food for a period of 24 hours. It is recommended you do this once to twice a week to see the benefits. Once you have been doing this form of fasting for a little while, then going to a 24-hour fast on alternative days can also be of benefit. I would however, not recommend this to those just starting out with fasting.

To start the fast, you choose a mealtime that you would like to end on. For example, if you have dinner at 7pm, then you would not eat anything again until 7pm the next again day. The same would be true if you were doing this from breakfast or lunch as well.

On the fast days you can have water, black coffee, tea and herbal teas. You can’t have any other form of food or calories within this time frame.

On the non-fasting days, it is important to make sure that you eat as you normally would. Make sure that you do not under eat, especially if you are a doing a 24 hour fast a couple of times a week. Many people think that to maximise weight loss, that they will just under eat on their non-fasting days. This can be counter-intuitive as the body will simply think that it is not getting the nutrients it needs and put itself into survival mode. Essentially it will hold onto, rather than burn any body fat stores.

Going straight into a 24 hour fast can sometimes be a little too much for people. You could always start off with a 16/8 and then work up from there to eventually get to the 24-hour window.

Suitable For

  • People looking to experiment a little more with fasting after trying 16/8 etc.
  • Those who feel comfortable with fasting and think this would fit in nicely with their lifestyle.

4. Extended Fasting

This type of fasting has gotten a lot more popular over the past few years. It involves individuals fasting for longer periods of consecutive time. The starting point for this is 2-3 days of consecutive fasting. For those that may struggle with the consecutive days, then fasting every other day can be done.

Other extended fasting includes fasting for a period of 5-7 days or longer. Many of the longevity and anti-ageing studies in mice has included this extended period (2). There still lacks any robust human data to show that extended fasting is needed or warranted. However, from preliminary data, fasting has been shown to help with regards to cancer prevention and ant-ageing.

For anyone considering longer term fasts, they should consult with their doctor especially if they are on any form of medication.

Some physicians have reported using this type of fasting for those individuals with severe obesity and insulin resistance. In the clinic of Dr Jason Fung, he has reported having some of his patients fast for a period of 30 days. It is extremely important to note here that all his patients are medically supervised.

On the days that you are fasting no food should be consumed. However, hydration is extremely important as is obtaining the necessary minerals. Water, tea and coffee is allowed ad hoc and bone broth is actively encouraged to drink to get the minerals and especially the sodium needed to avoid dehydration.

Suitable For

  • Those with extreme obesity or insulin resistance
  • People who can follow this under the care of a physician

5. No Rules Fasting

This type of fasting is where you are more listening to what your body is saying than following any set forms off guidelines.

If for example you wake up in the morning and don’t feel hungry, then skip having your breakfast at that time. Likewise, if you find that your body is signalling to you that you are hungry then eat!

Fasting can really be as simple as that. Contrary to popular belief as well, skipping the odd meal will not result in your metabolism slowing down or losing muscle mass. You do need to make sure that when you are fuelling your body that you are doing it the right way. If you scrimp on the calories at meal times, then your metabolism and muscle mass could be effected.

Most people who are following a ketogenic diet and are fat adapted find that this type of fasting happens quite naturally.

This is also great for those people who may have suffered from eating disorders in the past. Not having to specifically schedule in fasting times means that any obsession around food should not occur.

Suitable For

  • Anyone can follow this approach as it is more based on intuitive eating

Who Should Avoid Fasting?

Although there does appear to be many benefits to fasting, there are a group of people that should not be following fasting.

Type 1 Diabetics

Fasting will cause the bodies blood sugar levels to naturally drop. Those with type 1 diabetes could end up having their blood sugar levels drop too low, resulting in hypoglycaemia.

Those who are on insulin or insulin lowering drugs, will need to consult with a doctor before starting any type of fasting as the dose may need to be lowered.

Adrenal and Thyroid Issues

If you are someone that suffers from adrenal fatigue or any thyroid related issue, then it would be advisable to approach fasting with caution. People who have issues with either of these glands, have issues in the body when dealing with stress. Fasting is perceived as a stress to the body and so it could exacerbate any pre-existing condition.

Eating Disorders

People who are or have a history of eating disorders may find that fasting can exacerbate the disorders. If you have suffered with disordered eating then it would be advisable to start with the shorter term fasting such as the 16:8. Any long-term fasting should be avoided.

Children

Anyone under the age of 18 should not fast. People this age are still growing and so require the adequate nutrients daily to suffice this.

Underweight or Undernourished

For those who have a BMI of 18 kg/m₂ or less, they would not be recommended to fast. There could be the risk that they end up becoming more undernourished.

Pregnant and Breastfeeding

Any female who is pregnant or breastfeeding should not undertake any type of fasting.

Like with children, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding require extra energy and nutrients for the growth of the baby and milk production.

Males vs Females

There is no data to say that males or females should not undertake fasting. However, case reports have shown that men appear to find fasting, especially extended fasting a little easier.

What Should You Eat on Your Non-Fasting Days?

Some fasting experts state that they don’t care so much about what you eat on the non-fasting days, it is more important to simply stick to the fasting days. The argument could be that knowing that you can eat anything that you would like on the non-fasting days, psychologically will help you through the fasting days.

It was believed that people who fast, would over compensate the next again day by eating more calories than they normally would due to increased appetite. However, a study looking at alternative day fasting found no significant increase in appetite. Participants on the feeding days also only ate 95% of their recommended calorie intake (3).

It is not recommended however, that you simply gorge on all and any food on the feed days. Your first meal after your fast, should be one of a normal size for you.

From case reports and anecdotal evidence, following the principles of a low carbohydrate, healthy fat diet, has been shown to offer added benefits to the goals of fasting.

Do you skip meals? All low-carb recipes in this list are suitable for intermittent fasting. They are nutrient-dense and contain 600-900 kcal per serving. They are ideal for those who eat only twice a day.

How to Fit Fasting into Your Lifestyle?

As with any dietary changes that you make, for them to be sustainable they really need to fit into your overall lifestyle. The same will remain true for fasting.

The first aspect to look at will be the type of fasting that is better for you. If you have a lot of social engagements, eat out a lot or train heavily, then doing more of the shorter or 16/8 type of fasting may be better for you.

If you have no underlying medical conditions and don’t have any of the above contraindications then there are no constraints on when you can start. If you are looking at one of the longer fasts though I would still recommend that you consult your doctor or at least get advice from a practitioner who knows what they are doing.

Before starting with fasting, you need to make sure that you are mentally prepared. You need to be feeling calm, purposeful and confident before starting with this.

Again, with the timings of the fasting, you need to find what works for you. If you prefer having breakfast with the family, then move your first meal to be at that time. Or if you don’t feel hungry first thing in the morning then skip it until later in the day.

How to Cope with Hunger When Fasting

If your form of fasting is that of 16/8 then you should find that hunger isn’t much of an issue. As you progress into the longer fasting and if you are starting it for the first time, you may notice some more hunger.

The first thing is to determine if it is true hunger or not. The way in which we as humans eat is to do with both hedonic and homeostatic ways of eating. Homeostatic eating is our true hunger, when the body needs to get its nutrients in. Hedonic way of eating is much more based on our emotions. We often eat for reasons such as boredom, tiredness or just to make us feel good.

Sometimes we feel hungry out of habit as well. If we are used to eating at a certain time then our bodies can get used to this pattern and signal for us to eat at these times.

On fast days try some of these tricks to help win at the hunger games:

Drink Water

If you’re feeling a hunger pang come on, try having some water. We can often mistake hunger for thirst.

Drink Bone Broth

Take in some bone broth – sometimes the hunger can stem from a depletion in electrolytes. The bone broth will help to replenish anything that is lost.

Distraction

This may sound like common sense but the more you distract yourself from not thinking about food, the less hungry you should feel.

Journal it Out

To establish if you are eating for true hunger or more pleasure, try and get mindful around this. If you feel like you are craving a certain food, is it because of a particular emotion like boredom or sadness or due to habit.

Other FAQ’s on Fasting

1. Do you need to take any form of supplements?

For the shorter types of fasting you shouldn’t require any type of supplements. As long as you are eating well and properly on your non-fasting days then your body will be getting the nutrients it needs. On the extended fasting, you may find that you need to take a standard multi-vitamin to ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need. Do check with your supplements though as many of them do require you to take them alongside some food.

2. What about exercise and fasting?

With the 16/8 and the 5:2 form of fasting, you will find that fitting in exercise won’t be any different.

A lot of people find fasted exercise a lot more beneficial for maximum fat burning, especially fasted cardio work. This will vary from person to person though and you really need to listen to what your body is saying.

If you are doing a 24 hour or extended fast then I would recommend not training on these days, especially not heavy or explosive training.

3. Should you avoid alcohol?

If your overall goal of following a low carb diet and/or fasting is that of weight loss, then I would recommend that you abstain from alcohol altogether.
If you are doing this for health benefits or in a maintenance phase then having a small amount of alcohol on your non-fast days would be ok. Do not consume alcohol on your fast days though, stick to only water, tea, coffee or bone broth for your liquid intake.

Take Home Message

The benefits of fasting to both the body and the brain are becoming more apparent in both anecdotal and clinical data. There are various ways in which someone can incorporate fasting into their diet. The important point with this is to choose an approach that works for you and your body. It is also important to point out that not everyone needs to fast as well. Simply following intuitive eating of when you are and aren’t hungry is of great benefit to your body.

Become mindful of the way that you are eating to work out if it is true hunger or not.

Before starting any type of extended fast, you should always consult with your doctor, especially if you are on medication.

To really see the added benefits of fasting I would also recommend that your feeding days are based on real foods in their whole form as much as possible.

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Vegetarian Diet and Keto - Can These Two Work Together?

With the growing popularity of keto and its health benefits, some vegetarians have considered giving it a try. But can keto and vegetarianism be combined in a way that is well balanced and sustainable? Are there any risks involved? This article will explore these questions and make recommendations for creating a healthy keto vegetarian lifestyle.

Reasons for Following a Vegetarian Diet

People choose vegetarian diets for a number of reasons. Children raised in vegetarian households typically grow up to be vegetarian adults. For those who adopt vegetarian diets on their own, reasons fall into one of three categories or a combination of them:

  1. Ethical: Concern for animal welfare, including killing animals for food and/or confining them in feed lots or cages
  2. Environmental: Concern about land and other resources needed to raise livestock
  3. Health-related: Belief that eating meat or other animal products is harmful to health and that a meat-free diet may protect against cancer and other diseases

Studies suggest that ethical vegetarians may be more committed to a meat-free lifestyle and remain vegetarian longer than those who do so for health reasons (1).

Of course, it isn’t surprising that vegetarians who don’t believe in killing animals for food would be less likely to resume eating meat than those who do so solely because they believe it’s healthier.

However, many people adopt a vegetarian lifestyle for more than just a single reason.

The author of a 2014 review on vegetarianism concluded:

“An increasing number of people do not want animals to suffer nor do they want climate change; they want to avoid preventable diseases and to secure a livable future for generations to come” (2).

What Are the Different Types of Vegetarian Diets?

Vegetarians consume no meat, poultry, or fish but some may eat certain other animal products, depending on their beliefs:

  • Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians consume dairy products (lacto) and eggs (ovo). This is by far the most common type of vegetarianism.
  • Lacto Vegetarians consume dairy products but no eggs.
  • Ovo Vegetarians consume eggs but no dairy products.
  • Vegans don’t consume dairy, eggs, or animal products of any kind, although some eat honey. In addition, they don’t wear clothing made from animals, such as leather or suede. They may also avoid using any items containing animal byproducts, such as household cleaners, shampoos, moisturizers, etc.

Although the term isn’t universally accepted by vegetarians, there is also a category of eating that is considered “semi-vegetarian”:

  • Pescatarians consume seafood but no meat or poultry.
  • Flexitarians follow a primarily plant-based diet but eat meat and other animal products occasionally.

Can A Keto Vegetarian Diet Be Well-Balanced and Sustainable?

In recent years, keto diets have become well known for helping people lose weight, decrease blood sugar and insulin levels, and improve other aspects of health. As a result, the question of whether a vegetarian diet and keto diet can be combined has been raised.

Most keto diets are fairly high in animal products, including meat. In fact, most people who follow a keto lifestyle eat at least one serving of meat, fish, or poultry most days.

However, it’s possible to create a healthy vegetarian keto diet. Anecdotally, there are hundreds of stories of people successfully combining these two ways of eating. And although there aren’t any published studies that have explored this, recently, researchers from India discussed how a keto vegetarian diet can be accomplished (3).

Many Indians are vegetarian for cultural or religious reasons, whereas others do eat meat. In their article, the authors first discuss the benefits of ketogenic diets for those struggling with diabetes, obesity, and other disorders characterized by insulin resistance. They then provide examples of keto-friendly Indian cuisine for both vegetarians and meat eaters.

On the other hand, 100% vegan and keto diets don’t work very well together. Humans require complete protein that contains all nine essential amino acids (an “essential” nutrient can’t be made by the body and must instead be obtained via diet). Although animal protein provides all the essential amino acids, plants only contain some of them. For instance, legumes and seeds are high in lysine but very low in methionine, whereas grains are high in methionine but lack lysine.

Because vegans exclude all animal products, they must rely on a combination of grains, legumes, and seeds to get all of the essential amino acids their bodies need. This combination is too high in carbs to achieve and maintain ketosis. Therefore, you can either choose to eat a keto vegetarian diet as described above or eat a lower-carb but non-keto vegan diet.

The “Eco-Atkins” diet is the best known low-carb entirely plant-based diet. Although it contains fewer carbs than most vegan plans, it can’t be considered ketogenic because it includes grains and fruits and provides considerably more than 60 grams of net carb per day.

In a 2009 study, 44 overweight adults with high cholesterol consumed either an Eco-Atkins diet or a high-carb lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for 4 weeks. At the end of the study, the Eco-Atkins group experienced greater improvements in LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol/HDL ratio, and other heart health markers than the high-carb vegetarian group, despite similar weight loss within the two groups (4).

Keto Vegetarian Protein Sources

Protein is arguably the most important macronutrient since, unlike carbs and most fatty acids, our bodies can’t make the essential amino acids. Therefore, we need to eat enough protein to ensure we have enough of all amino acids in order to support muscle growth and maintenance, metabolic rate, hormone synthesis, and other important functions.

After calculating your own protein needs, check to make sure you’re consuming enough by including these keto-friendly sources on a daily basis:

  • Greek yogurt: 18-20 grams protein and 4-6 grams carb per 170 grams (6 ounces)
  • Cottage cheese: 20 grams protein and 6 grams carb per 170 grams (6 ounces)
  • Cheese: 7 grams protein and 1-2 grams carb per 28 grams (1 ounce)
  • Egg: 14 grams protein and 1 gram carb per 2 large eggs
  • Peanut Butter: 8 grams protein and 4.5 grams net carb per 2 Tablespoons (32 grams)
  • Almond Butter: 7 grams protein and 5.5 grams net carb per 2 Tablespoons (32 grams)
  • Pumpkin Seeds: 7 grams protein and 4 grams net carb per 28 grams (1 ounce)
  • Protein Powder (whey, casein, egg, pea): variable protein and carbs — check label

You’ll also get about 1-3 grams of protein from each serving of vegetables, although like other plant foods, they don’t contain all of the essential amino acids found in animal products.

Other Nutrients of Concern on a Keto Vegetarian Diet

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fats because they must be obtained from the diet. Although obtaining enough omega-6 fats as a vegetarian is easy because it’s found in large amounts in many foods, getting an optimal amount of omega-3 can be more challenging.

The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have strong anti-inflammatory properties that may help protect heart health, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce risk of depression (5).

These fats are mainly found in fatty fish, although DHA and small amounts of EPA also occur naturally in algae. However, another type of omega-3 fat called alpha-linoleic acid is found in several plant foods, especially seeds. Although your body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, the conversion process unfortunately isn’t very effective (6).

Because of this, researchers recommend that vegetarians consume a minimum of 2.2 grams of ALA daily, which is twice the AI (Adequate Intake) established by the Institute of Medicine (7). In fact, many experts believe that omega-3 fatty acid intake should be further increased in order to improve the omega-6/omega-3 ratio of modern diets.

Best Keto Vegetarian Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  • Algae supplements: EPA and DHA in variable amounts – check the label
  • Chia seeds: 2.5 grams of ALA per 14 grams (1 Tablespoon)
  • Hemp seeds: 2 grams of ALA per 20 grams (1 Tablespoon)
  • Flaxseed, ground: 1.6 grams of ALA per 7 grams (1 Tablespoon)

Iron

Iron is vital for the production of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that helps transport oxygen from your lungs to cells throughout your body; and myoglobin, which provides oxygen to your muscles.

There are two forms of iron: heme (found in meat) and nonheme. Heme iron is better absorbed than nonheme iron. However, eating foods rich in vitamin C can improve iron’s absorption. Dark leafy greens are high in both iron and vitamin C.

Vegetarian diets have been linked to lower iron stores in adults, which can lead to anemia. On the other hand, elevated iron stores are a sign of inflammation and may increase disease risk (8). Although a healthy body is able to regulate iron storage, it’s recommended that people without hemochromatosis (a disorder marked by elevated iron levels) consume adequate but not excessive amounts of this mineral.

The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for iron is 18 mg per day for reproductive-age women and 8 mg per day for men and women who are over 51 and/or postmenopausal.

Best Keto Vegetarian Sources of Iron:

  • Pumpkin seeds: 4.2 mg per 28 grams (1 ounce)
  • Sesame seeds: 4.1 mg per 28 grams (1 ounce)
  • Coconut milk: 3.3 mg per 100 grams (3.5 ounces)
  • Olives: 3.3 mg per 100 grams (3.5 ounces)
  • Dark chocolate: 3.3 mg per 28 grams (1 ounce)
  • Cooked spinach: 3.6 mg per 100 grams (3.5 ounces)
  • Hearts of palm, canned: 3.1 mg per 100 grams (3.5 ounces)
  • Cooked white mushrooms: 2.7 mg per 100 grams (3.5 ounces)
  • Chia seeds: 2.2 mg per 28 grams (1 ounce)

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral involved in energy metabolism, immune function, and wound healing. Research has shown that vegetarian adults tend to have lower zinc intake and blood concentrations than those who include meat in their diets (9). In fact, the foods richest in zinc are beef and seafood.

The RDI is 15 mg per day for adults and children over 4 years of age. Zinc occurs in very small amounts in most non-meat foods, but there are also some relatively good sources. With a little planning, zinc needs can be met on a keto vegetarian diet.

Best Keto Vegetarian Sources (per 100 grams/3.5 ounces):

  • Dark chocolate: 9.6 mg
  • Pumpkin seeds: 7.8 mg
  • Sesame seeds: 7.8 mg
  • Egg yolks: 5.3 mg
  • Peanuts: 3.3 mg
  • Flaxseeds: 5 mg
  • Spinach: 0.5 mg

Calcium

Calcium is known for its role in bone health, but it’s also needed for blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve function. The RDI is 1000 mg per day for most adults.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians who include dairy in their diets regularly shouldn’t have trouble meeting their calcium needs while eating keto. However, if you avoid dairy, make sure to consume high-calcium keto foods listed below.

Best Keto Vegetarian Sources of Calcium

  • Almond milk (calcium fortified): 300-450 mg per 225 grams (8 ounces)
  • Sesame seeds: 273 mg per 28 grams (1 ounce)
  • Greens (spinach, kale, etc.), cooked: 135 mg per 100 grams (3.5 ounces)
  • Broccoli rabe, cooked: 120 mg per 100 grams (3.5 ounces)
  • Almonds: 74 mg per 28 grams (1 ounce)

Vitamin D

Vitamin D occurs naturally in moderate to large amounts only in fatty fish, although many dairy products and alternatives like almond milk are fortified with it. If you consume no dairy or vitamin-D-fortified products, you’ll likely need to supplement with vitamin D (D3 is best) and/or expose your skin to the sun in order to prevent deficiency.

Sample Keto Vegetarian Meal Options

Like any other keto meals, meatless keto meals can be as simple or complex as you like. It’s important to always include a good protein source, however, to ensure your needs are met.

The keto vegetarian meal options below provide high-quality protein, in addition to being well balanced, easy to prepare, and delicious.

Keto Vegetarian Breakfast Ideas

Keto Vegetarian Lunch and Dinner Ideas

Keto Vegetarian Snack Ideas

Although you’re unlikely to need snacks if you follow a keto diet, here are a few simple, tasty vegetarian options:

Hundreds More Vegetarian Keto Recipes

There are hundreds more vegetarian keto recipes here and many vegan keto recipes here. You can find all savory vegetarian keto recipes by using the filtering tool in Recipes and select “vegetarian” and “savory”.

Also, be sure to check out the free 2-week keto vegetarian meal plan with recipes and complete nutritional analysis for each day.

Additional Resources

Take Home Message

Whether to eat meat and other animal products is a personal choice that should be respected by those with differing views.

Although combining keto and vegetarian principles into one diet can be challenging, it is definitely doable.

The most important factors to keep in mind are getting enough high-quality protein and micronutrients on a daily basis. It’s also beneficial to keep your diet as varied as possible since food choices are somewhat limited.

Over time, you’ll establish a keto vegetarian way of eating that is uniquely suited to your food preferences, health goals, and lifestyle.

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Article source: https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/post/2017/12/03/vegetarian-diet-and-keto-can-these-two-work-together

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